433 Cosmetics and Dehumanization

Research by Bernard, Philippe; Content, Joanne; Servais, Lara; Wollast, Robin; & Gervais, Sarah (2020) 

Written by Robin N. Fatovic B.S

Do you judge others’ personalities based on their appearance? Research shows that people perceive sexualized figures in the media as being less “human.” However, can subtler sexualized changes in appearance (such as wearing eye and lip makeup) still impact people’s perceptions?  

In four different studies, researchers analyzed whether cosmetics make people appear less human-like. Participants under 30 from the US and UK rated models and non-models wearing heavy makeup.  

Results? The participants rated models and non-models wearing heavy makeup as appearing less human, warm, and moral. They also perceived the faces as having less self-control, competence, and the capacity to feel emotions. Additionally, the researchers questioned which areas of the face impacted perceptions more when wearing cosmetics. Results showed that people tended to dehumanize those who wore heavy eye makeup more than those who wore lipstick.  

Be aware of the automatic perceptions your brain might make. Consider how others might perceive you. These results indicate that wearing heavy makeup, even without sexy clothing, can sexualize and dehumanize the wearer. In situations where you want to make a favorable impression, consider wearing lighter makeup. Others might perceive you differently!  


Bernard, P., Content, J., Servais, L., Wollast, R., & Gervais, S. (2020). An Initial Test of the Cosmetics Dehumanization Hypothesis: Heavy Makeup Diminishes Attributions of Humanness-Related Traits to Women. Sex Roles, 83(5-6), 315-327. doi:10.1007/s11199-019-01115-y 

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