A Makeup Kit for Work

Wednesday February 03, 2016   

photo of various makeup items spread across the floor with a golden metallic makeup bag
Yesterday I started writing up a blog post about how I was packing up some makeup items to take with me to work and keep there on days I was running late and couldn’t do it at home. That post quickly dissolved into a debate about whether or not wearing makeup in an office environment affects your salary. I’ve read so many click-bait articles guaranteeing that it in fact does. That women who wear makeup are paid more than those who do not thus encouraging (with or without saying) women to put on said makeup. But what started to bother me was that a majority of these articles cited “studies” but never provided links to those studies. Puff pieces on nytimes and huffpo with no real facts attached.

So I ended up hunting down these studies and I found 2 major ones most commonly referred to in these makeup salary correlation type articles. The first is a 2008 study that found women with makeup in a work environment reinforced a sense of femininity which in turn made her appear less competent. While another popular study used is a 2010 study that instead found that women who wore “glamorous style” makeup in a work environment appeared more competent. This 2010 study was funded by P&G which looks suspect at best.

So what is the truth? This debate is most likely perpetuated for the sake of reinforcing control over women; whether your opinion is for makeup or against it. It’s still looking to dictate how you “should” be. It keeps you in a state of both knowing you should do whatever makes you happy but also trying to be strategic in your career choices. There’s no right answer because like many female conundrums it’s a trap.

If you are dead set on looking for an answer it’s better to assess your surroundings and assess your internal dialogue to discover what is right for you. Instead of reading regurgitated articles that rarely link actual studies there’s more solace to be found on Reddit boards, interviews with professionals, and discussing it with the women around you. “Be the change you want to see” but understand that no matter which path you choose it won’t put an end to the comments and questions about your appearance in today’s society.

I once read that it’s best to avoid bright lip colors in an office. I would say I agree only because I often wear bright lipstick and have had someone stop a meeting just to comment on it. I was presenting and they just stopped and asked if I was purposefully wearing it to match my outfit for the day. So yes it can be an actual distraction. And it’s whether or not you want to put up with that distraction that influences your decision on makeup in the workplace.

Personally I do both. Some days I wear no makeup and deal with any “you look tired” comments. On other days I wear the bright red lip and subtly gloss over any comments made on it. I never have a single reason why I wear makeup. Some days I do it to cover up a bad breakout (more for myself so I won’t be reminded and pick at it.) Sometimes I do it because I’m bored or I want to try a new technique. But mostly I do it to feel ethereal. It’s why I love glitter eyeshadows and shimmering highlight and bright blushes. It’s something that’s a bit beyond human and that has always appealed to me.

Lastly I want to recommend Lisa Eldridge’s Best and Worst Makeup Moments in History. It’s very informative and goes far beyond just a praise and slam video about makeup.

Onto that makeup I was talking about

I went through my collection and selected some things that would work best. I mostly want to bring some color back into my makeup routine even on days I’m running too late to do my makeup at home. These are things I won’t miss using after work or on the weekends while also being easy to apply at my desk.

Dolly Wink Japanese mascara in long type

Dolly Wink Long Mascara. The wand and formula was changed at some point. It used to be a favorite of mine but with the formula change I might not rebuy it again. Still a good mascara but I just liked it back when it had more fibers. This does however work well even on uncurled lashes so I’ll use it up instead of tossing.

Two sephora blushes one in a bright coral shade the other a darker plum

These two blushes I got in a summer festival collection. They look untouched but I’ve actually used them a lot. They’re really pigmented and very soft to the touch. You can actually apply these with your finger they’re so smooth. I’ve been applying these on top of a cream blush for that “igari makeup” look.

liquid eyeliner pen

Real Lasting Eyeliner is such a good product. I purchased this extra fine “micro” point one to see if it made tightlining easier. Yes & no. Yes tightlining from atop the lashes is much easier but I tightline from underneath usually and this tip is so skinny it would push through my lashes and leave a mark higher on my eyelid. Wouldn’t get it again but for subtle tightlining at work it’ll do just fine.

NYX brand lip butter lipstick

I bought this NYX butter lipstick because I needed the shade for this Lisa Eldridge “Tippi Hedren Makeup Tutorial.” It’s a nice sweet neutral coral. I wore it a ton in summer.

Ritual de Fille cream blush compact

This is the original Ritual de Fille cream blush I bought last winter. I stopped using this shade after I got the others from them. Plus I have this shade in a Chanel blush I use more often. So I’m bringing this in as a fool proof blush choice.

Two lipsticks one in a dusty rum shade and the other in very bright pink

I don’t wear these two lipsticks too often anymore. The bright pink from Shu Uemura really gave me that pink flush I was into a while ago and the Chanel was seriously my legitimate shade for over a year. A my lips but better. Lately I wear matte shades in dark browns or bright reds. So I’ll take these with me to work as alternative, easy to apply options.

An eyeshadow palette featuring 10 shades

I remember the night I bought this Sephora Moonshadow Baked Nude palette. It was on impulse because the use of “moon” and the color choices being so gorgeous. I still used this palette a lot but damn is it messy. The shades are easy to apply wet or dry and I felt it was being under-utilized lately. So leaving it at work will hopefully mean more opportunity to use it.



18 Responses to “A Makeup Kit for Work”

  1. Mana says:

    Yessssssssssss on everything about make up in the work place. I started work out of college at a tech company so I’ve felt that I need to tone down anything too feminine. Since it’s my first “big girl job” I want to be taken seriously and I’m trying to find that balance between being comfortable but also presentable in a way that makes me pleasant looking but not too noticeable?? It’s a whole mess. Then I get angry at myself for caring so much!! Im glad you brought up those studies though because they’re mentioned so often and I kind of just internalized it as truth without looking too deeply into it. So to conclude, I feel you.

    • jenny says:

      “It’s a whole mess,” I couldn’t agree more and that’s exactly what led me to looking into exactly “which studies” these articles were referring to because I had internalized “women who wear makeup get paid higher salaries” as fact! When really the most common correlation I could find was that women of higher salaries just purchased more makeup. That couldn’t be linked to their careers at all. It was most likely just having disposable income led to purchasing more beauty items. And so I just sit there realizing, “Oh.. it’s all bs isn’t it? GAH!”

  2. Thao says:

    Ah I’m so glad you’re talking about this. “There’s no right answer because like many female conundrums it’s a trap.” Lol YES.

    I also work in the tech business with 70% of my coworkers being male and no other girls on my team. Since I don’t wear makeup normally, it wasn’t a concern of mine because I’m comfortable with only my SPF moisturizer.

    Instead, I ran into the problem of what to wear for work. It’s business casual but all of the guys are in slacks and button-up long sleeves, looking really crisp and sharp. But if I wear stuff that are more feminine/fashionable but more comfortable (softer fabrics, non-collar shirts, patterns other than stripe and solids) it felt too casual when I stand next to the guys, like I’m not serious/professional enough that people will overlook me. In the end, it was like whatever. Over 2.5 years, nobody said anything about how I should dress and people knew me for my work performance instead. Soo all that stress over nothing??

    • jenny says:

      I’ve had that exact same thought about slacks and button ups. I actually wear skirts to work (my office sounds similar to yours, business casual) because skirts are just more comfortable than pants to me and I can only code with my legs pulled up in my chair which is easier in skirts. So like you said comfort. But I’ve had some people tell me they think it’s because I like feeling “feminine” which isn’t true.

      I often wonder if the stress over work attire isn’t something linked to dress code fiascos that many girls experience during their school years? There was a lot of stress on girls dress codes in my school and who’s to say that doesn’t then bleed over into your adult life? Not to mention the countless articles about how to “properly” dress for work.

  3. Lolo says:

    Really awesome post.
    I work in a firm that deals with a lot of older male clients and I don’t always feel comfortable wearing colors that are too flashy because I don’t want to distract. I don’t have to dress up, which is nice, since it’s not that type of office (just a bunch of contractors come and go and nobody cares). If I do dress up or put on a bit more make up than usual, I sometimes get compliments from coworkers because it’s a change from my usual look. I do what makes me feel comfortable. On Tuesday I wore a bright lipstick which I don’t do very often – I felt it made me look a bit more awake which I appreciated…It all depends on what I feel like when I wake up~

    • jenny says:

      That’s awesome! And I think that’s the best way it can be. The distraction thing is definitely a balancing act especially for meetings. Most of the time I don’t put thought into mine unless it’s like an all day meeting and I know a full face of makeup will make me feel extra sweaty/tired during it.

  4. Sasha says:

    The blog Corporette has had a few interesting discussions on the makeup at work thing – looking polished is good, but also sometimes looking like you’re too busy to worry about makeup is also good or it can make you look older/more senior. Ultimately, I think no one really cares, and like you I wear it mostly for fun I’ve only every gotten the “you look tired” thing once and I was just like “I feel fine” and then when the person was really dense and kept saying it, I dicked it up and was like, “sorry you think I don’t look nice today.” Ultimately, I work with mostly men and after so long in the workforce, my conclusion is that most men are too dense to notice either way so what does it matter.

    • jenny says:

      Haha I don’t think you dicked it up. Sometimes it’s frustrating when people won’t just move on. I work with a lot of older men as well and they tend to be the ones to make the comments. I get the “tired comments” pretty much any day I don’t wear makeup. Sometimes I’ll agree b/c I am, other times I’ll say I’m fine. Sometimes I just say “I’m just not wearing makeup” and they’ll backtrack and say “oh, it’s not that, it’s just that you look a bit red.” And I laugh to myself b/c I’m always red without makeup!

      Thanks for the website suggestion. I wasn’t familiar with it!

  5. Kate says:

    It’s so funny to think about work makeup/attire to me… as an ICU nurse, I pretty much never wear makeup to work, and we all wear scrubs. I’ve often wondered if it might be nice to work in an office and wear ~work clothes~, but I’ll admit that wearing what’s basically… pajamas… to work is pretty great, haha (:

    • jenny says:

      Yeah I definitely know the type of work you do comes with its own set of situations. Some past jobs I’ve had in the food industry had strict clothing and no makeup rules.

      Wearing business attire is overrated (and expensive.) Plus you can enjoy dressing up when you go out more! I’m constantly enjoying dressing down b/c all I do is dress up.

  6. Kamille says:

    Omg! I also get the “you look unhappy” or “you look tired” when I don’t wear makeup to the office :/ For me, I like to wear makeup whenever I feel like it so kudos to you for pointing out the bogus studies :)

    • jenny says:

      I’ve come to just not want any comments on my appearance at the office. Even if it’s a nice one. I’m at work and I’m a short and to the point type person. But I also know that people are trying to be nice or maybe concerned or maybe they’re just really nosey :). But realizing that news sites and articles are just cherry picking the advice they want to give really made me sit back and think about how much of what we read is just smoke and mirrors.

  7. Eliza says:

    “Be the change you want to see.” Perfect. I’ll remember that quote for when I’m back working in a office environment, again :) Love the makeup featured in this post!!

  8. Rei says:

    Very interesting read. But isn’t it counter-productive to apply make-up at your desk (especially when you’re running late?) Surely this reinforces the negative connotations you discussed?

    At the workplace, make-up matters less than attractiveness, which matters less than a nice body, which are objective standards and, in my opinion, highlights sexism at the workplace. For example, bright lipstick is something you can remove to avoid the objectification you described, but an employee with big breasts can’t help but exude ‘femininity’; we’re conditioned to take responsibility for distracting our male colleagues (whether with make-up, our bodies, or whatever).

    I work at a bar so my experience of objectification and the contrast to how my male colleagues are treated is probably more stark than an office environment. Thanks for this thought-provoking post.

    • jenny says:

      For me it’s not counter-productive because I want to wear makeup on whichever days I choose. The two studies are conflicting. Where one states that makeup is negative the other states it’s positive. There’s truly no right answer because like I said the concept of it being good or bad is a trap created by society at large with even conflicting outcomes within psychological studies set out to prove one or the other. The only good answer is to follow what makes you feel your best (focused, comfortable, yourself.)

      And these 2 studies seemed to be the most linked in these “women who ____ makeup make higher salaries” click-bait articles. One study clearly states it’s only focusing on Caucasian women, so not only do studies not factor in job-type (such as bar tending or nursing) it also lacks intersectionality. However this doesn’t stop sites from writing up articles telling you should/shouldn’t wear makeup and basing it on a singular study despite similar studies finding opposing outcomes.

      I absolutely agree with you that we’re conditioned to take responsibility for distracting male coworkers (and female coworkers with internalized misogyny who feel the need to tell other women what they’re doing wrong) and quite honestly fuck that altogether and all the articles convincing people who want to or don’t want to wear makeup that their choices have an impact on their careers because it’s not truly a choice they have at all to begin with.

      • Rei says:

        Yes, I suppose make-up is irrelevant to sexism and transmisogyny except as a tool to oppress us based on our choices.

        Absolutely agree with your statements except I would argue the articles came to the same conclusion ie. if you’re a 20-year-old Caucasian woman don’t worry about make-up yet, but it will probably help your career if you’re older/of colour/trans/etc.

        As a non make-up wearer I’ve had my share of negative experiences and I’ve never understood the corresponding negativity that make-up wearers face. Good on you for embracing make-up at work and thanks for sharing your thoughts and research.

  9. Janet says:

    It’s interesting to hear about that makeup study. My mom once told me back when she was a waitress at a high-end deli in San Diego that she would make better tips when she wasn’t wearing makeup as opposed to when she was. Perhaps due to jealous women, or maybe she appeared as if she needed the money more by not being glammed up.. either way it’s food for thought ;)

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