You've nailed your presentations, flaunted your managerial skills, and done everything to prove that you're an asset to your company. But even if you're doing everything right on paper to get ahead at work, there might be one seemingly unrelated aspect standing in your way: Like it or not, your makeup look projects a certain image to everyone around you—something that can be either an asset in the workplace or an obstacle.
It's all a matter of psychology, and there's a significant amount of research to support which makeup looks project confidence and competence (as well as those that project less desirable traits). Consider this study conducted by scientists at Harvard and Boston University, for example, 25 female subjects of varying ethnicities and ages were photographed without makeup, and then in three different cosmetic looks categorized as "natural," "professional," and "glamorous." Then, the researchers compiled a panel of 149 adults and gave them a couple seconds to view each image—enough to make a gut judgment call on each look—and rate the subject's likability, attractiveness, competence, and trustworthiness.
For starters, all the photos with makeup had significantly higher ratings for competence than those without. The "professional" look also earned high marks for likability, while the "natural" look won out on trustworthiness. In turn, this gives us a pretty illustrative idea of what kind of makeup wins out in a corporate setting: polished yet relatively natural, like the images seen in this story.
On the flip side, wearing too much makeup (or not enough) can have a negative impact on your perceived image. In a 2013 survey of company executives, 61% said that it would be detrimental to a woman's promotional prospects if she didn't regularly wear cosmetics. Two-thirds of the same group also said that it would reflect badly if a female employee didn't wear makeup during key business meetings.
It's also worth noting that the Harvard/Boston University study showed that women who were wearing more "glamorous" looks were deemed less trustworthy than those with "natural" or "professional" getups—something that may make you think twice before donning a full smoky eye at the office.
Of course, this all begs discussion on the demands that women, in particular, are held to at the office—while it's to be expected that we should all look polished and professional in the workplace, the fact that it's seen as "unprofessional" or "unlikeable" to go barefaced or put on too much makeup is definitely a double-standard. But as long as the system is flawed, why not work it to our professional advantage? Shop the work-appropriate makeup Byrdie editors swear by for a polished, professional look.