If you wear makeup to work you will earn more than a woman who doesn't. Seriously.

I don’t like wearing make-up. But I wear it anyway.

On the weekends, or on holidays, I take it or leave it. Even going to work, I fail to see the importance of contoured cheekbones and flawless foundation. (My computer screen, which is the only thing staring at me all day, isn’t going to be more co-operative if my eye-liner and lipstick are on point.)

Still, I wear it anyway. Like women all across the world, when I leave home to go to work, I have (almost without thinking about it) applied moisturiser, foundation, blush, mascara, lipstick, etc.

Why? Not because of the absolute conspiracy that is office lighting, which renders any skin tone pale and lifeless. But because my future earnings depend on it (a conspiracy is still likely involved, read on – you’ll see how).

New research, out of the University of Chicago and the University of California, has made the link between income level and grooming habits such as wearing make-up, styling hair and choice of clothing.

It’s the first study to show that the “beauty premium can be actively cultivated”, and it examined nation-wide data of more than 14,000 participants.

The “beauty premium” refers to the way physical attractiveness can increase income; a phenomena that has been shown in research time and time again. This study confirms the existence of the beauty premium, but says grooming also plays a part. In fact, salary differences between women of varying levels of attractiveness can be put down (almost always) to grooming habits.

“We find that attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness, but this gap is reduced when controlling for grooming, suggesting that the beauty premium can be actively cultivated,” the report states.



While men’s grooming was not as important as women’s grooming, the attractiveness effect was the same for both groups. It seems the corporate world is a sucker for good-lookers, no matter their gender.

“While both conventional wisdom and previous research suggest the importance of attractiveness might vary by gender, we find no gender differences in the attractiveness gradient,” the report states.

“For women, most of the attractiveness advantage comes from being well groomed. For men, only about half of the effect of attractiveness is due to grooming,” author Jacyln Wong told the Washington Post. 

Weather proof your make-up. Post continues below video. 

The study highlights the difference between inherent attractiveness and good grooming, and shows there are ways women can ‘improve’ their standing at work using make-up, hair styling and clothing. This, however, raises the question – what sort of workplace ‘rewards’ women for wearing make-up, and do you really want to be a part of it anyway?

The research demonstrates a collective consciousness, or bias towards attractiveness, that we cannot seem to shake. The fact women can ‘get ahead’ using lipstick and bronzer is wrong, unfair and disheartening because (last time I checked) under-eye concealer has nothing to do with how effectively you meet deadlines.

Maybe it’s because good grooming sends off ‘signals’. The fact you’ve arrived looking polished, clean-cut and stylish shows you’re aware of social cues and you’re willing to make an effort to improve how others perceive you. At best, grooming is effective because it shows you’re professional, conscious of your presentation and also that you have attention to detail (eye-liner is hard, am I right?).


Maybe it’s due to a sub-conscious “halo affect” where we perceive people who are good looking (or well groomed) to have the personality to match. Our first impression of someone attractive is always more generous – because their complexion is clear and their eye’s are bright, they must also be intelligent, positive and trustworthy, right? It sounds ridiculous, but it is proven.

At worst, grooming is important because it plays into the ‘roles’ women have in the workplace, and adheres to the historic (and seemingly still underlying) misogynistic culture of corporate environments. If this is true, it confirms that women are not hired, promoted or celebrated because of their intelligence, creativity or work-ethic. It’s all about the lip-liner.

Whatever the reasons behind it, the culture is pervasive.

While we’re fighting our way to a world where make-up is worn for no other reason than you like how you look in lipstick, and where management / clients / computers have no preference if you wear foundation or not, we bring you some Mamamia beauty hacks to looking like a boss at work.

If I was #rich I would get my hair blown out once a week. – Sam, 24.

Dry shampoo – lets you get away with not washing your hair every day, and you don’t have to deal with greasy roots in the meantime. – Amy, 32.

If my brows look neat and I have lipstick on, I feel pretty good. – Camilla, 29.

Eyelash extensions!– Sophie, 27.

Groomed eyebrows make a huge difference. – May, 26.

In short?