Science of Love, Sex, and Babies

Men prefer painted ladies?

Posted in news by jenapincott on January 1, 2009

Of course men should love women for who they are, au naturel. But there’s a reason why ancient tallow and kohl residues pop up on archaeological digs — makeup draws the attention of men. This is something of a given, but French psychologist Nicolas Gueguen (who also researched men’s unconscious behavior after thinking about love) has found empirical evidence that men — at least on an unconscious level — are more attracted to painted ladies.

Gueguen recruited two women in their early twenties to go to bars for sixty sessions on twenty nights, and sit at a free table near where they were highly visible. The women either wore makeup or not — and when they did, they applied to it to their eyes, cheeks, and lips. Observing the women were members of Gueguen’s research team, who counted the number of men that approached the girls and the minutes lapsed before and between approaches.

The results? Although men approached the women in every session, the come-ons were more frequent when women wore makeup. It took less time for men to make a pass at the women (an average of 17 min vs. 23 min), and more men approached the women per hour (a mean of 2.0 vs 1.5).

What draws guys to lipsticked mouths and darkened eyes? There may be several reasons. As I discuss in BLONDES, makeup simulates high-estrogen qualities that peak at the time of a woman’s cycle when she’s most likely to conceive. Eyes appear wider, lips plumper, features appear more symmetrical. Moreover, made-up women with high-contrast features catch the eye (just as blond hair does). And just as women who dye their hair blonde may appear to desire attention, so do women with makeup. Men might assume, at least subconsciously, that it’s a attention-seeking cue (“look at me!”) — and as a result be more attracted. And it may be a virtuous feedback loop: the more confident a woman feels in her own skin, albeit under a few layers of macquillage, the more attention she seeks — and the more attention she gets.


17 Responses

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  1. Lance Lawshe said, on January 2, 2009 at 1:27 am

    I don’t think it is necessary the make up that attract the men. I think it is the attitude the women have after they put it on. That attitude of confidence and beauty naturally attracts a man. Not the make up. If she knows she is beautiful with out the makeup the men will still come calling.

    • Tessa said, on October 6, 2009 at 7:39 am

      Yes, I think you are right about that one. I seldom wear make up (It’s just not comfortable to put all kind of stuff on my face LOL) and I get attention from men. It might be cause I’m a blonde though LOL!

      I feel comfortable in my own skin..I know what I’m worth, that’s what attracts men to me.

      One love


  2. David Griffin said, on January 2, 2009 at 1:28 am

    Isn’t there a social stereotype that women wearing makeup might be more available than women without, encouraging men to approach women wearing makeup?

  3. saintlyone said, on January 2, 2009 at 4:15 am

    Of course A little make up is much better than none, but it can easly be overdone.
    I dont think painted doll type of make up is very nice.

  4. […] by jenapincott on January 5th, 2009 Psychologist Nicolas Guguen, who conducted experiments on how makeup and thoughts of love change men’s behavior has recently turned his attention from men to […]

  5. crzeebutfl22 said, on January 8, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    I read through a few of your articles and am really intrigued. Especially this article. It is almost like subconciously we mimick the lifestyles of animals looking for a mate…Never thought of it that way before.

  6. kennedy121 said, on January 20, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    I find I’ve tended to be drawn to women who wear very little make up in the past… I’m not sure why this would be, but I find overdone makeup a little bit of a turn off. This is an interesting post though and seems to go some way to confirming why L’oreal and all the others make so much money!

  7. […] 26, 2009 — Nicole Reillan I stumbled over a blog today featuring this post about “The Unconscious Effect of Women’s Makeup on Men” and found it, naturally, very interesting. The fact that men approached the women with […]

  8. Utirwerty said, on April 10, 2009 at 4:58 pm


  9. forthespectators said, on September 28, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Women tend to be more confident around men when they’re wearing makeup…. The confidence factor might be another reason why men’s interests are peaked when a woman has her whole face on.

    I myself, cower away and cover my face when male friends unexpectedly drop by my house.

  10. G said, on September 30, 2009 at 6:37 am

    It would be nice to see how much makeup attracts a man- by sheer amount. I know a lot of girls who just layer it on and I wonder if men would actually find that attractive (3 coats of foundation = she really really wants attention?). And also, obviously painted (coloured eyeshadow) vs natural makeup?

  11. hilton said, on November 19, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Think about it, what sells best in the supermarket — yep — the packaged, glossy stuff even if we know that they are inferior to their organic natural conterparts. I think I read somewhere that President Kennedy got the edge over his counterpart because he wore make up their tv debate — thats debatable.
    Men are visual and make-up appeals if it is used to enhance beauty not “make-up” for its lack. This is where many women lose the plot.
    when used to coverup and substitute for what you lack, make-up is a great turn off.

  12. trishothinks said, on February 22, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    I don’t wear alot of makeup, but I if I go out in “public”, I would rather have some makeup on than to be totally bare. Lets face it, makeup helps diminish spotting and helps to cover age spots, etc.

    It is especially important to at least put some eye liner on, and a touch of lipstick.

    Someone who takes the time to put make up on cares how they look, and I believe that may be a factor of why men are attracted to women who wear makeup.

    Interesting subject, thanks,


  13. marai said, on February 22, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    Truly make up enhance women’s appearance. Its a good cover up for lot of negatives, for us women and even some men nowadays wear make up but not as much as women does. It makes us more beautiful outside.

    Though, beauty catches the attention but its the ATTITUDE that catches the HEART

    Like your subject!… 🙂

  14. mary o shea said, on April 27, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    when i wore make up it made no difference men still passed me by ,so i think its waste of time for me to wear to make its joke

  15. sk said, on May 11, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Most women wear makeup because they feel beautiful in it, they are accentuating their own positive so to speak. So If women want to wear it, it really doesn’t matter what men think. For every woman in makeup (heavy or light) it’s a dozen plus, men that like it. The movie stars in makeup could come into your home and your husbands would leave right with them, makeup and all. Then you would want to fix yourselves up a little too. Don’t let guys fool you into thinking “I like a woman without makeup it shows that she has confidence”, plain jane confidence will eventually make you an old maid or a jilted wife and realize there is a reason that the makeup industry is a billion dollar business even in times of recession. Wise up girls.

  16. murtlie said, on August 30, 2011 at 8:51 am

    My boyfriend thinks the ONLY reason girls wear blue eyeshadow is to make them look like they’re having sex!!! Apparently womens eyelids go a tinge of blue when they’re having sex so “naturally” this is why we wear the colour…… Nothing to do with highlighting your eyes or the like. Made me rather angry.

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