The hidden meaning behind your mascara

Do you see yourself as a natural, classic or dramatic beauty? Glenda Cooper explains what the results of a special survey say about how women choose their make-up

"I'm sick of peering at the world through false eyelashes, so everything I see is mixed with a shadow of bought hairs ... maybe I'm sick of the masquerade," wrote Germaine Greer in The Female Eunuch. Making up is hard to do, but for most women the cosmetics that we put on our faces are more than just vanity; they are part of how we see ourselves.

Do you see yourself as Liz Hurley or Helena Bonham-Carter? Stella McCartney or Denise van Outen? Today's discerning consumers want products that reflect their lifestyle and their image and aspirations.

For the company which gets it right there are rewards. Make-up continues to be big business. According to the latest figures, from 1996 by Mintel, sales of face make-up are valued at around pounds 204m a year; lipstick and glosses pounds 138m; eye make-up pounds 162m. In addition, the number of women in their mid-forties and over using make-up has increased by 21 per cent.

And the eyelashes have it. The cosmetics giant Max Factor surveyed more than 10,000 women across three continents and established that mascara was the key item of make-up for nearly all women, with women feeling more confident and attractive if their lashes were darkened.

"I feel like a bald eagle without mascara," said one woman. "I wouldn't dream of going out, even to the shops, without mascara on," said another.

Modern women are not the first to be obsessed by make-up. The Egyptians were responsible for introducing make-up which they wore to provide protection against the sun's rays. Queen Elizabeth I was said to be left pock-marked and hideous because of the lead component in 16th-century make-up.

Behind the primping and painting, say psychologists, was basic biology. "Painting your body as adornment is fairly ubiquitous," says Dr Martin Skinner, social psychologist at Warwick University. "It is about accentuation of what there is already in the face and aiding the quality of the skin. Obviously sexual attraction is the primary urge.

"There is also the biological view that painting the lips red is a mimicry of the labial lips, and it's hard to get away from that."

Sheila Rossan, management consultant and chartered psychologist, feels that the use of make-up goes further than trying to attract the opposite sex. "It is part of our identity. The great advantage is that you can change your body image - it's not just make-up but clothes and hair as well - but all these things add up to how we present ourselves to others."

Research has shown that when meeting someone for the first time, the visual impact counted for 55 per cent of the impression a person gave, tone of voice counted for 38 per cent and what the person actually said counted for just 7 per cent.

"Today's consumer is astute," says Andrea Witty, spokeswoman for Max Factor, which carried out the survey as part of the launch for its CF2 mascara. "Glossy packaging and glamorous models are no longer enough for the discerning woman. She wants to know what the product offers, and if and how it's appropriate to her lifestyle.

"The trend is towards speed and convenience: mascara that's touch-proof, foundation, concealer and powder all in one."

While we may want the same qualities, we do not all want our make-up to give us the same effect. Does a lawyer want to look the same as a schoolgirl? Or a mother the same as a punk? In the Max Factor survey, women divided into three categories: Natural Look (28 per cent), Classic Look (34 per cent) and Dramatic Look (37 per cent).

"The natural look would generally be preferred by younger women who pursue the androgynous ideal," says Dr Glenn Wilson, a psychologist in self-image. "This would include schoolgirls who want to give definition to their eyelashes without being conspicuously made up, and the outdoor, sporty type of woman who would find excessive make-up inappropriate or inconvenient."

He adds that women who wear little make-up tend to be less ambitious because they do not wish to come across as threatening or powerful. It seems deeply un-PC to say so, but a recent survey in the US has found that women who wear make-up earn up to 25 per cent more than women who wear none at all.

"Yes, but who controls the pay rises?" snorts Sheila Rossan. "Business is still a man's world. There are still more men in positions of authority."

"Women who wear no make-up in professional jobs are often not taken as seriously as those who do," insists Dr Wilson. He says that such women prefer the "classic" look, which is subtle. "Career women in office jobs rarely choose exaggerated make-up, as this is seen as too overtly sexual and `false'.

"In addition, the sort of women who would choose the classic look may also be those who are in a permanent relationship."

The dramatic look, he says, would appeal to the more extrovert (perhaps even slightly exhibitionist) type of woman.

"Women who choose this look for work are out to look for success through their appearance," Dr Wilson says. "They may even feel insecure about their performance and so try to create a false impression of sex appeal and power to further their chances of success."

"Natural" women include Kate Moss and Stella McCartney; classic women, Helena Bonham-Carter and Kate Winslet; whereas the dramatics tend to be women like Liz Hurley and Sophia Loren.

But don't worry if you feel you are a Liz when you would like to be a Helena, or vice versa. According to Sheila Rossan, few of us stay with one look. "Make-up is not just about how we present ourselves to others, it is how we feel about ourselves.

"And I think we wear different make-up at different times," she says. "In the day, you might not wear very much make-up; in the night, you want to be more dramatic.

"Wearing make-up is like making a statement. You are telling other people how you want to be seen."

star looks

Natural

Felicity Kendal

Gwyneth Paltrow

Patsy Kensit

Stella McCartney

Kate Moss

Classic

Helena Bonham-Carter (above)

Helena Christensen

Princess Diana

Denise van Outen

Kate Winslet

Dramatic

Liz Hurley

Joan Collins

Geri Spice

Sophia Loren

Melinda Messenger

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

    Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

    ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
    Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

    Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

    Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
    'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
    BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

    BBC Television Centre

    A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
    Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

    My George!

    Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
    10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world