The Makeup Tax: The Average Woman Spends $15,000 On Cosmetics

by Isabel Bartholomew

I have been wearing at least some form of makeup since I was eleven. Why? When I was eleven, it was mascara for my white-blonde eyelashes and concealer for my pimples. What about now? I don’t think I have a singular answer. I like the ritual of putting on makeup in the morning, I enjoy playing with eyeshadow and lip colors, and I genuinely think I look about 110 percent prettier with makeup on. I wear makeup because it makes me feel good. For me, it’s that simple, a reflex.

But, as Olga Khazan writes in The Atlantic: “Women invest time and money into doing their makeup because it impacts their relationships and their paychecks. And while both genders tend to buy haircuts, shaving cream, and moisturizer, the price of makeup is something men never have to worry about.” I would add that women’s haircuts almost always cost more than a men’s cut does—I have a pixie haircut (read: very short hair), and I pay the higher price for a women’s cut every time I go to a salon. The average woman will spend $15,000 in her lifetime on makeup, and two weeks a year putting it on, according to personal finance site Mint and The Today Show.

Khazan goes on to address the “just don’t wear makeup” argument to be made. It’s true that some women don’t, and it’s an unimportant part of their lives; but for many of us, it’s a professional and social norm. “Years of research has shown that attractive people earn more,” Khazan says. “Thus, the makeup tax: good-looking men and good-looking women both get ahead, but men aren’t expected to wear makeup in order to look good.” Multiple studies have found that women wearing makeup are perceived as more “competent, likable, and attractive.” Women who wear makeup are more likely to be awarded “prestigious jobs” and male restaurant patrons tend to leave larger tips for waitresses wearing makeup.

It sucks! It absolutely sucks. But it is a reality for women who want to participate in a competitive job market. The only way the “just don’t wear makeup” argument would work would be if every woman, in unison, stopped wearing makeup. And I (and so many others) really like makeup. It’s a difficult issue to reconcile without a vast overhaul of gender bias and appearance discrimination. Here’s a topical comic from Everyday Feminism:

Via the Atlantic

Image via


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