Jones, A. L., & Kramer, R. S. S. (2016). Facial cosmetics and attractiveness: Comparing the effect sizes of professionally-applied cosmetics and identity. PLoS ONE, 11(10), e0164218.

Forms of body decoration exist in all human cultures. However, in Western societies, women are more likely to engage in appearance modification, especially through the use of facial cosmetics. How effective are cosmetics at altering attractiveness? Previous research has hinted that the effect is not large, especially when compared to the variation in attractiveness observed between individuals due to differences in identity. In order to build a fuller understanding of how cosmetics and identity affect attractiveness, here we examine how professionally-applied cosmetics alter attractiveness and compare this effect with the variation in attractiveness observed between individuals. In Study 1, 33 YouTube models were rated for attractiveness before and after the application of professionally-applied cosmetics. Cosmetics explained a larger proportion of the variation in attractiveness compared with previous studies, but this effect remained smaller than variation caused by differences in attractiveness between individuals. Study 2 replicated the results of the first study with a sample of 45 supermodels, with the aim of examining the effect of cosmetics in a sample of faces with low variation in attractiveness between individuals. While the effect size of cosmetics was generally large, between-person variability due to identity remained larger. Both studies also found interactions between cosmetics and identity–more attractive models received smaller increases when cosmetics were worn. Overall, we show that professionally-applied cosmetics produce a larger effect than self-applied cosmetics, an important theoretical consideration for the field. However, the effect of individual differences in facial appearance is ultimately more important in perceptions of attractiveness.

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