Which Makeup Look Makes Me Seem The Most 'Professionally Competent'?

A 2011 survey concluded that the women with makeup on (any amount) were perceived as more reliable than the same women with no makeup on. I don't know if I buy it...

Let’s talk about a serious and potentially sensitive topic: Is your makeup (or lack thereof) affecting how seriously people take you in the workplace?

This 2011 article in The New York Times said yes, it is. In case you missed it, the article is about a survey that took pictures of women wearing varying amounts of makeup and then had participants judge the women based on those pictures. In the end, it was concluded that the women with makeup on (any amount of makeup) were perceived as more competent than the same women with no makeup on.

Yes, it’s an old article, but I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately. I feel more reliant on makeup now than I ever did in the past. Maybe it’s because I’m struggling with skin problems right now, maybe it’s because I’ve suddenly started to prefer how I look with makeup on, or maybe it’s both. Whatever the reason, I no longer go to job interviews without makeup, and I’ve even started wearing more than just tinted lip balm to work--something that I never used to bother with.

Part of this is probably because I am no longer someone who can feel entirely confident without makeup. I’m not sure how that happened, but there it is. And let’s be honest: people don’t care if you’re not wearing makeup; they care (subconsciously or not) about whether you look good without makeup. I looked good without makeup when I was a tan 16 year old.

Just like the study did, I decided to photograph myself with varying amounts of makeup. After rosacea flare-ups and a bad bout of cystic acne, this is what I look like without makeup now:

OK, I’m kidding with the photo caption up there but seriously, my redness and dark spots make me feel sad sometimes. I’m thinking this might affect my level of confidence, which people pick up on.

Next I did a minimal makeup look with Revlon PhotoReady BB Cream in Light Pale, a swipe of CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Mascara, I also filled in my brows a bit.

My skin tone is evened out, the red spots are less obvious, my eyes look a bit more awake… and my lips are sort of chapped. Oops.

Then I added two more products as seen in the photo above: Maybelline Fit Me Concealer in Fair and Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Honey.

This is why I always try to wear some lip color; I feel like it just adds so much life to my face in the way that other people claim blush does for them.

Next, for a more blatant “I’m wearing makeup!” look, I added Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner along my upper lids and Kate Moss for Rimmel lipstick in Kiss of Life for a statement-making red lip.

I also switched out the BB cream for Clinique Redness Solutions Foundation in Calming Alabaster for full coverage.

How do you feel about wearing red lipstick to work? Personally, I feel like nothing gives me more confidence, and I even like wearing it to job interviews.

I didn’t stop there, though. I took it one step further and extended my eyeliner to make a cat eye and switched out the red lipstick for Maybelline ColorSensational Vivids in Brazen Berry, a bright purple.

I did this look because the Times article said that while it’s important to wear some makeup to be deemed competent, too much makeup will make you seem less trustworthy.

I’m curious how many of you could confidently wear a makeup look like this to work. I know I could, but right now I work in a fairly relaxed environment. I wouldn’t wear it to a job interview--but why not? Is it because I really believe I would be taken less seriously just because I’m wearing purple lipstick?

It seems unfair that we have to walk this tightrope between enough makeup and too much makeup, especially since men don’t have to worry about this sort of thing (the only comparison I can think of is facial hair). It’s not just makeup that we have to worry about, either: What about nail art or very long nails? What about how you style your hair? I never worry about my pixie cut aside from the odd cowlick, so I’m interested in how much work other women put into making their hair look “professional,” whatever that means.

In the end, I thought this quote from Robbie Myers, Editor-in-Chief of Elle, was interesting: “The fashion business takes women who wear no makeup very seriously, which I think is kind of great. If you look at what you’d call the more ‘senior’ members of the fashion class, they don’t wear a ton of makeup. So... do you have to wear makeup to be taken more seriously? No. It’s just a matter of what your look is and how you feel about it.”

I’m not sure if that may simply be because once you’re a senior member of the fashion class, you can do whatever the hell you want, but I do agree with her that it’s important to figure out what your look is, however you feel most confident as yourself, and just own it.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. I didn’t want to write an article that declared “Wear this BB cream every day to get a raise!” or “Stop wearing winged eyeliner to work!” I’m not declaring anything, actually, because I think this is an ongoing, multifaceted discussion.

So tell me: what's your beauty routine is for work? Do you have to quelch your personality at the office, or does anything go? Do you dislike having to wear makeup or does it make you feel more confident? Have you ever thought someone else looked unprofessional or incompetent because of their makeup, or felt you were discriminated against because of how you look? We all know this can go both ways.

And finally, of course, which of my four looks appeared the most competent to you, on a scale of “I don’t even trust this person to make copies for me,” to “You are Beyonce and deserve to be CEO of this company!”