Four Makeup Tricks Inspired by Evolutionary Psychology

Here, makeup tips men (and women) are biologically hardwired to go nuts over — bringing out attractive qualities really can be an exact science!
Publish date:
February 24, 2015
shoppables, makeup, science, tutorials, psychology, Eye Brows

When I was an intern at Cosmo, I spent a lot of time finding scientific studies for editors to use in sex columns. I wouldn’t recommend putting too much stock into living your life based on the principles of evolutionary psychology, but it’s fun to see how wacky facts are supported by science.

Evolutionary psychology is based on the idea that we’re animals — biologically driven in our dating choices by pre-programmed mate selectivity. This kind of thinking is dated and doesn’t account for obvious realities like non-heterosexual relationships, folks who aren’t looking to make babies with the next available applicant, and all the thinking we do with our homo sapien brains.

But some evolutionary psychology facts have been wildly upheld in academic circles for years and, because I like a little variety in my daily beauty regimen, here are four beauty tricks supported by actual science that are irresistible to humans. (Whether or not you’re looking to reel in a member of the opposite sex, these techniques are worth a try.)

Humans have a visceral reaction to acne, partially because skin infection may denote a disturbance of the production of sex hormones. For this psychology-inspired look, I ditched my usual full-coverage look and went with something lighter since whole point of this post is to help you bewitch the eye (and the mind) of the beholder.

I started with the ultra-moisturizing Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water. While pointing a spray bottle at my face took some getting used to (my corgi gets sprayed with water when he’s naughty and, during the first few Primer Water applications, I felt like I had done something wrong), this product gives me the easiest, breeziest born-with-it (did you catch how subversive that was?) look and erases the need for a finishing powder.

Instead of layering concealers and luminzers like I usually do, I applied a bit of MAKE UP FOR EVER Compact Shine On to my cheekbones and wrapped it all up with a delicate dusting of Urban Decay Naked Illuminated instead of my usual liquid illuminzer, because, again, we want to look accidentally ethereal, not vampy.

William Blake went on and on about symmetry being "fearful" and whatever, but humans are naturally drawn to symmetrical faces — no matter their sexual orientation. Scientists theorize that facial symmetry indicates good physical health and an absence of mutations, parasites, and/or toxins in the body (a.k.a. A+ genetic material), so it’s not surprising that studies have shown that human subjects consistently rate more symmetrical faces as more attractive.

Truly symmetrical faces don’t really exist, although you can flip through any fashion magazine to see what an almost perfectly symmetrical face looks like. Most models are facially beautiful because of symmetry. So there’s that.

While we can’t add symmetry to our faces naturally, we can create the illusion of it by creating contours and making precise shapes with makeup. If you’re bored to death with contouring — and I know, many folks aren’t diehard believers like me — you can shape up your eyebrows to create a more symmetrical look.

Currently, my favorite brow shaper is the Make Up Forever Aqua Brow Kit. It comes in a light ash brown that blends my dark brows a little better with my (New! Improved?) hair. My second favorite brow all-in-one is made by e.l.f. and is entirely top notch. Both brands come with a tiny brow brush and a comb. I brush my unruly brows up and then, using teeny tiny Thumbelina-size strokes, define the natural shape of my brows.

(Ignore my very vague technique and use the far superior tutorials here, here, and here.)

Guess what? Studies show that the human preference for large eyes is present as early as five years old. In addition to size, eyes with a darker limbal ring (the dark ring around the iris) are an indicator of youthfulness and virility.

My formula for large and luminous eyes is as follows: a (long lashes) + b (dark upper rim) + c (light lower rim) = perfection. Let’s explore, shall we?

a) Long Lashes: I’m currently rocking lash extensions courtesy of Wink Brow Bar. (The staff at the Greenwich Avenue location is entirely responsible for my vain and conspicuous upward glances in most of these pictures.) I love my new lashes and I like to touch them to my eyebrows and I’m not sorry. If you don’t want to lie completely still for one and a half hours while someone adheres tiny hairs to your eyelids with glue and sharp tools, any lengthening mascara in blackest black will do.

b) Dark Upper Rim: I didn’t know until recently that using a soft cream eyeliner — I am very much enamored with NARS Soft Touch Shadow Pencil at the moment — on the upper rim of your eye thickens up your lash line. The actual application process is a little tricky — kind of like putting on contact lenses — as I’ve awkwardly illustrated in the above image. Please take good care of any eyeliner you use on your delicate inner rims and don’t share eye makeup with anyone (obvs) because eye infections don’t look good on anyone.

c) Light Lower Rim: A white lower rim gives your eyes the illusion of being wide open, even when you’re puffy, exhausted, or completely hung over. My method is to VERY CAREFULLY use an angled brush to swipe along Napoleon Perdis 'China Doll' Gel Eyeliner along the rim of my inner eye, and round it off with a swipe of Marc Jacobs Beauty Twinkle Pop Eye Stick just below my lash line.

This is my favorite evolutionary psychology-inspired look in part because I love products like Stila Convertible Color that have multiple uses and partially because I like the idea of making periods sexier. Yup, red lips and flushed cheeks signal well-oxygenated blood, good cardiac and respiratory health and — get ready for it — ovulation, which, scientists have postulated for a long time, is dead sexy.

To get a flushed look, I used Stila Convertible Color on my lips and cheeks. It’s a cream that can easily be applied with your fingertips and is sheer enough to layer on for a more dramatic look. If you’re a sucker for a bold lip, this study suggests that richer reds signal greater fertility. I’m a self-proclaimed NARSissist, but Bite Beauty Cashmere Lip Cream is the best way if you want highly saturated color even on the days when your lips are cracked and thirsty.

I enjoy reading an evolutionary psych study and using it for the powers of good (new makeup tricks) instead of evil (suggesting that women examine the index fingers of potential suitors to gauge penis length). So what did you think of these tricks? Too obvious? Too hetero-normative? Let me know in the comments and let me know if I’ve gained your trust and you’d like to see me write about more beauty bits and pieces. As you know, I’m the comment moderator, blah, blah, I read the comments, blah, blah, so I’ll get right back to you, blah, blah. Let’s go!