Study sheds light on the nuanced link between self-esteem and makeup use

Makeup use has been linked to both low and high self-esteem in previous research. While women with low self-esteem can use it to cover up insecurities, women with high self-esteem can use it to get attention. A study published in Plus one further examines the relationship between makeup use and self-esteem.

Between makeup, hair, and clothing, women generally spend a lot of time on their appearance. This is partly due to the pressure society puts on how women look. Attractiveness is a emphasized and valued trait in women, and attractiveness is associated with higher self-esteem.

Researcher Anthonieta Looman Mafra and her colleagues used a sample of 1,483 Brazilian women between the ages of 18 and 75. Participants completed measures through Qualtrics, including demographics, cosmetic use inventory, general self-esteem questionnaire, social self-esteem questionnaire, and a body image scale.

General self-esteem refers to how a person feels about themselves, while social self-esteem describes how a person feels about themselves in social interactions. Social comparison can have a negative impact on overall self-esteem.

“While general self-esteem reflects how a person feels about themselves and their worth in comparison to others, social self-esteem is how individuals feel about themselves during social interactions with others and how those interactions affect their social worth. In this way, social self-esteem is more influenced by social interactions than overall self-esteem,” the researchers explained.

The results showed that nearly half of the participants spent less than 5 minutes a day on makeup. Participants with higher overall self-esteem spent less money on makeup, while participants with higher social self-esteem spent more money on makeup. Participants who were more appearance-oriented used makeup more often and spent more time on it.

“Overall, our study suggests that women with greater self-esteem related to social interactions place greater importance on their appearance, leading to greater makeup use,” the researchers said.

Focusing on looks is associated with negative outcomes like neuroticism and eating disorders, but using makeup can boost women’s confidence, which could be a positive outcome.

This study took steps to understand the nuances surrounding the relationship between self-esteem and makeup use. Despite this, it still has limitations. One such limitation is that this study is cross-sectional, so causality cannot be assessed. Follow-up studies could use an experimental design. Furthermore, only Brazilian women, who were mostly Caucasian, were used in this study, which does not adequately represent the Brazilian population. Further research should use a more diverse sample.

The study “The Contrasting Effects of Body Image and Self-Esteem When Using Makeup” was authored by Anthonieta Looman Mafra, Caio SA Silva, Marco AC Varella, and Jaroslava V. Valentova.

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