Do Women Wear Makeup To Change Themselves? The Truth Behind Contouring Tricks

Kylie Jenner
Slim nose, thick eyebrows, sharp jaw and more can be achieved with the power of makeup. Richard Russell, professor of psychology at Gettysburg College, did a research on all the changes makeup can and can't do in our face. Photo: Getty Images

Expanding on his earlier research on makeup and face perception, Richard Russell, professor of psychology at Gettysburg College and Harvard University, has found that makeup - AKA Contour - changes the apparent size of some, but not all, facial features. Further, the change in feature size depends on whether a professional makeup artist applies the makeup or someone applies their own.

Studies have shown that the size of one’s eyes, lips, and nose can be key measures of facial attractiveness. Larger eyes and lips allude to a younger and more feminine face, while larger noses are typically seen as a sign of masculinity.

However, despite the widely-held belief that makeup makes the eyes and lips look larger, the idea has received almost no scientific evaluation.

Over the course of three studies, whose complete results will be published in the Journal of Psychology Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts , Russell asked participants to examine the appearance of facial features in photos of models who were asked to apply their own makeup for a “night out,” their faces without makeup , and models with their makeup done by a professional told to make the faces “more beautiful.”

Study Participants were asked to examine the appearance of facial features in photos of models. Photo: Courtesy

Participants reported that eyebrows and eyes appeared larger in models who applied their own makeup or had it done professionally than the models without any makeup. Moreover, only when a professional makeup artist applied the makeup did the nose of the models appear smaller. Finally, the mouth did not appear a different size with or without makeup and regardless of who applied it. “The apparent shrinking of the nose is presumably due to the chiaroscuro effects of contouring, a popular but specialized technique of makeup application,” writes Russell.

These results support the idea that the modification of the apparent size of the facial features is one of the ways that makeup enhances facial attractiveness. Thus, the current findings add further support to the view from Russell in a 2010 study that makeup works in part by modifying biologically based factors of beauty.


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Shirley Gomez has been exposed to many aspects of the art world. Besides being a Fashion Journalist, she studied Fashion Styling and Fashion Styling for Men at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, Interior Design at UNIBE and Fashion Design at ITSMJ Fashion School in the Dominican Republic. She worked as a Fashion Journalist, Fashion Stylist and Social Media Manager at one of the most recognized magazines in the Dominican Republic, Oh! Magazine, as an occasional Entertainment Journalist, of the prestigious newspaper “Listín Diario”, as well as a fashion collaborator of a radio show aired in 100.9 FM SuperQ. When Shirley is not writing you can find her listening Demi Lovato or Beyonce's songs, decorating her apartment or watching Family Feud.