Do Men Really Prefer Women Without Makeup?

It’s that time again! What time, you ask? No, not time to get back to work (although that’s probably also true). No, not Monday, either (accurate, as well). It’s time for another look into the ever-popular “how men really feel about makeup” issue. Online dating site Zoosk recently conducted a study examining that very issue; the results, however, are a little surprising — and also a little problematic.

Zoosk started by analyzing 1,200 profile photos of female users. Then, they correlated the types of makeup worn in those photos to the preferences displayed towards them by male users. Contrary to the oft-touted opinion that dudes prefer women without makeup, Zoosk actually found that women who wore makeup in their profiles received quite a few more messages than those who didn’t — three times as many, to be exact. Here are the salient points in a nutshell:

  • Eye makeup helps you get noticed. Apparently women who wear eye makeup receive a whopping 139 percent more first messages than women who don’t. Furthermore, dudes are 65 percent more likely to want to meet a gal if her online dating profile pic features eye makeup.
  • Lipstick gives you some added oomph, too. Like wearing makeup, sporting lipstick ups your chances of getting a first message; in this case, women who wear some sort of lip color are 119 percent more likely to get first messages than those who don’t. Furthermore, men are 38 percent more likely to want to meet a woman if she’s wearing lipstick in her online dating photo.
  • Blush nets bonus points. While stats aren’t quite as staggering as they are for eye makeup or lipstick, blush wearers receive 24 percent more first messages than non-blush wearers; guys are also 19 percent more likely to want to meet up with a woman wearing blush in her profile pic.
  • But everything changes when you meet up in person. Weirdly, the types of makeup that inspire initial messages doesn’t necessarily do it for guys once they meet their potential partners IRL. Additional findings include the fact that 57 percent of men don’t think red lipstick on a date is attractive; 66 percent don’t find a date more attractive if she’s wearing dark eye makeup; 82 percent find “natural” hairstyles to be most attractive; and 84 percent of men prefer their dates to have hair of a color found in nature, rather than of an obviously dyed shade. Furthermore, in an additional survey asking men what they thought of celebrities with different levels of makeup, they preferred the less-made-up ones every time. Way to send mixed messages, guys.

Of course, what we don’t know is how heavy the makeup that garnered the extra attention in the profile pics was. By “eye makeup,” do we mean no-makeup makeup, or do we mean a smoky eye, winged liner, and/or some other more dramatic type of look? By “lipstick,” so we mean “my lips but better,” or fire engine red?

As our very own Brinton Parker found in both of her beauty experiments, how much makeup someone is perceived as wearing versus how much that person is wearing is often quite different — as is the behavior displayed towards the makeup-wearer. As the Tinder experiment in particular found, it’s not just the amount of messages that changes depending on how much makeup you wear, but the quality of the messages, as well.

I’ve got also some questions about how the makeup data was gathered in the first place: Did Zoosk get in touch with the owners of each and every profile pic they analyzed, asking how much makeup they were wearing? This seems unlikely to me, as they used 1,200 photos (that’s a lot of reaching out).

This is pure speculation on my part, so of course I could be wrong — but I’m assuming this means that the profile photos used in the study were pretty much lumped into two categories, either “makeup” or “no makeup,” based on what the human eyes who found the photos in the first place could detect.

As such, it’s quite possible that “no makeup” photos included a bunch of images with makeup — just makeup of the “no-makeup makeup” variety intended to enhance a person’s natural look without transforming them into a totally different person. Something tells me we’d need to get a little more in-depth with this type of study to make it as error-proof as possible.

The bottom line, though, is this: Who cares? If a guy (or a woman, for that matter) gets down on you for what you wear, how you wear it, or what you don’t wear, then they’re probably not the kind of person you want to spend time with, anyway. As Molly Mulshine at BetaBeat put it, “We’ll start following advice like this when men start, say, getting pedicures to tame their gnarly hobbit feet, or NOT shaving the perfect five-o’clock-shadow we’ve been begging them to keep…. It’s your face. Do whatever you want with it.” Ayyyyyyy-men.