Am I Sabotaging My Career By Putting On Makeup At My Desk?

Some say putting on concealer undermines your professional credibility. I say having dark circles and a bulging red zit don't do much for it either.
Publish date:
March 19, 2013
work, ChapStick, oil-blotting sheets

My boss once advised me never to apply makeup at work if I want to be taken seriously.

Not that she didn't do it. Not that it stopped me from doing it. Not that any other girl with any shred of self-awareness and hint of vanity doesn’t do it.

It’s 2013, people, and a girl’s gotta get her lip gloss on. Right? Wrong. Right?!

Listen, we all carry a makeup bag or have that compartment in a drawer at work with beauty essentials: concealer, mascara, blush, lip gloss, and--LORD HELP ME ON DAYS I DON'T HAVE THIS—oil-absorbing sheets. When the clock strikes 3 pm, when my brain has hit a lull and the hour of the day that supposedly women look their oldest, I retreat to my beauty drawer and apply discretely.

It's not like I'm walking into a board meeting, pulling out a lighted desktop mirror, and asking the head honcho if I have lipstick on my teeth.

In Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, Lois P. Frankel (not to be confused with Congresswoman Lois Frankel) is staunchly against applying makeup in the workplace if you want to get ahead. She delineates very clear rules about PDG (Public Displays of Grooming, duh), saying public primping “emphasizes your femininity and detracts from your credibility” and urging women to abide by the mantra, “Every time I touch my hair, I reduce my credibility by one year.”

Fine, Lois, but what if your mascara is smudged, your lips are chapped, and your concealer has worn off so your blemishes are out in the open? Does one’s credibility not suffer then?

I asked my friend who has been working her way up the ladder at a major global corporation if she ever puts makeup on in the office.

“Never,” she said. “Only lip balm, and even that may be pushing it. I work in a male-dominated office and, sadly, that’ll separate me more from the pack. (Of wolves).”

Fair... ish.

But what would it say about you if you did? Yes, I’m freshening up my lipstick, and I just closed a multi-million dollar deal. Badass? Or Yes, I just closed a multi-million dollar deal, but now I’m freshening up my lipstick, so clearly I don’t have my priorities straight?

(I like how I’m talking about closing multi-million dollar deals like I have any exposure to that whatsoever. I don’t work at the type of place where I “close deals,” let alone multi-million dollar ones, but I can’t say I hate the way it sounds.)

Personally, I think I’ll continue to keep my makeup application in the office to a minimum: at my desk, only Boscia Green Tea Blotting Linens and ChapStick. Anything that needs to be applied with a brush (mascara, blush, bronzer, concealer) I’ll leave to a very brief bathroom break. And anything beyond that should probably be left at home.

At the end of the day (or, rather, at 3 pm), it depends on your work environment, your carefree/uptight attitude, and just how greasy your face gets.

What’s your take? Do you apply makeup at your desk? Had you even considered that it might sabotage a possible promotion? Is that lame or understandable?