Makeup addicts all know just how expensive their fave products can be. But it turns out that the cost of makeup is nothing compared to how much cash you’d lose on if you went to work makeup-free — and we’re not sure how we feel about it.
In a study published in the June 2016 issue of the Journal of Social Stratification and Mobility, sociologists Jaclyn Wong of the University of Chicago and Andrew Penner of the University of California at Irvine examined how much “grooming” can impact your paycheck. They used the responses of from a national study in which over 14,000 people were asked various questions about their income, job, and education and were rated based on their attractiveness and various grooming factors (including hair and makeup).
The researchers found that attractive people tend to make about 20% more than people who are rated “average looking,” but when they analyzed the makeup factor, the results took a new turn: Women who spend more time and more money on their hair and makeup often earn more money than women who go without makeup.
“You can access the rewards that you typically think of being for attractiveness through grooming,” Penner told Fortune about the study’s results.
In fact, the aforementioned 20% gap faded away when grooming was taken into account for both men and women — although the disparity between less-groomed women and more-groomed women is considerably more significant. For example, as Fortune notes, a woman “of average attractiveness” who puts more effort into grooming and makeup will earn $6000 more every year than an average-looking woman who also puts an average amount of work into grooming. That same woman will earn $4000 more than a more attractive woman who puts less effort into her makeup.
“The big takeaway here is that people can capture most of the attractiveness premium [with makeup],” Penner said. “It’s not just what you’re born with.”
That sounds like good sentiment, in theory, but there are arguably ways in which this is evidence of sexism deeply engrained in our society. Sure, both men and women are affected by both the attractiveness gap and the grooming gap, but the grooming gap affects women more extremely than men, because women’s looks are so often deemed to be an essential factor in their worth. Additionally, grooming can cost quite a bit of money, depending on how much a woman spends on makeup, haircare, nails, fitness, and skincare.
With makeup in particular, women who seem too “put-together” are often criticized for “hiding something,” “trying too hard,” or “tricking men.” Women who don’t wear makeup are told they look tired or they’re not trying hard enough, and now, they make less money.
In other words? When it comes to makeup — and LBH, most things — women are damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Sigh.