do women have to wear makeup to look professional?

A reader writes:

I’ve never worn makeup in my life before, and I don’t know anything about putting it on or wearing it or buying it. I’ve also never had a job before (I’m in college). Is it unprofessional to continue to not wear makeup when I go for interviews, and what about when I’m actually working?

If I don’t actually have to wear makeup, would you, if you were my manager, expect it? I know there are studies out there showing that women who wear makeup “appear more competent” or whatever, but I think I look fine without it. Would others perceive this the same way?

What you want is to look professional and polished. Whether you get there with or without makeup isn’t really the point; it’s about the end result. If you look polished and well-groomed, you’re where you need to be.

That generally means: hair neatly styled or pulled back if it’s long, eyebrows groomed (sounds small, but bushy eyebrows can undo an otherwise polished look), a face that isn’t oily (whether you accomplish that with powder, skin care, or magic), clothes that fit well, shoes that aren’t scuffed, etc. (And if you do wear makeup, it’s important that it be relatively subtle; heavy makeup isn’t appropriate for most offices and will make you look the opposite of professional.)

Some people find that using makeup helps them look more polished, or they just feel more pulled together when wearing it. (Sort of like the advice to wear a suit during a phone interview, even though the interviewer can’t see you. Not that I’ve ever given that advice — because come on, why pass up the opportunity to wear head-to-toe fleece? — but some people do and the analogy works here.)

And if you want to, there’s no harm in throwing on some makeup — or, more practically, getting a friend who likes makeup to help you put some on — and seeing if you like it or not.

But is makeup necessary? No. But the bigger point about paying attention to your appearance when you’re interviewing and when you’re working? That one stands.

{ 406 comments… read them below }

  1. Tiff*

    I’m not a big fan of make-up myself, but I find that a little mascara on my top lashes and sheer tinted lip moisturizer is good for the office. I hate the idea of touching up make-up and the lip stuff is no more cumbersome than the chapstick I normally wear.

    As for shiny face, just put some blotting papers in your desk if you’re prone to oiliness.

  2. LT*

    I personally prefer to wear make up to work; I’m one of those people that feels more “put together” with make up. I’d feel like I’d gone to work in my pajamas without it ;)

    1. Rachel*

      I used to be one of those people who was too lazy for makeup, but I joined your side of things when I started my first job and realized that if I spent five minutes on my makeup in the morning, I looked more “grown up” than otherwise.

      My routine, by the way, is pretty simple. Tinted moisturizer instead of foundation, a little black pencil eyeliner, a little brown eyeshadow, and a tinted Burts Bees lip balm instead of lipstick. Truly takes less than five minutes, and isn’t so heavy that I notice I’m wearing something.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit*

        Agreed! I’m semi-opposed to makeup on principle (if men can have pimples and uneven skin without looking unprofessional, why can’t women?), but in terms of personal confidence I feel better with just a little bit on.

        And bit a “little bit” I really mean a little. I wear primer (which is really just fancy moisturizer), BB cream (which is really just fancy tinted moisturizer – that’s right, I double down on moisturizer), blush and a setting powder. It takes me less than two minutes.

        1. Anonymous*

          I unabashedly loooooove my BB cream. It’s the best! It makes your skin look like you aren’t wearing makeup, but covers up any redness and blemishes. And a lot of them actively improve your skin with each wear as well.

      2. Natalie*

        The tinted Burt’s Bees is my favorite. I actually wear a little more makeup than you do (my skin tone is uneven and I hate it) but I am a complete failure at lipstick. Tinted lip balm is my savior.

        1. Rachel*

          I love my tinted lip balm. I mean, I don’t even put it on in front of a mirror- it lives in my purse, so I’ll put on the rest of my “face” and then leave for the subway, and slap on my tinted lip balm while I’m on the train, maybe using a window as a sort-of mirror. Actual lipstick wears off too fast and dries out my lips- and I wear purple glasses every day, so I always feel like bright bright lipstick is too much.

        2. JamieG*

          Comments on this page led to me buy some Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm today! I never (almost literally) wear makeup of any kind, but this feels more like chapstick than lipstick. I love it!

    2. Kerry Junior*

      I feel the same way about feeling more put together with a little make-up on. Unfortunately I know next to nothing about it and I find that it rubs off/fades away early in the workday. I hate reapplying at work as we don’t have any private bathrooms and I hate hogging a sink to do make-up (plus it just feels weird.) Any tips on how to keep make-up on through a workday?

  3. Anne*

    Until verrrry recently (like within the past month), I never wore makeup to work or on interviews. I’ve been my industry (market research) for 10 years and I’ve never had a problem caused by not wearing makeup.

    Just as AAM said, you just have to look professional. Some people may judge you for not wearing makeup, but you probably wouldn’t like working there anyway.

    (Here’s hoping this doesn’t devolve in to another pantyhose vs. no-pantyhose thread….)

    1. Camellia*

      You never know what people will judge so you need to do what is right for you as long as you understand that you could be selecting yourself out of a job.

      On the pantyhose question, I worked for a large “traditional” business for many years and, after the company was purchased and in preparation for layoffs, they offered workshops to help us brush up our resumes and find out how to present ourselves for interviews. The HR person conducting the workshop told us flat out that she would NEVER hire a woman who was not wearing pantyhose with a dress or skirt.

      I personally handle this issue by always wearing slacks. :)

      1. Rob Aught*

        The hell? I don’t think I ever bothered to look and see if a candidate was wearing pantyhose or not. As long as they dressed interview appropriate in general I don’t think I really care.

        Then again, I’m usually hiring technologists so a minor faux pas like that is not going to be a deal breaker anyway. It might be more important for a customer service job. Maybe. I guess.

      2. Windchime*

        Hah, me too! I don’t have the kind of legs that look good with a skirt (for the office), and Hell will freeze over before I will wrestle myself into another pair of pantyhose. I wear slacks to work, and that’s what I would wear to an interview.

        I do wear makeup to work just because I like to and I think I personally look better with it, but the majority of women I work with don’t appear to be wearing makeup. Some of them look very professional and others don’t, but it doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not they wear makeup. Just my opinion. (Not sure if it matters, but I work in IT and my group doesn’t interact with the public at all).

      3. TheSnarkyB*

        Camellia, I agree – I think the “it’s never caused a problem for me” logic doesn’t exactly work that way. Sure, maybe you’re incredibly perceptive and 100% right, but more likely than that – you just never picked up on it. People’s judgments are often subtle and sometimes they don’t even know they’re judging you for something like that.
        Similarly, I think that judging people on their appearance is so common that “You wouldn’t want to work there anyway” is just untenable (am I using that right?)/impractical/unfeasible for this type of issue. (Race or gender issues – totally stand your ground! But people make judgments about competency/appearance on a subconscious level for the most part whereas larger appearance/discrimination issues skew a little more conscious.)

        1. fposte*

          I think this is a great point. One thing that I think can make it hard for novice young job applicants is most of the people they know are like them, and they don’t realize that a norm they think of as passé and untenable is actually important to some people who might hire them.

    2. LPBB*

      I’m always astonished by the vehemence of the pantyhose debate. Personally, I think pantyhose are appropriate sometimes and inappropriate at other times, I don’t think there can really be a blanket rule.

      1. the gold digger*

        It’s easy to be against pantyhose if you live someplace where it never gets below 40 degrees.

        That said, I would be in favor of being able to wear sweatpants to work because I am so darn tired of being cold.

      2. Coco*

        I recently had an interview where the hiring manager walked out to greet me wearing a mid-thigh length skirt with jiggly, cellulite thighs showing. My immediate thought was “she needs to wear pantyhose.”

        I think most women’s legs look better in pantyhose.

        I’m also a bit turned off by all the bare feet (from slipping off shoes) and bare toes I see in offices. I find it a little gross to put bare feet in all of the fancy, expensive high heeled shoes women are wearing these days.

        Ladies, if you’re upset about the pantyhose issue, imagine how men feel about wearing ties. If you were a hiring manager (in certain industries) and a man showed up without wearing a tie, what would you think?

        1. Liz T*

          Let’s take this comment as our cue to NOT rehash the Hose Or No Hose debate. That was covered at leeeeeeength on an infamous post long ago.

    3. RLS*

      This! I work in aquatics and recreation…makeup is not practical in most cases, even for management. In aquatics, there’s always a chance you’ll either end up in the water for a rescue or getting splashed in the face, or you’re working outside and sweating or exposed to other elements. I like to wear it on my days off, sometimes just to experiment with new products or looks or whatever. Waterproof makeup doesn’t really work in most waterparks because of the various chemical contents, so some of it stays on and the rest runs…it’s just not practical, and it’s very uncomfortable when it goes wrong!

      However, I do wear a little bit of makeup to interviews. I have problems with my lymphatic system sometimes, that results in horrible blemishes on my face and neck…so if that’s happening I’ll cover them up, but I usually just stick to gloss, mascara, and either primer or light foundation (and blush if so).

    4. Anne*

      Man, it is kind of bugging me that there seem to be two of us using the name Anne here now.

  4. kristinyc*

    I very rarely wear makeup (at least, noticeable makeup).

    A good eyebrow wax and some tinted lip gloss go a long way! Burt’s Bees has some really good tinted products, and I use those instead of lipstick. I get my eyebrows professionally done every 6 weeks (and use a clear mascara as a gel to tame them in between). That and making sure your hair is neatly styled does a lot. I hate wearing foundation/blush/most other makeup.

    1. Jessa*

      I never wear make up any more mostly because my fine motor skills aren’t really up to it. But I totally second the Burt’s Bees kind of tinted stuff because it keeps your lips from looking dry and cracked and THAT will ruin a look faster than anything.

      1. Jamie*

        I third the Burt’s Bees – also Nivea has a nice tinted balm. It’s just a little hint of color that can brighten your whole face.

        I don’t wear heavy make-up, but I do wear it because on the occasions I have come into the office with none I do get asked if I’m okay a lot.

        For me a little foundation or powder, mascara, eyeshadow, and lipstick/gloss is the difference between looking normal and people asking me if I need to lie down – I am super, super pale and office lighting and my skin unadorned skin will never be friends.

        I am of the camp that many women look more polished with properly applied makeup – but I certainly wouldn’t judge anyone for making different choices.

        1. Risa*

          Same here – I’m pale with naturally dark circles that get exacerbated if I’m stressed or tired. If I don’t wear some makeup I get all kinds of questions. I even once had someone asked if I had been punched because they thought I had two black eyes. Nope, just tired.

          I wear primer, concealer, (sometimes) foundation, powder, blush, bronzer, eyeliner, shadow and mascara. I actually leave my lips nude, because the emphasis is on covering up my dark eye circles. Even with all of that, I can get my makeup done in about 5 minutes.

          I would love to have even less of a routine, because I’m always running out the door… But I would rather not have all the questions about why I look so tired, sick, etc.

          1. Nancypie*

            Do you have a product you recommend for undereye circles? Mine are pronounced these days…

            1. Sarah*

              My personal fav is cliniques under eye concealer illuminator (or something) they’ll know what you’re talking about. I strictly use it under my eyes and there’s a noticeable effect, but doesn’t look like I’m wearing any makeup. It may be like $17 or something, but basically lasts forever.

            2. ali*

              Origins Ginzing cream! Use it every day, regardless of dark circles, and you’ll notice they are just magically gone. No need for concealer on top or anything.

              (at least my experience. everyone is different, of course.)

            3. LMW*

              For concealer, I love, love love MAC’s concealer in the little round tub. I don’t know what the name is. I have pronounced circles too, and this totally covers them.

            4. Jamie*

              Just discovered it and I LOVE it – Maybelline’s Age Rewind Erasure Dark Circles.

              And I don’t know how old you are, but my skin is okay for my mid-40s but I do have some fine lines and they are GONE with this stuff. Between this and L’Oreal revitalift double eye lift moisturizer it makes you look bright, alert, and can even mask a migraine and lack of sleep. (Only the double eye lift works for me – the regular revitalift doesn’t work at all – YMMV)

            5. Risa*

              I personally use the Covergirl/Olay combo concealer. It’s got a yellow tint to it that counteracts the blue of the circles.

        2. Windchime*

          I love tinted lip balm, too. I have tried traditional lipstick and it just feels too bright and thick and tacky to me. I use a tinted CC cream, blush, a pink-ish eyeshadow, and mascara. If I’m feeling frisky, I’ll also do a bronze eyeliner. But like Jamie, people ask me if I’m OK if I show up with no makeup because I’m very fair.

          1. Jamie*

            Absolutely not saying this in response to Windchime directly – just seemed like a good place for my PSA.

            Some of us are pale because we forgot to stand in line to get our share of melanin and if you’re in my family have all your genetics come from the pale pool of northern Europe.

            But excessively pale skin is also a sign on anemia – so if you’re suddenly pale, or if the insides of your eyelids and lips are also more pale than most – and you have other symptoms you might want to get a CDC and check out your levels.

            My new hematologist is also an oncologist and was able to pick me out of the everyone in the waiting room because I was even more pale than his patients there for chemo.

            So being pale can be totally healthy and just what your skin is meant to be, but if it’s accompanied by extreme fatigue, pale mucus membranes, being freezing all the time, and an addiction to ice chewing to rival a heroin craving you might want to check it out.


            1. Chinook*

              And as an added note – if you are one of us who’s melanin shows up only in the odd freckle, your version of pale could actually be to go darker. I was diagnosed with anemia when the doctor originally thought I was having liver issues because I was starting to turn yellow but my eyes were still white. so, if you are usually pale but find the soles of your feet turning yellow (along with feeling tired, etc.), go see a doctor.

            2. fposte*

              Holy cow, *that’s* what the ice chewing was about? I’d heard about that connection but didn’t think of it with you since it’s so common. Wow, I’m glad you’re getting that seen to.

              1. Jamie*

                Yep – actually it’s such a common thing the hematologist said 100% of his IDA (Iron Deficiency Anemia) patients experience pica – the compulsion to eat non-nutritive substances. Most of us are lucky in that it’s ice – for some it’s dirt or laundry detergent or chalk.

                Interestingly enough, with iron infusions the ice craving is the first to go – even after the first one and nothing else starts feeling better until 3-4 weeks in. I start soon and I’m SO excited for the craving to go away since I’ve tried to stop since I cracked tooth #2 (it’s an expensive habit – my dentist is shopping for a new car) and it’s been way harder to quit than smoking. I can’t stop even though I risk cracking the temp crown. Crazy!

                A lot of people who chew it once in a while just like it, but doctor said if you know someone who compulsively chews ice and needs it daily and knows the fast food restaurants by how good their ice is they are almost certainly iron deficient and should run, not walk, to get a CBC.

                1. Chinook*

                  Ugh – iron infusions. I had one 15 years ago and I can still taste the coppery after taste (even though I got through a drip).

                2. Jamie*

                  I have a series of one per week for 8 weeks coming up…I’ve already bought the hard candy to counter the metallic taste.

                  I think I’m the only person under 80 who bought butterscotch hard candy on purpose!

                3. Laufey*

                  False. Butterscotch (worther’s) is fantastic. Such wonderful childhood memories.

                4. Elizabeth*

                  About 10 years ago, I managed to get close to the point you’re at. I was told that I was looking at infusions if I didn’t get my iron levels up and keep them up. I was given 30 days to get them up to something close to normal, and I was handed a prescription for newborn/pediatric iron drops, with instructions to take 3 of them in 4 ounces of non-citrus juice, twice a day.

                  The reason for avoiding citrus juices (and milk) is that most of them are enriched with calcium, and calcium can inhibit iron absorption. I faithfully drank my cranberry, mango & peach juices, and shuddered over the taste of the iron. They re-checked at 30 days, and I was at the very bottom of normal. At 60 days, I was close to the mid-range. At 90 days, I was dead center of normal, and they backed me down to once a day, 3 days a week.

                  One of the things they warned us about was that I wasn’t able to carry as much oxygen in my blood as I should have. I was having many of the same symptoms you have been, with the dizziness & lightheadedness. My body was starving for oxygen, and it was telling me so.

                5. ali*

                  I did the 8 weeks of infusions last year and it was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I felt drastically better after the second one or so. I hadn’t realized how bad it had gotten!

                6. Jamie*

                  Thanks, Ali – I really hope for the same result. I’m actually for the first time thinking of starting a limited time blog just because I’ve found the blogs of other women going through these so helpful…and because I’ll need something to do while I’m in there.

            3. Mimi*

              Very interesting that you said that – I’ve been very pale my entire life (I, too, am asked if I’m ok if I don’t wear makeup), and it wasn’t until recently that I was diagnosed as anemic. I had all of those symptoms you described: cold all the time, extremely tired, ice chewing. I’m still pale, but at least now I feel better!

              1. Jamie*

                That’s so good to hear that you’re feeling better.

                I was first diagnosed at 14 and never took it seriously…it wasn’t until people here started talking about the symptoms of low thyroid just at the time I was seriously considering having to quit a job that I love because I am so exhausted and just not up to the stress anymore (among other symptoms) that I went in to get checked for thyroid.

                Turns out that’s fine, but my blood count is very low and my iron stores literally non-existent. I was like yeah, I’m always anemic but this time I didn’t blow it off. Doctor was surprised that I don’t already have damage to my heart and kidney due to the advanced stage and so I did some research (as in read everything I could find online) and it turns out untreated anemia can kill you. And an otherwise healthy woman in her mid 40s should be able to take clothes from the washer to the dryer without heart palpitations and needing to lie down.

                But because of you guys I went to the doctor for the first time in 9 years (I KNOW) and didn’t find what I thought was the problem but at least now I can fix this and not have to leave a job I love.

                My doctor said after my iron infusions I’ll feel like a teenager again. Hope my husband will be able to keep up – ha!

                Anyway didn’t mean to ramble about me, but it’s common enough that the pale ice chewers amongst us should know the signs.

                1. Windchime*

                  I’m glad you found out in time! I was severly anemic as a teenager and was on iron supplements for years. I started fainting and had to have blood transfusions (this was back in the dark ages). I don’t think I’m anemic now, but it’s always good to keep in mind. I *have* been feeling very tired lately, now that you mention it….might be time for a blood test!

              2. Jenna*

                I was anemic as well, though I didn’t get to the point of iron infusions.
                I had two causes for the anemia. I had fibroids(losing my iron in a monthly cycle) and I was also Celiac(gluten intolerant). Cutting all the wheat and wheat products out of my diet solved a lot of things, since the Celiac was interfering with my absorption of minerals. I didn’t self diagnose my Celiac. My doctor ordered up a colonoscopy to diagnose other things that were also going on, and saw the damage in my guts from the gluten.
                I have always interviewed wearing at least a little make up. Mascara and I are not friends, so I usually used a little bit of a pencil eyeliner, a tinted lip gloss or lip color close to my own, and a tinted moisturizer or sunscreen.

                1. BeenThere*

                  I’m pale with Red hair everyone asks me if I’ll feeling ok if I don’t have some sort of tint over my skin. I’m terrible at mascara, I always rub my eyes, and have blond eyelashes and eyebrows so I get both tinted once a month. I can get away with that and a decent tinted moisturiser.

                2. LoriQ*

                  Why are you and mascara not friends? Why are there so many people on here that don’t like to wear makeup? The few that do why do you not like to wear at least a moderate amount? I think makeup is fun, creative, it makes me feel better about myself so I feel more confident, etc. What’s so wrong about makeup?

  5. Ct*

    I agree that eyebrows can make a world of difference. If you were going to do just two small things other than that I’d suggest some lip balm/gloss and a quick swipe of mascara. Those two things can really pop and make you look much more polished.

    1. Jamie*

      Yes. And when you find a place that waxes your brows properly and respects your arch over-tip and be effusive in your thanks and never, ever let them go.

      1. Kelly O*

        You are making me miss my last awesome brow person.

        My husband joked half my trust issues came when she stopped doing hair and I had to find someone else to do my eyebrows. Mine are a very light blonde and plentiful, and I swear I got traumatized a few years back when someone got overzealous. Plus, I had to walk around for six months looking perpetually surprised.

        1. jesicka309*

          I was going on holiday, and my regular brow person was busy, so I got them done in between flights at the airport.

          Let’s just say she took a little bit too much off one eyebrow…which started thinning…and now I have a two inch gap in the middle of my eye brow. This was six months ago, and only tiny, fine, blonde baby hair grows in the gap. I have to draw my eyebrow in like I’m 80, not 23! My dermatogoloist believes I have a form of alopecia brought on by stress, but was triggered by too hot wax used by the airport brow lady!
          :( Never change your stylist. You could lose your eyebrow. I’m still hoping mine grows back but am resigned to the fact I might have to draw it on for the next 70 years of my life. I’ve been too scared to get the other tidied either, so my face is just a mess!

          1. UK HR Bod*

            Try Urban Decay brow boxes. Powder & wax, personally I just use the powder, and found out my beautician friend thought they were real! I use it because I’m a pale, freckly ginger with pale blonde / light brown eyebrows – you can’t see them from a distance and faces look wrong without eyebrows!

            1. Julie K*

              Thanks for this! I have discovered (after 30+ years of doing nothing to my eyebrows) that when you pull them out, sometimes the eyebrow hairs do not grow back. I have small “bald spots” in my eyebrows, and I wasn’t sure how to fix that. I’ll try the powder you recommended.

            2. Kelly O*

              I adore the brow powder/ wax combos. When I use a regular pencil, I prefer using something like the Revlon one with the brow gel on the other end. I trim them myself fairly regularly, but the gel really does help keep me from looking like Eugene Levy. (Or rather, his albino daughter.)

      2. tcookson*

        This. A good brow waxing (or threading in my case), and that sets the stage for just a swipe of BB cream and some Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm.

        Sometimes I’ll wear some brown eyeliner along the upper lashes and a coat of mascara, but usually it’s just BB cream, powder on the nose and eyelids, and tinted lip balm.

  6. Katie the Fed*

    I just tackle my under-eye circles, because I look sickly and tired otherwise. Sometimes I add a little light eyeliner and colored gloss, but that’s it.

    I have the same question about pantyhose though. AAM – will you address that one sometime?

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I don’t wear them because 1) I think they’re pointless and 2) I shred them so badly you’d think I had cat claws.

        I had one older woman cluck at me once with the comment “I don’t understand why you young girls don’t wear stockings!” but I just ignored it.

          1. Anonymous*

            I agree. What is wrong with someone wanting to look their best. I am middle-age and still put forth effort everyday. I always have. First impressions do count. I still cannot go without stockings with heels or if I am dressed up. I even still frequent Victoria Secrets for stuff. You can be professional and still look pretty and put together.

            1. LoriQ*

              Exactly! I am 51 and no one believes me. I have worn makeup most of my life and it’s never hurt my skin in the least. I have very clear skin and I wear drug store products. I also think makeup is fun and creative. I don’t approach makeup as if it’s a chore. I don’t understand why so many here don’t like wearing full makeup

      2. The Other Dawn*

        Just curious, was the comment section edited down on the Great Pantyhose Debate? I seem to remember there being hundreds of comments.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Nope! I remembered it that way too and was surprised when I went back today to check — I think it’s just that at the time, 57 was a really high number of comments (whereas now, that’s nothing).

      3. Anon Fed*

        I wear hose because I like the way they look, but I don’t think other women should wear them if they don’t like hose. Same with heels vs. flats, or shells under suits vs. buttonfronts. I honestly don’t get why people would ge so bent out of shape over this on either side of the Great Hose Divide.

      4. Anonymous*

        Pantyhose fetishists? I don’t recall you mentioning that. We’re going to need details.

    1. CoffeeLover*

      I wear pantyhose because of practicality. They keep your shirt tucked in and from bunching under your skirt, and they keep your skirt from rising. I honestly feel more put together with them… and I think my legs look better ;). I don’t think it’s necessary to wear them to look professional, but I do think you get a little more leeway with the rest of your wardrobe when you’re wearing them.

      I’m in my early 20s by the way so it’s not an age thing. Katie the Fed, that was a really rude thing for that lady to say to you.

      1. CoffeeLover*

        Oh and in my office I would say more women DON’T wear pantyhose than DO. Most of these ladies are twice my age btw.

      2. Liz*

        Except I find that some of my skirts actually cling more when I wear pantyhose. (So I don’t, except for interviews.)

        1. fposte*

          I think they’re why slips were so requisite in the same era and have similarly declined.

        2. CoffeeLover*

          Flowy skirts = yes. I keep static spray in my office. Static spray does wonders…

      3. tcookson*

        Gah . . . when I was a little girl in the 70s (in the south), women simply could not wear a dress without pantyhose, and even us little girls had to wear the white (or black, navy, or red in winter) tights to church, even in the summertime. So I had to wear some form of pantyhose from the time I was 3 years old . . . I’m so glad the styles now let us get away without them if we so choose.

        1. Job seeker*

          This is so interesting because I too grew up in the South. Yes, you did dress up a lot more and most Southern women wear makeup. I still do not like to wear a dress without stockings. The churches in the South usually are more traditional and we dressed up (children and all). I think that is why I cannot go casual to church even though I no longer live in the South.

          1. LoriQ*

            I was taught that you should wear your best clothes to church and if your best clothes is a pair of jeans with holes in them than that’s what you wear. Church shouldn’t be a fashion show.

  7. Jane*

    I do the full make up for interviews and first few weeks. But once I get to the point where I no longer feel like a newbie, I just go with concealer, eye liner, and moisturizer with sunscreen.

    1. Chenoa*

      I feel that if you go to an interview all gussied up and show up to work after hired not gussied up that is bad. My last person I interviewed and hired for a receptionist job was all done up super cute, full make up blonde hair. I hired her because she had the full package. Experience and looks for our buisness. On the first day I was late due to an offsite meeting so another employee was working with her. I walked in and didn’t see the new girl. Then another email pointed out the new girl at the end of the hall with her back to me. She had changed her hair to black chopped it short and not a stitch of make up on. To say the least I was shocked. Of course she is the same person with the same great experience but completely different looking.

      So I believe that you should interview the way you are going to come to work looking like. So if you always wear makeup, panty hose, hair up/down, etc. come to the interview that way.

      1. KellyK*

        If “looks” are a qualification, you need to state explicitly when you interview people that you expect your receptionists to be dressed up at all times and, if female, fully made up. It’s not fair to expect a candidate to read your mind.

        Besides, “dress up a step or two higher than you expect to for the job you’re applying for” is a very normal job interview convention.

      2. The IT Manager*

        So I believe that you should interview the way you are going to come to work looking like. So if you always wear makeup, panty hose, hair up/down, etc. come to the interview that way.

        Oh, hell no. Convention is one dresses up in an interview suit for interviews. And I do, but I am very, very unlikley to interview for a job that expects that on a day to day basis.

        1. Jamie*

          Agreed. And if I came to work in interview clothes everyone would assume I had more interviews lined up.

          At least in my industry it would be highly unusual to see people working in suits and ties – heck I’m in an industry where we tell people no dresses, heels, or open toed shoes to the interview because of plant safety – so that as a regular uniform would be so weird for us.

      1. Jenavive*

        Why wouldn’t you do that? Why would you wear make-up ._.?

        I’ve never enjoyed the feeling of covering myself up, as I have plenty confidence in my appearance :X

  8. Marnie*

    If you decide to try makeup, it’s a good idea to make sure it’s hypoallergenic. I found out the hard way that my skin doesn’t appreciate a lot of brands. I’d go to the Clinique counter at a department store and ask their advice.

    1. Kim*

      I was going to throw in a plug for Clinique. They will do your makeup for free and teach you how to apply. I think they do a nice job making a face look fresh and natural. I think the ultimate makeup goal is to look like you aren’t wearing any, just to look like the best version of you.

      1. Julie K*

        This is good to know. I like Clinique products, but I didn’t know they would teach you how to use them.

        1. RG*

          Most make up counters in a department store will give you lessons/tips. Bobbi Brown is another brand that has a reputation for a clean, natural look.

          1. Anonymous*

            I was about to plug Bobbi Brown as well. I love their products because I like a natural look, but they are spendy when compared to Clinique. I also think a Sephora store will help you with any brand they carry.

    2. LMW*

      Yes. I once bought a cheapo drug store eyeshadow to do dramatic eyes for a dance (in college) — not my normal look at all. I was so allergic to the eye shadow I had swollen eyelids for a week. It was terrible.

      1. Mimi*

        Sometimes it’s an expensive brand, too – I remember years ago, trying Chanel’s cream-to-powder eyeshadow. Those shadows made my eyelids blow up to three times their size!

    3. fposte*

      Though there’s no actual standard or legal meaning to “hypoallergenic”–a manufacturer could slap it on everything–so go by experience and research on that one, not labeling.

      1. Zxyn*

        This. Everyone’s skin is different. You can’t actually prove that a product isn’t going to break anyone out. However, there are companies that avoid ingredients (like fragrance) that have become known in the skin care/cosmetic industry to often be irritable to skin.

      2. Sascha*

        Exactly, get to know ingredients and how to read labels. Even just reading about ingredients on wikipedia helped me a lot. I have to avoid a lot of things because of my sensitivities (like “fragrance”).

  9. The IT Manager*

    If you do want to learn how to obviously you can go to friends or family of any of them have a proffessional makeup style or you can go to one of those specialty stores that sell makeup and be very clear that you’re going for a polished, professional, barely there look. Now, even department store makeup is already shockingly expensive and this stuff will be even more so, but you’re paying for the lesson on what works for you and how to put it on properly. (And if it’s in the summer somewhere hot definately go for makeup that feels light on your skin and doesn’t melt in the heat.)

    By the way, no offense to you, but unless you have some magically clear, smooth, dry skin you probably don’t look as polished as you could with makeup. I don’t care for wearing makeup. I pretty much only wear foundation and a powder and I never reapply throughout the day, but I acknowledge that I don’t look as “professional” as I could if I made more of an effort with the makeup.

    I’d totally recommend trying to figure out a professional makeup look for your interviews even if you don’t bother with it for daily work. I’d treat it like an suit – for the interview only and I never plan to wear (the full ensemble) to work ever.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For anyone who wants to go this route, most department store makeup counters will show you how to put it on for free (although if they do a full makeover, they expect you to buy something), and Sephora will do a 45-minute makeup lesson if you buy a $50 gift card to spend there.

      1. junipergreen*

        Great tip about Sephora’s free makeup lesson – if you decide you don’t want to purchase any makeup with that $50, you could go for hair accessories or skincare products.

        1. Jamie*

          Sephora has the cutest Hello Kitty manicure kit with make up bag. Not that my kids got me one for my birthday or anything – except they did and I use it every day and it’s one of my favorite things ever.

          I need to get to the mall more.

    2. TL*

      Not to start a debate here but if men manage to look professional without “fixing” their skin with makeup, than women are fine without it as well.

      Also, not wearing makeup (foundation, cover up, power) is a lot easier on your skin and may make it much nicer.

      1. TL*

        Sorry – I didn’t mean your skin specifically, The IT manager . I just meant skin in general!
        (rereading, that looked like a pointed remark. It wasn’t meant to be!)

      2. Anonymous*

        Seriously, do all men have “magically clear, smooth skin”? I think not. And yet somehow, they get taken seriously without a perfect face.

      3. Camellia*

        Actually I disagree. I see many men with unruly eye brows, nasty dry flaky skin, dark undereye circles, blotches, splotches, etc. – but rarely are those men in upper levels of management. They are usually very well groomed, however they do it, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there wasn’t some tinted moisturizer or powder of some kind going on there, along with well groomed nails and hair.

        1. Cat*

          I think some of this is an industry-by-industry thing. All of those things are highly common on successful men I work with (and women, to be honest; some successful women I work with do regularly wear makeup, but plenty don’t).

      4. Sourire*

        On the other hand, it’s nice that women can wear makeup to cover a blemish, hide dark circles when we had a rough night, and generally do things to enhance our appearance that men could not do without a certain stigma. Should women *have* to wear makeup, of course not, but I personally enjoy and am glad to have the option

        1. Liz T*

          Agreed! I feel about make-up the way I do about driving: I enjoy driving, and I hate HAVING to drive.

      5. LoriQ*

        You know I hear some women say that. That not wearing makeup is easier on your skin but I have experienced the opposite. Foundation has always been good to my skin. I have never had any blemishes or anything from it. It makes my skin look and feel soft even after I remove it. I have very clear skin and it’s very young looking. People never believe me when I tell them I am 51. They actually think I am lying.

    3. fposte*

      And don’t get suckered into “you get what you pay for.” With makeup that’s often not true, and there are lower-end products that are superior to many high-priced ones. Paula Begoun’s books are a little out of date, but they’re good on Consumer Reports–style cutting through the label crap, and she’s got a lot of information on her website too.

      1. LPBB*

        I second the Paula Begoun recommendation, although I take her with a grain of salt because she does pimp her own products at every possibility. But she is good about recommending low-cost alternatives.

        Also, most drug store brands are owned by the same companies that own high-end dept store brands. Often you can find a lower cost alternatives within the larger family. For instance, L’Oreal owns Maybelline and L’Oreal cosmetics and they also own Lancome, Yves Saint Laurent, and Urban Decay cosmetics.

        1. JuliB*

          But before she created her own line, she had all the same reviews. I think so many people asked for her to create products that she did. I’ve read her from way back and do use one or two of her products.

          FWIW, I am a Cetaphil fan because of her.

      2. Kelly O*

        I use a lot of “drugstore” makeup and even on my super-sensitive skin it’s just fine. I’ve spent three or four times as much on foundation alone, and had the same number of breakouts as I do with less expensive brands.

        I’ve worked at a cosmetics counter before, so I get how the back end and commission side of things work. Sometimes you’ll see a trend at the counter before it trickles down to Target or Ulta, but the less expensive brands are savvy to that, and are keeping up nicely with how things evolve.

        Right now, I’m wearing the L’Oreal BB Cream, e.l.f. eyeshadows (which are awesome and VERY inexpensive), Sonia Kashuk lipliner, and a longwear lip gloss from NYX. Everything total on my face was probably less than $30. At some counters, you can’t get a foundation for that price.

        There are a couple of “brands” that I adore, and that I will buy if I have the extra cash to spend – Smashbox and Urban Decay. If you can swing it, Urban Decay makes a palette called Naked (and Naked 2) that have great neutral eyeshadows that work on pretty much anyone. They’re more expensive, but the pigment is amazing and it really does not take much to get good everyday coverage.

        Personally, I wear what most people would consider a “full” face every day – foundation of some sort (although I am loving the BB cream for summer), eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, eyebrows, and lips. I am also very, very pale and have found that if I don’t put color on my face, my features disappear and I get all sorts of questions about whether or not I’m sick. And, truthfully, I love playing with makeup. It’s just fun to me.

        1. Jamie*

          My daughter just bought the Naked pallet and after I lectured her for a while on spending so much money I tried it and fell in love…so I paid for half so we can share. It was $50 but it really is amazing.

          1. Kelly O*

            If I had unlimited funds, I would totally be an Urban Decay only sort of person.

            If nothing else, I love the names of their things. It’s kind of rebellious-feeling to wear “half-baked” and “smog” eyeshadows with your suit.

            Yes, that’s as rebellious as I get. Rule-follower.

          2. Kelsey*

            I think of Urban’s Naked pallet as an investment. It’s good for that professional look (with minimal effort) and easily can be built up for a night out. It also lasts for a very long time!
            If you’re looking to get more instruction without leaving the house, I highly recommend Tanya Burr: Most of her tutorials are a bit heavier on foundation than I like, but she gives great tips for people like me who are incompetent at makeup!
            I don’t wear a ton of foundation/powder myself, but I am obsessive about my skincare routine. I think healthy-looking skin is more professional and less distracting than the piled-on foundation look.

            1. Anonymous*

              Also, check out Wet n’ Wild’s eyeshadows (stay with me here. . . ). . . turns out they are very highly pigmented shadows a la Urban Decay, for a single-digit percent of the price. I’m in love with them.

              Will also plug Maskcara. . . she has a few super quick makeup routines. I don’t go for all the contouring, but I have used her other tips and keep getting compliments on how I look, about a month in.

      3. LoriQ*

        Well, a lot of high end products also have drug store products under a different name. Like L’Oreal is made by Lancome.

    4. Jen in RO*

      I also admit that I would look more polished with more makeup on, but I hate the feeling of foundation and I’d rather have my comfort than the look. I wear a bit of mascara and eyeliner to work/interviews and that’s it. I do recommend BB cream to others that hate foundation; it still doesn’t feel ‘right’, but it’s much better.

      And really, make sure your eyebrows are groomed. They make a huge difference! (I’m a brunette and you can really tell when I haven’t had my eyebrows plucked…)

      1. Jamie*

        Have you tried mineral powder foundation? I love L’Oreal’s True Match Naturelle. I was skeptical about powdered foundation but this stuff just magically gives you a smooth complexion and you don’t even feel it. Last’s all day, too.

        1. Jen in RO*

          This is the first time I’ve heard about it, but I’ll have a look (I didn’t know BB cream existed until a few months ago and I feel so intimidated in Sephora!). I use Garnier BB cream if it matters, but I don’t know if that can be bought in the States.

            1. dangitmegan*

              I just bought some of the Garnier BB cream and had to give it away after one use because the smell was SO STRONG all day. I loved the look of it, but it gave me a headache. So if you are smell sensitive it’s probably not good for you. I might try another brand but I’ve been swearing by the L’Oreal mineral powder for years.

          1. TheSnarkyB*

            Actually, I think BB creams didn’t exist until a couple months ago. (I exaggerate, but I really think they’ve only been around for a year or so/less)
            Does anyone with dark skin have recommendations for BB cream? (Or oil free moisturizers with SPF?) Some of the ingredients that make them so effective are actually suspensions of white/grey powdery substances, so it’s really hard to find one that doesn’t ash out on me

          2. Neeta*

            Sephora employees are scary!
            I’m one of those people who doesn’t wear makeup at all. But I like going for cosmetic treatments (when time allows). It’s just the way I was used to since childhood, where my mom would look at me suspiciously if I wore lip gloss.

            Yeah, lame excuse. I always feel overdressed when wearing makeup for work.

      2. Kelly O*

        Jen, have you tried the L’Oreal BB cream? I tend to be oily, but this cream works really well with my skin.

        1. Jen in RO*

          I’m lucky to have pretty good skin, which is why I can ‘afford’ to avoid foundation, but I’ll keep this in mind (since I can actually *get* L’Oreal stuff – some of the American brands haven’t made it to this side of Europe yet).

      3. Windchime*

        I’ve just recently changed from mineral foundation to a CC cream (similar to BB) and I LOVE it. It has the additional benefit of helping to fade some dark spots I have on my face and my skin looks better than ever. Since I started using it, I’ve made a commitment to washing my face when I get home from work, and that has helped with the breakout problem. Seriously, I am well into middle age–zits? Really? Oh, yeah. Grrrrr.

        1. Windchime*

          I forgot to mention that my CC cream is Smashbox. Spendy, but I consider it a great purchase.

        2. urban adventurer*

          CC cream? BB cream?

          I’ve never heard of this stuff. Someone please enlighten me!

          1. Kathryn T.*

            light-coverage and full-coverage tinted moisturizer. BB stands for “beauty balm,” CC for “complete coverage.” For more info, check out The Brightest Bulb in the Box (not linking to avoid spam traps, but it’s an amazing empirically-based makeup blog).

      4. Chinook*

        I also want to recommend mineral powder as foundation (but don’t use it if you are having your picture taken as light bounces off the minerals and can make you look really weird). I ran out of my mineral poweder and went back to liquid I had for special occasions and found it heavy. The mineral powder is just enough to blend out my “peaches and cream” complexion (which was once diagnosed as a butterfly rash by a doctor who had no clue about Irish complexions) and still feels like I am wearing nothing.

        I have also discovered a face spray that works like hair spray to keep your makeup in place which means no touch ups during the day! Mary Kay makes it but there have got be other places that sell it too.

        1. Kara*

          Skindinavia is what you’re thinking of. There’s several places that sell it, Mary Kay is one of them. I use it too – love love love it. I like to wear mineral powder, just to even out my skin tone, and the spray really helps it set all day so I don’t have to touch up at lunch. I just use a blotter tissue and reapply my lipstick – all done. Mary Kay’s eyeshadows are really great too. I like that I can pick a custom pallet, so I know I’ll use what I buy since they are a bit pricier than drugstore makeup.

    5. Job seeker*

      I love makeup. I do not want to look like I am wearing a lot of makeup and I don’t. I can do skincare and makeup in under 10 minutes. Just take some time to experiment and buy good products. Go lightly never heavy. Good skincare products (eye creams, moisturizers, BB creams, etc) are important. You have to have good skin for any makeup to look good.

      I don’t think I would even go to the store without a little makeup on. I really do put forth a lot of effort on my appearance and always have. I guess it just goes back to first impressions, just like you want your home to look nice. You want it to be clean and inviting. You want your front entrance to be uncluttered, clean and with doormat, wreath, potted plants and swept. All of this is just first impressions but it does give you self-confidence.

      1. Jamie*

        Your posts always make me want to be a better person.

        ITA – when I do this I feel so much better. When I run around feeling half done and my house not welcoming and as clean as I like (I don’t like guests – I do need my house to welcome me when I get home) I just feel so hectic and not as at peace as when things are put together.

        There is a peace and happiness to be found when things (meaning myself and the house) are in order that I just will never feel when they are not.

        1. VintageLydia*

          You just described me. I’m almost neurotic about my house and it being neat and uncluttered even though I almost never host guests. If I’m in a bad mood and I can’t initially pin point why, it always ends up being because my house is a “mess'” (my mess and a lot of other people’s mess are apparently vastly different.)

          Husband, thankfully, is the same. It effects me worse, but he prefers things neat and uncluttered, too. It’s nice because if I’m in a terrible mood, sometimes he’ll straighten up for me and it helps :3

          Having an infant in conjunction with this near-neurosis has NOT been easy.

          (I wear a full face of make up every day, too. I’m a SAHM who sees no one but my husband and child most days, but I feel off if I don’t. Especially if I need to run out.)

  10. COT*

    I’m sure this also varies somewhat by field, so when you go to interviews, etc. pay attention to what the other women in the office are doing. Just like with dress code, it usually helps your career to go along with the written or unwritten culture about appearance.

  11. Liz in a Library*

    I don’t do makeup, because I’m terrible at it. The most I do is a skin-toned color-balancing moisturizer on rare occasions. As far as I know, not wearing makeup has never hurt me.

    If you are good at it, I think light, well-applied makeup can look great, but I don’t think it is necessary.

  12. fposte*

    I think there are some industries or kinds of job where the norms for appearance do include makeup–sales positions are more likely, for instance (drug reps come to mind). That doesn’t mean you have to do it too, but it’s good to be aware what the face of competence is perceived to be in your field when you decide what you want your face to be doing.

    I will add that the studies you’re referring to seem to be based on “luminance contrast,” or “how much eyes and lips stand out compared with skin” (New York Times). If so, you’ll get more bang for your buck with the lip gloss and liner than you will with foundation. But then I’m an academic who only wears makeup at conferences and when the mood hits me :-).

    1. Bwmn*

      This is an important point – finding the ‘face of competence’. Personally, I have never worn make-up at work, and while I don’t konw about jobs I wasn’t hired for (due to make-up), I’ve never been critiqued about the appearance of my face.

      That being said, I have a friend who has a very fair complexion and lighter colored eyelashes. She typically wears eye liner and mascara, and when she doesn’t, she does look quite different. Personally, I don’t think she looks bad without the make-up, but it’s such a part of her daily routine that it is then noticeable when she doesn’t.

      However, if I were going to make a list of all the appearance things that a new job seeker should pay attention to, it wouldn’t be on the top of my list. A quality hair cut/professional hair style, groomed eye brows, good fitting interview suit/business attire – all of those go a long way to create a polished and professional appearance without using any make-up.

  13. Anonymous*

    I’m almost 40 and have only ever worn mascara and lip gloss. I’ve tried powder, tints, lipstick, etc and never felt comfortable in them. Even when I interview, it’s just mascara and lip gloss and I’ve been employed in a professional capacity since 1996.

    (It may help that I have dry skin.)

  14. ali*

    I recently started a job working at a very small start-up in the beauty industry. All the women here are complete fashionistas and have perfect hair and makeup all the time…and then there’s me. I usually do a touch of mascara, lip gloss, and some tinted sunscreen, but when I started here I felt like I needed to go all out with the makeup (I’ve been here a couple of months now and don’t quite feel the pressure I did when I started to look as put together as the other women – I’m a web dev and they are the public faces of the company.) The thing that helped me the most is these style cards (with samples) you get at a Mary Kay party! If you happen to know someone who sells Mary Kary, hit them up for samples and how-tos!

  15. PPK*

    I think it can also depends on the field. I don’t wear make up except on fancy occasions. The women that I work around and near are a mix of make up wearing and not. I don’t think the people I work with would (male engineers) would generally register make up or not as a good or bad (unless it was very enthusiastic make up).

    If you are feeling unsure, I would maybe do some bare minimum stuff (some mascara, maybe some chapstick/gloss, maybe powder or something) just to bridge over the “Yes, I am dressed up” barrier for an interview, but not so much it feels like you put on a mask. Unless you discover make up is a thing at the place you start working at, I don’t think most people will feel like it was some sort of bait and switch to wear light make up to interview and none for regular work. Plus the grooming tips already mentioned.

    I do have a friend who specifically wore makeup to work because she felt it gave her an older look (she was just starting as a doctor).

  16. EnnVeeEl*

    I like makeup and wear it regularly – but I don’t judge people who don’t wear it. I think if you keep your eyebrows groomed, ensure your face isn’t shiny (an occasional blot with a tissue will do) and your lips moisterized, you will be fine.

    One thing to consider – well groomed nails. Again, color polish isn’t necessary, but clean, groomed nails, and moisterized cuticles.

    As for the comment on men wearing make up – uh, yes they do! Executives, state officials, etc., all wear it for public appearances and for television. I have applied blotting powder to executives’ faces for professional photographs, television interviews and other appearances.

    1. Anonymous*

      There’s a good reason for even men wearing it in cases like that though – people tend to look washed out under bright stage lighting/television lighting, so they often actually need a little makeup just to look normal. It’s the same reason the makeup worn by actors performing on stage looks ridiculously overdone if seen up close in normal lighting.

    2. TL*

      Yes, but I don’t know a single man in my workplace who wears makeup to look professional and nearly all the women I know do. And I safely say that for every work environment I’ve been it.

      There are exceptions (generally having to do with appearing on television, stage, or photographs, or someone heavily in the public eye) but there’s no underlying cultural message that a man’s face isn’t good enough for everyday use just the way it is.

      Which is not the point of the thread at all, but just to say that there’s a huge difference between some men wearing make-up in certain circumstances and almost all women wearing make-up daily.

      1. fposte*

        I agree with you on the difference, but I don’t think “almost all” women wear makeup daily. Figures are hard to come by, but it looks more like 1/3 to 1/2. Obviously in our own little enclaves we see very different percentages–here it’s more like 5%, but I realize that’s not universal.

        1. TL*

          It depends on workplace, of course. And almost all is probably an exaggeration, though I would expect it to be higher than 50%.

          On the flip side, I know several women who say they don’t ever wear make-up and what they mean is they only wear mascara and/or lip gloss and concealer when necessary; they just don’t consider it make-up.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, that’s definitely an enclave thing–around here that’s the fancy maquillage :-). “Makeup” is tinted Chapstick.

            1. TL*

              One of my friends went on a rant about societal expectations, women, and makeup and said she never wore makeup.

              The next day, it rained on her, her mascara ran, and when I pointed it out, she said it wasn’t makeup and the only reason I thought it was was because I didn’t wear ANY makeup.

              It was a very enlightening conversation for me, I guess. :)

      2. jennie*

        You’d be surprised. Plenty of men use tinted moisturizer and more. If they’re doing it right, you shouldn’t be able to tell if a woman or man is wearing foundation.

    3. Kelly O*

      + Infinity to the groomed nails issue

      I cannot tell you how many people I’ve seen who otherwise looked fine, but had horrible nail grooming (or, conversely, who had those talons of fake nails that were very clearly fake.)

      Likewise, minimal makeup looks much more polished when the whole grooming package fits together.

      *ahem* This also means you need to iron your clothes, make sure all your buttons are attached, and your shoes are presentable. I realize sometimes things happen after you leave the house or hotel, but if I consistently see you wearing the same jacket missing the same button over and over, I am going to start to wonder.

      1. Meg*

        Well-manicured nails make every outfit looks better. And it’s not something you need to spend a ton of money on either – in my experience the $25 manicure looks like as good as the $50 one. If I had to pick one “feminine” habit to invest in, it’d be that.

        On the other hand, I once managed to get all the way to work (I commute an hour on public transportation), speak to multiple people, and drink my morning coffee before I realized I had put my shirt on backwards. So you know, be careful about that too.

          1. Calla*

            Yeah, $25 in my book is an expensive manicure and I live in an expensive city! I get my nails done at a pricier place and pay $19 per mani. Which is still a lot for some people on a bi-weekly basis, but my sisters have gotten $10-15 dollar manicures that look just fine too. Or you can learn to do it yourself! I’ve practiced a lot and now there’s not much difference between when I do my own nails and when I pay for someone else to do them.

        1. Kelly O*

          In the spirit of full disclosure, I do my own nails 99.99% of the time. I just keep them filed to the tip of my finger, and buff them rather than polish them. I may have $25 total invested in my little kit, and I use files from Sally’s.

          By the time I work, do my household things, play with my daughter, and whatever else life tosses at me, I do not want to have to worry about chipped polish. So I spend a few minutes a couple of times a week touching up. It’s not a huge deal and keeps things looking fine.

          So you can totally have well-manicured nails without trips to the salon.

          1. BeenThere*

            I do mine myself and rarely wear polish, I can even chip the best gel polishes in two days. I think nicely filed and buffed looks the best :)

      2. Bwmn*

        I think with all of these points -there’s usually a cumulative balance to achieve a professional look. With or without make up.

        For a woman from the feet to the head, you can address the following potential issues: shoes, hose/tights/bare legs, ironed clothes, well tailored clothes, nails, jewelry, make-up, brow maintenance, hair (overall cut and daily styling). I think that after accessing the standards of where you work – it’s easy to find a happy medium with all of these.

        For most women in most professions, meeting all of those points at a “high” level isn’t necessary. Maybe your nails aren’t manicured – but they’re neatly trimmed and you wear light make-up. Maybe you don’t own pricey shoes and can’t survive in heels, but are wearing very well tailored and pressed clothes. Maybe you wear no make-up, but have well groomed hair and eyebrows.

        I think that there’s a good balance that a new job seeker can achieve without investing in everything.

  17. Noner*

    Huh- Corporette’s blog just posted a similar topic today. Not whether makeup is professional, but how much the readers actually wear.

  18. Stephanie*

    I look young for my age (I’m in my late 20s and periodically get mistaken for a high school student), so I think nicely done, understated makeup can counteract that. Although don’t put on heavy makeup, or you’ll just look like you’re playing dress up with mommy’s makeup.

    Nicely done eyebrows make a world of difference, even without makeup. If your hair’s coarser/thicker like mine, I’d recommend threading. Blotting sheets are good as well for oil control.

    Depending on your ethnicity, I’d head to a boutique makeup store like MAC or Sephora. I’m black and just find that Target/Walmart/drugstores just don’t have very many shades on the darker end of the color spectrum (disclaimer–I do live in Arizona, which doesn’t have a huge black population). The makeup artists are also good for helping you if you have little makeup experience. Their products are definitely more expensive, but they have really lenient return policies. I’ve returned stuff to both places that I’ve opened and used, saying that I didn’t like it, it broke me out, the color looked off when I got home, etc.

    1. EnnVeeEl*

      And drugstore makeup isn’t THAT cheap. I bought some drugstore makeup for my daughter (she dances) and for the little blush I got her, for a few dollars more I could have bought a MAC blush. And while the color was pretty, you could tell the quality of the powder was less than. I was shocked at the prices.

    2. anonymous*

      “I look young for my age (I’m in my late 20s and periodically get mistaken for a high school student), so I think nicely done, understated makeup can counteract that.”

      This is what I came to post. LW, if you look young for your age I would strongly consider wearing make-up. It isn’t fair, because one can’t help it, but it makes people take you less seriously.

      1. Sascha*

        Clothing also makes a huge difference there. I don’t wear makeup except for a little eyeliner, but even before I started wearing eyeliner regularly, I found that people at my work place started taking me much more seriously when I wore nicer clothes and made sure my hair and eyebrows looked nice. I look very young for my age and work at a university, so I easily pass for a student.

        1. Anonymous*

          I’ll second the clothing suggestion. I’ve always looked younger than my age. But I get more respect when I show up nicely dressed than when I show up in jeans and a t-shirt.
          Sadly I found this out at the county building department. I barely got their attention or what I needed when I walked in in jeans. But when I stopped by after an interview in full dress they were extremely helpful then.

      2. Felicia*

        I also look young for my age (I’m 23 and frequently people guess that I’m 15) but even when I wear makeup, which I’ve asked more make up savvy people to help me with, they still think I look 15. I’m not sure what it is, maybe I just have a young looking face or something, and I’m very short. I rarely wear makeup and I hate wearing makeup but often times I feel like I’m supposed to wear it or something. I do wear nice professional clothes and do make sure my eyebrows look nice, I just really don’t like wearing makeup.

        1. Marina*

          A lot of it depends on the kind of makeup you wear! Most makeup tutorials are designed to make people look younger, so there’s not as much help out there for people like us who need to look older. My biggest tip: (for people with lighter skin tones at least–I THINK this would work for darker skin tones too but I’ve never tried it) use a pinkish shade of blush along your cheekbones, and a tanish shade in the apples of your cheeks. A lot of what makes you look younger is the “roundness” of your face, and those contrasting shades of blush will create fake shadows that make your cheeks look more angular and “older”.

        2. TheSnarkyB*

          I also look young for my age. I haven’t begun to appreciate the whole “Black don’t crack” thing yet, because it certainly does pimple. (I’m 23, people often guess 17). I’ve noticed that on white (or lighter complected) people, dark eyeshadow in the crease really makes a difference for age. It’s something that I always thought of as too complex and in the realm of contouring which is way above my skill-grade, but a friend and I both tried it one day and I still do it for professional events. On me, it just makes my eyes look bigger and stand out in a pretty way, but on my lighter skinned friends, it makes them look a bit more older and more “adult.” Hope that helps if anyone was looking for some age-related suggestions!

      3. Liz T*

        Yeah–when I was 24 I started working at a college, and I amped up the make-up just I wasn’t confused with the students!

    3. Zxyn*

      I think the problem of lower-end cosmetic brands (selling in the US) generally failing to include skintones in the darker half of the spectrum to be a nation-wide thing (again, talking about the US). Though Revlon is probably better at it than the other big drugstore names, and then there are smaller companies that cater to black women like Black Radiance. Anyway, I totally agree that a big advantage of mid-range and luxury cosmetic brands is shade range for base products (foundation, concealer, etc), both for the very pale and very dark.

      1. Stephanie*

        Ok, I wasn’t sure if it was just an Arizona thing! At least with hair products, there’s definitely not enough of a quorum to merit selling them in general merchandise stores. I went to a Target in Atlanta and the selection of salon-quality ethnic hair care products was amazing.

        1. Zxyn*

          Yes! I live in Atlanta and am black and I can find a decent selection of hair products at Kroger, Target, drugstores, it’s awesome :) Base make up products, however, are usually just a sea of beige :P Some companies seem to go out of their way to exclude anything close to brown. I came across a Neutrogena concealer that came in three shades. Not “light, medium, and dark” which would be logical, but “fair, light, and medium light,” haha. Give me a break.

        2. Natalie*

          Not sure where you live in Arizona, but you might find a wider selection in a city Target versus a suburban Target. I live in Minnesota, which is also really white, but the urban Targets have a wider selection of black hair and skin products. (They also have a wider selection of non-white dolls in the toy department, which is a different rant all together.)

          1. Stephanie*

            I’m in the Phoenix area. I’ve headed to stores in South Phoenix–which probably has the highest concentration of blacks in the area–but it tends to be geared toward Hispanics versus blacks. I usually can find things that suit my needs (and just order online what I can’t find).

      2. Chinook*

        It is not just the darker skin tones that got forgotten about by the cheaper brands. I am as pale as you can go (and only go darker by one shade in summer) and there are some brands that are too dark for me.

        1. Zxyn*

          Yes, absolutely. I was trying to acknowledge that with the last sentence in my post. I think the reason we hear more about darker women being excluded is because more of that part of skintone spectrum is excluded. Like, if you look at the spectrum as two halves, maybe 75% of the lighter half is represented and maybe 25% of the darker half is represented in US drugstores, and it sucks for those of us at either end.

        2. Marnie*

          This is so true! My skin is basically fair, but it also has a slight sallow tone that doesn’t really match any commercial foundations. The higher-end stuff tends to do better than the drugstore brands, but not by much.

          1. LPBB*

            I have the same problem, very fair skin with a yellow undertone. It is very hard to find foundation that doesn’t make me look jandiced or like I’m a wearing some kind of vampire mask.

            1. Camellia*

              Avoid foundations that have ‘warm’ or ‘cool’ in the name and look for ‘neutral’. I have the same issue with my naturally blond hair, too. It isn’t a golden blond or an ash blond but is really a neutral blond.

    4. FD*

      Haircut helps a *lot* too–I’m 25 and still got carded for R-rated movies regularly until I changed my hair from shoulder length worn in a ponytail to a side-parted bob.

  19. KayDay*

    NO! I absolutely despise the notion that women should be required to wear makeup (and I love make up).

    But that’s my I’m-queen-of-the-world-and-everyone-should-bow-down-to-me answer. In reality, some companies/industries do expect a more made-up look than others. Particularly for public-facing positions, it might be expected.

    If you feel strongly about not wearing make up, I say stick to your guns. But if you don’t particularly care and just want to know what’s expected, I’d say your safest bet is to wear a bit of makeup: a bit of foundation or powder to even out your skin, a swipe of mascara and some lip balm can make you look more polished without looking like you’re wearing a lot of make up.

    1. Julie K*

      I was trying to figure out how to describe my feelings about wearing makeup at work (conflicted), and then you said exactly how I feel. :) I know that I feel more confident if I have makeup on, but I don’t like feeling that I have to wear it to look professional, and frankly, on most days, I don’t wear any. I found a lipstick (lipstain?) that stays on for hours and hours (it’s L’Oreal Infallible), so if I want to look like I’m wearing some makeup, I just use that (and sometimes I’ll use a tinted sunscreen to even out my skin color). I can’t wear mascara, or I would probably use a tiny bit of that, as well.

  20. junipergreen*

    Interestingly enough, Corporette covered this today too!

    One thing to consider is if you will eventually need to get a headshot for a company badge or website profile, a little makeup will help your features stand out better on camera.

    Personally, I find that wearing a bit of makeup helps my very pale face look less tired and more polished. Without some blush, I’d have been very “washed-out” in my brightly-lit company headshot.

    1. Anonymous*

      Yes! I was thinking of this illustration while reading the Corporette thread (mentioned by others here).

    2. junipergreen*

      Aaaahahaha! This.

      On the other end of the spectrum, at this year’s holiday party, the one event where our very casual office dresses to the nines and I put on about 3x as much eye makeup as usual, I got: “You look so NICE with makeup – you should wear it more often!” ><

  21. Laura*

    Has anyone else tried the new BB Creams? Light, but with good coverage for us paler-women. It evens me out, but I don’t spend a ton of time applying product. I make up my eyes, but my whole morning routine is about 3 or 4 minutes long.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I tried the Clinique one and loved it. But then I broke out in a really weird way so now I’m hesitant to use it again, even though it might be entirely unrelated.

    2. Camellia*

      I’ve tried three drug store brands: Garnier, L’oreal, and Maybelline. I didn’t like the L’oreal at all, it seem gritty. I liked the Garnier but I am very fair and their ‘Light to Medium’ was too dark for me and it also left me quite shiny. I love the Maybelline. The shade match is perfect and it gives a nice even finish that is dewey, not shiny.

    3. Kelly O*

      I know I sound like a broken record, but I am loving the L’Oreal BB cream.

      Caveat – I am VERY pale. I use the Fair and it blends very nicely, but I do still have to blend it well. That’s sort of par for the course for me though.

      I started the BB cream when I got some Dr. Jart’s in a BirchBox. It was okay, but I didn’t like the texture. Someone recommended the L’Oreal – she’s also pale and oily like me – and I tried it. Huge difference, and I love it for summer.

      1. Chinook*

        Kelly O, how does the BB cream work for evening out skin tones? I know that tinted moisturizer has always been useless for me because the red cheeks/nose always seems to show through unless I put lots on.

        1. Kelly O*

          I don’t have a lot of discoloration issues, so I really can’t speak to it. I use my undereye concealer with it, and it blends in just fine – I’ve not really tried it without that, mainly because those undereye circles are my biggest problem.

        2. Loose Seal (formerly Your Mileage May Vary)*

          Chinook, look for a CC cream. I’ve got rosacea and while medication takes care of the acne, I still have redness. My Smashbox CC cream evens out my redness

      2. Job seeker*

        Kelly O, I like L’Oreal Youth-Code BB cream. Garnier also makes a good one. I have very clear and smooth skin and sometimes add a light foundation with this. I have a lot of different brands and love to try new things. Some expensive and some not so much. BB creams are like magic.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      I’m a HUGE fan of Clinique’s BB Cream. It totally evens me out and gives me a lovely natural looking complexion. I’m curious about Clinique’s new(ish) CC Cream. Has anyone used both?

  22. bearcat*

    Fully made-up for me is: I curl my eyelashes and then apply mascara, blush, and lip stain. I do fully made-up style makeup 5 times a year max. I wear any of the three products above and/or curl my eyelashes as it suits my fancy which is very rarely.

    I don’t work with clients very often but when I do, I attempt to remember to wear some makeup. Co-workers are lucky if I don’t have food smeared on my face all day on a day I don’t meet with clients.

    1. books*

      The eyelash curler, though it looks like a torture device, is easy to use and makes a huge defference.
      I don’t remember where I read it, but a few years ago, something about only wearing mascara on your upper lashes is the office because the overhead fluorescents will make the shadows under your eyes worse.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t tend to do liner or mascara on lower lashes as it’s rumored to call attention to undereye circles. I don’t know if it’s technically true, but I know 1) lower makeup makes *me* notice circles more because I start checking and 2) undereye circles are where stuff lands when it rubs off of my lower lashes, and that certainly makes them darker.

      2. Jen in RO*

        I don’t wear mascara on my lower lashes because my eyes are droopy and I read that any makeup on the bottom part (mascara, liner) will make them even droopier. I really should get a curler though – curling my upper lashes would help.

      3. Rana*

        I’d say that eyelash curlers work… for some women. They don’t work for me. I have very long lashes, and pretty thick, to the point that they brush against my eyeglasses if I push them too far up my nose. This is why I wear clear mascara if I wear any at all. I can get a bit of a curl if I push up on the lashes while applying the mascara, but the curlers just do. not. work.

        So, mostly I just do lipstick and the clear mascara, if I bother. I can do the full face, but I usually don’t unless it’s a special occasion (like an anniversary dinner with my husband). This is one of the perks of working from home…

  23. Sascha*

    I used to wear full makeup every day, and a few years ago, I stopped wearing it completely. I have rosacea and it’s horrible for my face. I actually look way better with no makeup because I don’t have tons of zits, blotchy red skin, and excess oil from my skin freaking out and trying to manage itself with a bunch of crap on it.

    Because of this, I’ve found some ways to look put together without wearing makeup. Eyebrows are HUGE – it makes a world of difference to have nice looking eyebrows, especially for those of us with light skin and dark hair. I pluck a few minutes every day and it keeps them in shape, no need to visit an eyebrow waxer unless you need an overhaul.

    I also wear a gentle, hypoallergenic black eyeliner. And that’s it. No other makeup unless I’m feeling fancy, even then it’s very light and I only wear it for a few hours. I will wear a little more eye makeup and some lip gloss to interviews, weddings, or things where I need to look really polished, but I found that just keeping your eyebrows groomed and a bit of eyeliner does a lot to make me look fresh and polished.

    This is in conjunction with nice looking clothes and groomed hair. So OP, don’t wear makeup if you don’t want to, even the eyeliner bit. Just make sure the rest of you looks nice, and most importantly – present yourself in a confident and professional demeanor, and when you have a job, work hard and be dependable. Develop a stellar reputation and very few will care if you wear makeup or not.

    1. Jen in RO*

      I suck at eyebrows :-( I’m lucky that my beautician is young and there’s no retirement in sight! I can usually keep my eyebrows in decent shape for 2 weeks after she plucks them, but after that I have to go back.

  24. Katie the Fed*

    BTW, here’s my pro tip for the day.

    Monistat anti-chafing gel (the kind in a purple tube, designed for the dreaded thigh rub – NOT the hemorrhoid cream) – is nearly identical to many makeup primers. I use it on my eyelids before doing eyeliner or eye shadow and it lasts much longer. On the rare occasion I wear foundation I use it under. And it’s super cheap.

  25. Anon*

    It depends, when you roll out of bed do you look like a cast member from the Walking Dead or someone out of a magazine? If you are more zombie in the morning than human, a little touch up is going to go a long way.

    I’m pale and if I didn’t wear makeup, I’d have some serious dark circles. And if I’m sick, I look even worse. Plus, I know I look a solid 10 years younger than my age, properly applied make up can help counteract that, as said by others.

    Personally, I love bare minerals. I’ve used it for about 10 years now. No major breakouts and super easy. Not cheap though.

    I think the key, as AAM said, is to look polished. However that works for you. But if wearing heavy makeup is going to make you super uncomfortable, then don’t. It’s like wearing ill-fitting clothing.

    1. Camellia*

      Yay for bare minerals. Not cheap but on the other hand it lasts forever. I also love Balance-n-Brighten by Laura Geller.

      Also, I used to think I had super sensitive skin. Even the mildest of cleansers stung and I had patches of flaky skin on my face and neck. Six years ago I discovered Clarisonic and within a week of using this wonder-brush all my irritations and sensitivity disappeared. I guess it was just impurities remaining on my skin that was causing the problem. Today I can even use retinol products every night and no irritation at all! It is my desert island product. If, you know, desert islands had electricity to recharge it.

  26. B*

    Completely agree with AAM…it is about looking professional and polished. But it also depends on your industry/line of work as sometimes makeup is sort of a prerequisite.

    When I first started out I did not do as much as I do now. But as I started seeing more people I did do a bit more. Now, personally, I feel more put together in the office with a bit of makeup on. Once I figured out my routine it takes me less than 5 minutes – foundation, mascara, powder, and something on my lips. But when I really am pressed I skip the foundation. Quick and simple but makes me feel better, however, on the weekends I am perfectly fine with nothing on. It is all about your comfort level.

  27. km*

    Didn’t wear makeup in high school, college or the first half-dozen years of my professional life. Eventually started because, yeah, I wanted to appear more polished and professional. Whether that’s something that women should HAVE to do — well, that’s another story.

    Anyway, some advice if you decide to go this route and are easing into make-up wearing. I’ve found that all you really need to do is create the appearance that you’re not wearing NO makeup and figure out one or two features to play up that create the visual cue that says “I have put some type of cosmetic on my face.” For me, I have rosacea and really deep-set eyes, so if I put on tinted moisturizer and mascara that’s enough to pass the eye test. For someone else, it might be some blush and a swipe of lipstick.

    Anyway, YMMV. I just remember feeling really daunted thinking I’d have to wear foundation AND eye makeup AND mascara AND lip color in order to be A Person Who is Wearing Makeup.

    1. fposte*

      I love that last sentence. Yeah, it’s not a twelve-things-or-nothing binary. If you find other people’s “simple routines” daunting (as I can), remember that you don’t have to do them.

      1. Kelly L.*

        I always feel horribly…out of my depth?…when I hear/read someone say “I only wear a little makeup” and then list 10-15 products they use. :D

    2. Natalie*

      I had a similar experience – I never really got into it as a kid/teenager for various reasons, except I used to dance so I would wear clown makeup for performances. It really skewed my idea of what “wearing makeup” should look and feel like.

      When I got my first professional job after college, I started with a clear mascara and tinted lip palm. Over the last few years I’ve added a couple of other things and actually ditched the mascara (my lashes are thin and no matter what it looks clumpy), but I still feel comfortable and look natural. And, since I didn’t really know how to correctly choose makeup colors or put it on, I’ve swallowed my pride and taken full advantage of the ladies at the makeup counter.

  28. Joey*

    If its attention grabbing youre doing it wrong. If I see bags under your eyes or you look tired you’re doing it wrong. And if it looks like you’re going for that “I’m available” look you’re doing it wrong. The best makeup is the makeup that no one notices because it fits in with what everyone else is doing and isn’t going to make me feel embarrassed for you.

  29. pidgeonpenelope*

    I very rarely wore makeup to the office. I wear make up for interviews. I take care of my skin so I don’t look too dreadful without make up.

    I agree with Allison’s advice. If you look polished without make up, then no need.

  30. Anonny*

    I think men wearing makeup in professional/public-facing settings is more common than some people may think. Not that it’s anywhere near as common/expected/noticable as it is for women, no way, but I just wanted to put it out there. My boyfriend keeps concealer in his toiletry bag for noticable facial breakouts :)

    1. TL*

      Um, that’s kind of awesome.
      I wish make-up was accepted across genders but also that people were not culturally pressured to wear it.

    2. A Bug!*

      Makeup companies are noticing this and several have actually rolled out product lines marketed at men! They don’t call it makeup, of course. “Manly Super-X Tiredness ELIMINATOR-TOR-tor-tor”, instead of “concealer”.

      1. Katie the Fed*


        Made With Tiger Testosterone!

  31. Anon*

    And if you’re a male barking strict orders about what his female co-workers ought to look like, you’re doing it wrong.

    1. bearcat*

      It’s funny that you put it as “barking strict orders about” because I literally had that happen to me. My former supervisor was talking to me about work then did a shocked double take. He barked, “Are you wearing makeup? DON’T!” and ran off. I never did figure out what the hell that was all about.

  32. The Other Dawn*

    I’m a wearer of full makeup. I just don’t feel polished without it. I had quite a bit of acne when I was growing up and it’s left very subtle scars. Also I’m as pale as a ghost so any blemish really shows up. And there’s the uneven skin tone. The only time I go without is on the weekend, and it has to be a weekend where I’m in most of the time and maybe only running to the grocery store.

  33. Angela*

    I was the same way when I was in college. I barely wore any makeup and usually it was none at all. Now 20 years later, I still stick with bronzer, mascara, and chapstick. It is just enough to help me look more polished and put together for work. I would suggest experiementing with a few different make up items to see if there is anything that you like. You might find that just one or two small products make a huge difference. It is more about just looking professional overall (echoing a lot of the great comments on here). Good luck with the interviews :)

  34. Tinker*

    Wearing makeup on an everyday basis doesn’t mix well with my gender identity, and I find that I’m generally happier with my life when I accommodate that. In my area, I don’t think most people care and I figure the ones that do are probably not going to get on with the rest of the package anyway.

  35. JoAnna*

    I do the bare minimum — tinted moisturizer and tinted lip gloss. If it’s a very special occasion (wedding, baptism, anniversary dinner with my husband) I’ll use mascara, blush, and eyeshadow, but I can count on one hand how many times I go to that effort in a given year.

  36. Elizabeth*

    I wear full makeup every day for work, and it takes me right at 5 minutes to do. Moisturizer, foundation, translucent powder, blush, bronzing powder, eye shadow & eyeliner, in that order.

    I didn’t used to wear makeup, and when I did it took me a while to get it applied. Then I started getting what is known as the butterfly wings. Most mornings, I have what looks like a red butterfly on my face, with the wings spreading out from my nose. It takes a quick coat of foundation to cover. If I do foundation, I have to do powder & blush, to cover the shiny areas and define cheek bones. Doing it every day means that I’ve gotten good at it and can do it quickly.

    Even on the weekend, I put on powder & blush, and sometimes a light sweep of eyeshadow. I prefer my own appearance with it over my appearance without it.

    Wearing makeup is so personal that I don’t think anyone can really generalize on The Right Way.

    1. Jamie*

      What brand bronzer do you use? I’ve tried several but all seem too heavy – I’d love recommendations on one that looks natural.

      1. Elizabeth*

        Everything I have, except moisturizer, is from Rimmel of London, a brand I found at Walmart and adore. The colors are designed for someone with my skin tones (northern German combined with Scots Irish makes for dark hair with red undertones & very pale skin).

        The bronzing powder comes in about a half dozen shades. I wear the very lightest one, and it takes me from ghostly pale to something that appears to be among the living.

        I also use something called a kabuki brush to apply both translucent & bronzing powder. It makes for a very light dusting, unlike some of the traditional powder brushes. I have one at home and at work, to do quick shine coverage if I have a meeting or just feel like my face is gross.

          1. Elizabeth*

            You’re welcome! By the way, the Rimmel bronzers have a really cool sun emblem embossed into the powder.

            I used to go around looking like a ghost or zombie. Then I found bronzing powder, so I can look like a living human being.

            I have to remember to pick up self-tanning lotion for my legs. The dress code here recently changed to allow bare legs, so I can use it and not wear pantyhose this summer.

        1. Job seeker*

          Jamie, I love longer hair too. Mine is longer but cut in a style. You want to keep it in good condition and not just stringy. I really think it makes anyone over 40 look years younger if kept in a style. You can do a lot more with longer hair. Bangs are good too. Just have a hair stylist do them.

      2. Kelly O*

        Jamie, I actually use a bronzer from e.l.f – it’s got four colors all together in one palette, but they blend together nicely, and even on pasty me it’s not too overpowering.

        And, it’s $3. So I don’t feel too bad about how much I’m spending if it doesn’t work properly.

        And Elizabeth, I totally agree with you on the time factor. I started off taking forever to get ready, but as I get older, I’ve found I can be ready very quickly, especially if I stick to my “go-to” things.

        I do like to watch (or rather, did like to watch) Carmindy on What Not to Wear, because she focused on quick things that brought attention to the right places. The whole idea of the five minute face is what I strive for.

    2. Kate*

      Re: the butterfly wings– Could you (or do you) have rosacea? My skin does the same thing you’re describing, but a prescription face cream has made a huge improvement. Hope I’m not overstepping; rosacea is often overlooked so I thought it worth mentioning.

      1. Elizabeth*

        Nope. :) I have been checked for it.

        It can also be a symptom of Raynaud’s syndrome & lupus. I have the former.

  37. Jen*

    So…what’s the verdict on long hair? Always wear it back or up? If it’s just back into a ponytail, and therefore still shows the length, is this ok? I recently read a book (Corporate Confidential I think it was) that said NO LONG HAIR –that it was just plain unprofessional.

    I have hair that is a little past the small of my back. I usually put it up with a flexi-8, but there are days when I forget and just rush out the door. I keep a spare flexi-8 in my desk drawer nowadays, but I still wonder if I look weird to others. It’s not an option to cut it, so I’m hoping just putting it up is ok

    1. Jamie*

      Mine isn’t as long as yours – mine hits mid shoulder blade – but I’ll wear mine up if I am in the mood but wear it down most of the time.

      If it’s ever hurt me professionally I’ve never noticed…and I really think it’s just a matter of it being neat and kept rather than a certain length or style.

      (I still remember my mom getting her hair cut at 40 because “women over 40 with long hair look like they are trying to look young” and every once in a while I wince thinking of what she’d think if she could see mine…but then as much as I adored her she was wrong on the pantyhose issue, too…just different eras.)

      1. Job seeker*

        Jamie, I love longer hair too. Mine is longer but cut in a style. You want to keep it in good condition and not just stringy. I really think it makes anyone over 40 look years younger if kept in a style. You can do a lot more with longer hair. Bangs are good too. Just have a hair stylist do them.

    2. Windchime*

      I think that they key to any hair-do looking professional is for it to be clean and well-maintained. There is one woman at work who has long, frizzy, dry hair hanging down her back and it looks horrible, yet another woman has hair of the same length that looks clean, healthy, and stylish. Sometimes she wears it down and sometimes up, but it always looks nice and professional.

      I used to work with a woman in her 40’s who wore big, colorful bows in her hair, with matching tights. The whole thing was ridiculous on anyone over the age of about 5 years old. So please, don’t do that. :)

    3. Elizabeth*

      I used to have long hair (halfway down my back, with curls that could turn into sausages). I had to cut it off because of the literal & figurative headaches it caused. My scalp constantly hurt from the weight, and my neck was always sore. Maintaining it was frustrating, and the weight caused about a third of it to be pulled out by the roots.

      Today, my hair is about chin-length, maybe a little shorter, and it can get to shoulder-length before I run into problems with it. I love the shorter hair for our pool. No having to wear a pool cap!

      When I did have long hair, I would wear it down on days I washed it, and then braid it or pull it into a pony tail on days when I didn’t. I have a couple hundred hair implements left from those days, designed to put it into a bun or twist or some other form of up-do.

    4. Kelly O*

      I think it really all depends on how you wear it, and what your “polished” look is.

      I’ve never let mine get longer than a bit below my shoulders, but mine also tends to be a bit unruly when it gets a little longer. It’s also quite thick, and I am a “wash your hair every day” sort of person, so too much length affects drying time.

      I will say I don’t like my hair very short. I got a pixie-ish cut once and was miserable. Right around my daughter’s first birthday, I cut mine into one of those angled bobs everyone was doing for a while, but it’s not straight enough to look right with even a smidge of humidity (and I live in Houston, so… )

      I’m going to get mine cut in the next few days, and I’m just getting it chopped to right around collarbone length. That seems to be a very manageable length for me, with long layers and some angled bangs. (Again, its something that doesn’t take too long to fix, but can look okay if it’s not perfectly straight.)

      1. fposte*

        It also depends on what’s your industry and what you’re doing with the rest of your appearance. It’s one thing to have long hair with tailored suits and another to have it with homemade circle skirts and Birkenstocks–not that one is better, but you’re going to get a lot farther in, say, law with the first. I would also encourage you to be super-regular in getting trims (especially if it’s straight), so that the bottom is very neat and fresh when you’re wearing it down.

        1. fposte*

          Sorry, “you” is Jen here, not Kelly O–I was building on Kelly to answer Jen.

        2. Kate in Scotland*

          My husband has lovely long hair which is rare in his industry/at his level and he would agree with you 100%. He always gets his suits perfectly altered-to-fit and wears a tie at all times and usually cufflinks – he reckons you get one pass on something unconventional if you compensate with everything else being super-professional. He does wear his hair tied back but getting a good cut helps with that too, much neater.
          Of course a man with long hair stands out way more than a woman with long hair but the principle still stands!

          1. Rana*

            Yeah, that sounds like my grandmother’s rule of accessorizing. You get three, tops (so, say, earrings, necklace, purse) – wedding rings don’t count – unless the item is really dramatic, in which case you get one. And the more dramatic it is, the plainer and more sedate the rest of your clothes need to be.

      1. Amy*

        Wow, some of those sample photos look like they’re from red carpet formal events, and they seem like they would be really out-of-place in an office setting. Especially at a job interview, where you want to err on the side of being more conservative, I wouldn’t wear anything teased, and I probably also wouldn’t wear a high ponytail or anything with curly tendrils. Most of those styles look way too overstyled for a job interview, at least to my eye.

    5. Sascha*

      Just echoing what everyone else said. As long as it’s well-maintained and polished looking, it’s fine.

      My hair touches about mid shoulder blades. I often put it into a ponytail. But I try to do a “nice” ponytail where it’s lower, and I have some volume at the crown (but no backcombing) with some pieces out front – if you just pull it all back from your face it kind of looks like you just came from the gym. I’ve also gotten good a nice, easy buns and some pretty braids. The Gibson tuck is also really easy and good for long hair when you want it up and back, but don’t want to do a ponytail.

      I’ve tried short hair many times, and I definitely do NOT look professional with short hair.

    6. LondonI*

      The advice not to have long hair sounds extremely dated to me. It may have been true in 1987, but not now. The vast majority of women I see in the City have long hair. The ones with really short hair tend to be in their 50s.

      1. Jen*

        I’m hoping that’s the case :) I guess in my case, it’s the fact that it’s not just long as in “mid-back”, but long as in “to my butt crack”, so speak :)

        I’m wondering if I should get bangs, or some shorter pieces on the side, because right now when I pull it back, it’s sort of severe looking. Right now, it’s entirely one length cut straight across the bottom

        1. fposte*

          It might give you some options. You can loosen bits to have the same softening effect, but having them precut could be easier, if it suits you. I also think that it would increase the “this is a conscious style choice” look, if that matters to you. What you actually would do is likely to be dependent on your face shape and hair, though, so I’d enlist a stylist on that call.

        2. Sascha*

          Sounds like you can experiment with braids. There are a lot of pretty options out there that are work appropriate. Just be sure to avoid the ones that look like milk maids or Princess Leia. :)

          And so much of it depends on your overall presentation, too. I’ve known two women with hair that length, and one dressed nicely and kept her hair in good shape, and her overall appearance was put together and professional. The other looked like she had just rolled out of bed and into the office, in which case her hair length wouldn’t have made a difference.

          And you don’t have to spend a lot of time or money to look put together and professional, either. I sure don’t, I hate spending time getting ready in the morning, but after much Googling and figuring out my system, I think I look a lot more professional than I used to, and I can be out the door in about 30-40 minutes.

    7. Geologist*

      I have curly but somewhat thin hair, and I actually held off on cutting it (mid-back length) until after I was settled in my new job because I wanted to be able to wrap it into an extremely secure bun for interviews.

    8. Lora*

      Hip-length hair here, and I’m an engineer. I keep it up in a bun using a hair fork, which takes about 15 seconds to do in the morning. I trim it maybe twice a year. Most of my colleagues have no clue how long my hair actually is until we do an off-site team-building exercise type of day, and I wear it down for whatever reason. If I’m feeling fancy, I have a hair fork that you can thread a narrow scarf through so when you wind up the bun you kind of get the scarf all twisted in it.

      For interviews I put leave-in conditioner in the bun to control the flyaway frizzies. That’s it. Buns and updos actually look very professional, I think. You don’t really get cursed with bad hair days, you can slick everything back and it’s fine.

      WRT makeup, I only do it for interviews and the first week, and it’s very minimal–mineral powder, a tiny smidgen of brown eyeliner on outer corners of top lids, mascara and neutral-pinkish lip liner crayon that matches almost the exact same color as my lips except less washed-out and translucent. Otherwise I look like I’m dying of consumption. After the first week, I go back to the makeup-free Victorian Waif look.

      1. Sascha*

        Lol I have done the same thing – makeup in interviews and the first week, then nothing (or just eyeliner) after that. I usually let my hair air dry in a bun. Buns are the best.

  38. Xay*

    I think it depends on what your industry thinks of as a polished look. I’ve spent my career in public health for the government and women pretty much do what they are comfortable with, however, those who tend to be in the public eye (high level administrators, public information officers, etc) tend to wear more makeup and dress formally.

    Personally, I wear concealer and lip gloss. I’m very dark skinned so I gave up on foundation after looking like a Cheeto more than once, but my skin is clear (and I take care to keep it that way) so I don’t need it.

  39. Mike C.*

    It’s a special kind of messed up that I, as a man, can have things like baggy eyes, less then perfect skin and so on and never have to worry that I don’t look professional or put together.

    I don’t see anything wrong with anyone of any gender expression wearing makeup because they want to, but the idea that it’s needed to “look professional”, but only for women, is really messed up.

    1. Cat*

      Yep, and it’s ultimately a time-and-money tax on professional women that isn’t levied on men.

  40. mooseknuckle*

    I hope this isn’t off topic since I did see a few comments about pantyhose up there….but what is the difference between hose and tights??? Also, I can’t believe how hostile the comments in that thread were! I’ve been reading AAM for almost a year now, and I don’t know if it was that thread alone but its totally different.

    1. Windchime*

      To me, “hose” are sheer and somewhat flesh-colored, and they snag and run easily. “Tights” are more opaque and usually a dark color, like gray or black. That’s how I define them, anyway.

    2. Chinook*

      I believe that tights are much thicker whereas hose/pantyhose you can usually tell if someone has shaved their legs. Tights can come in many different colours whereas hose usually are white/tan/black or some other type of neutral.

      I remember knowing I was no longer seen as a little kid when my mom bought my first pair of panythose to go with a fancy dress because little kids wore tights because they are harder to rip.

    3. Natalie*

      That thread was weirdly hostile – if I recall correctly it’s the only thread Alison has ever closed the comments on.

      As far as hose and tights, in the US hose are thinner than tights. In the UK and possibly other European countries, tights and hose are the same thing.

      1. Jamie*

        I remember being a little girl and it was like a rite of passage when you graduated from tights to hose – like shaving your legs, or getting your first real lipstick.

        But agree with Natalie that here they are thicker. My daughter wears tights when her skirt is pretty short for modesty and in winter to keep warm.

      2. fposte*

        It was the only thread like that at the time, but there’s been at least one closure since then and a post or two that simply vanished :-).

  41. The Snarky B*

    No time to read all responses at the moment (so sorry if this is redundant). I’m with you- I didn’t wear makeup until my senior year of (a very hippy granola) college and even then it was just so I’d know HOW if I ever wanted to for the club or the office.
    Have some fun experimenting with stuff just in case you stumble across something you like- maybe go to Mac or Bare Minerals or some place (Sephora sometimes overdoes it but you could try!) and have them just do light coverage and maybe a subtle eye shadow. I found that it gave me a lot of confidence and showed me things I didn’t know my face could do. Certainly write it off if that doesn’t do anything for you, but you never know what you might like til you give it a shot.

  42. Amy*

    I only ever wear full makeup when I’m going out at night to a fancy occasion (if it’s a bar I just wear mascara, blush, maybe some chapstick). I’ve yet to find a foundation/face pigment that doesn’t make me break out, or feels weird, or looks cakey or oily or whatever. I’ve tried liquid foundations, bare minerals, powders, creams, BB, tinted moisturizers etc…and nothing works! Plus I’m pale but with yellow undertones so finding the right color that matches but doesn’t make me look jaundiced is a task in and of itself!

    What I usually do to counter the ‘not wearing makeup’ aspect of my appearance is to dress more tomboyish. I often wear nice slaks and a button-down shirt or simple top, with oxford-style shoes (which I call my ‘man shoes’)…I find that nobody seems to notice I’m not wearing makeup because I’m not dressed in a particularly feminine way, so it’s not as much of a contrast. That being said I try to look pulled-together, I just prefer a more “fresh faced” approach!

    Plus I unconsciously rub my eyes/face too much to wear makeup during the day- It’d just end up on my hands!!

    1. Rana*

      Hah. Are you me? I am very much that way with regards to make-up; I hadn’t thought of adjusting my clothes to match, though. Clever!

  43. Hello Vino*

    It all depends on the industry and the individual. I typically go with the bare minimum for interviews and work: light foundation, lip gloss, tidy ponytail. I feel comfortable and polished, and it’s an easy routine to keep up regularly in the mornings.

    Whatever you decide is best for you, I think consistency matters. One of my past coworkers usually worn full makeup to the office. (It wasn’t always subtle…think electric blue eyeshadow.) She wasn’t the most punctual, and on days when she was running late, she would skip the makeup entirely. Having polished days and off days wasn’t good.

  44. Christine*

    Sorry if this has been asked already…way too many comments to read through ATM.

    Any advice about makeup for those who wear glasses? My prescription is VERY strong, thus my lenses are on the thicker side. I do occasionally wear makeup, but never on my eyes because mascara gets in the way. Might this look incomplete?

    1. Stephanie*

      A lot depends on the frames themselves. If you’ve got a really bold frame (color or style wise), I’d go conservative on the eye makeup since you already have something drawing attention to your eyes. Also, well-groomed brows are key.

      I’ve gotten away without wearing mascara, but I do have very short lashes.

      There are tons of YouTube tutorials!

    2. RLS*

      My glasses aren’t thick, but I do have long lashes.

      This is what I do:

      -light mascara, nothing volumizing or lengthening. Just definition.
      -very simple brown or blonde eyeliner, just to the corners. nothing fancy.
      -simple, matte eyeshadow. Light base, complementary crease, and maybe a brow/corner highlight

      I don’t do anything to my lower lid or lash. All of this is just or the upper lid.

      Note: I have almond-shaped eyes, I’m blonde, and my lashes are the weirdest I’ve ever seen (blonde roots and tips with dark brown/black shafts…mascara can really suck sometimes)

      I’ve also tried not doing any eye makeup at all, but I found that then my eyes looked dull, with this oddly flawless skin and my frames that I picked specifically to look good in professional settings. Putting a bit of color and contrast in my eyes makes them REALLY stand out without going overboard. You can hardly tell I’m wearing anything at all.

      My frames are also soft-square (?!…not hard right angles, but not cat-eye either) and full frames. They’re brown. My skin can get extra-pale in winter, and overdoing it on makeup was just as bad as none at all. I found that doing the lower part of the eye drew too much attention to me wearing makeup at all.

      Hope that helps!

      1. TL*

        my eyelashes are pretty much the same.

        They do look awesome in profile with the sun shining through them… the blond tips really catch the light! (I spend a lot of time in my car.)

    3. Leslie Yep*

      I am bespectacled, and also have just GIANT eyes (think Disney Princess, seriously, like half my face is just eyes) so if I wear makeup with my glasses, I go for very neutral to add dimension.

      I have eyeliner in dark khaki (light grayish brown), and brown or charcoal mascara, then a shadow set in very neutral (four shades all very close to my skin but one brighter, one more matte, one pinker, one oranger). Gives my face a little dimension without calling out an already prominent feature in an unflattering way.

    4. A Bug!*

      I have thick glasses! And I don’t wear mascara at all.

      Most days I use eyeliner, a thin line of dark brown (my hair color) just along the lash line on the upper lid.

      Some days I’ll take a powder eyeliner (same color) and an eyeliner brush (a flat one with an angled tip), and apply the eyeliner from underneath the lashes, dabbing it in so that it fills in the space between the lashes.

      Some days I will do both. When I want to get fancy, I do the second one first, and then I use a colored eyeliner on both the top and partway along the bottom lash line.

      That said, I’m not fashionable by any means. I like how thick eyeliner looks on other people (I think Flo from those insurance commercials is the bee’s knees), so my “look” is just a really, really watered down version of the vintage look that a lot of derby girls tend to rock.

      Oh and, if you use facial powder, wet your fingertips and wipe your lashes off between your fingers (or use a lash curler – this might also help keep them from brushing your lenses). A tiny amount of powder always clings to my lashes and it makes a difference when I remember to wipe them off.

    5. Natalie*

      My glasses have a subtle cat-eye shape and black plastic frames – not hipster-thick, but noticeable. I think you are probably a-ok without eye makeup. I’m terrible at putting it on so I don’t bother, and I think I look fine with blush, powder, and tinted lip balm. If you have thin eyebrows, or even just a thin spot in your eyebrows, you might try an eyebrow pencil to fill them out.

    6. Marina*

      I actually am more likely to use eye makeup because of my glasses–I feel like my eyes are more likely to get lost in my face. I wear a waterproof mascara and leave my glasses off for 30 seconds while it dries and never have any trouble.

      I think it’s a personal preference. I like how my eyes look under glasses with shadow, a touch of liner, and mascara. YMMV. If you like how your eyes look without mascara, go with it.

    7. Jubilance*

      I have glasses and due to one eye being weaker than the other, I have a thicker lens on one side. but I’ve never let it stop me from wearing eye makeup – its actually my favorite place to wear makeup. Generally its not a problem for me, in terms of product getting on my glasses, especially mascara.

    8. TheSnarkyB*

      I’m not sure what you mean by “mascara gets in the way” but I know that with mascara on, my eyelashes actually hit the lenses which I find hilarious if annoying.
      When I’m wearing my glasses (more cat-eye shaped frames), I make a point to do the Light Shadow on lid, Dark Shadow in crease, Lightest Shadow subtle on brow bone thing. It adds like 4 minutes to my routine so I don’t like to train people to expect it from me otherwise, but with the glasses on, it really does make sure my eyes still stand out as mucha s with contacts.
      Beware: I’ve been told that my lids have a lot of “work space” by my makeup crazy friend who does stuff for me, so the 3 different shades of brown never look overdone. On someone with less “canvas” between the lashes and the brows, this advice may fail miserably.

      1. Sascha*

        I’m one of those people with less “workspace” lol. Also my eyes are dark brown and my brows almost black, so if I put on that much brown, I’d look like a raccoon. :)

    9. Christine*

      Wow, thanks everybody for the replies!

      SnarkyB – Hitting the lenses was what I meant by “getting in the way”.

      I should mention that I’m pretty clueless when it comes to makeup; I keep my makeup very simple and just use what my mom gives me (she has TONS of makeup supplies!) But this is all still good info; I just need to learn how to do eye makeup now, lol.

      1. Kelly O*

        I wear glasses and tend to keep it a little simpler, mainly because you just don’t see it as much, and my glasses are more “statement” – which is my preference.

        I also try to stay away from the bottom lid. I’m finding as I get older that it can make me look like I have a black eye by the end of the day.

      2. Sascha*

        If your lashes are hitting the lenses I wouldn’t do mascara at all. I just started wearing glasses, and I got some big, chunky plastic frames (that I adore), and I found the best makeup for me is a light black eyeliner and a shimmery nude on the lid. That’s it. No shading, no contouring, none of that. I’m terrible at the shading and contouring anyway and it takes too long.

        P.S. I have very dark brown eyes, black lashes, fair skin, and dark eyebrows, if that helps to know. Choose your nude shade and eyeliner accordingly.

        1. Jamie*

          Me too – same eye coloring. I love just a light ivory on the lid, makes me look more alert – or a shimmery nude for going fancy. I only differ in that I use a dark brown liner and not black.

          It’s the magic combo – once I figured out what works for me it’s so hard to mix it up even when I want to do something new.

          1. Sascha*

            Yeah, I rarely get away from my combo. Sometimes I’ll add deep purple lining the lid if I’m really feeling fancy and wild (for those hot date nights with the husband at Red Lobster).

      3. Rana*

        I have the hitting-the-lenses problem, and what I do – if I bother with eye make-up at all – is clear mascara. One, it doesn’t smear on the lenses in the same way; two, it separates the lashes and makes them look tidier; and three, if you push up on the lashes while applying it, you can add a slight bit of curl that helps with the “hitting” part. The clear version of the Maybelline in the pink tube with green cap is cheap and very good.

        Other than that, I mostly just wear lip balm if I wear anything, except for fancy occasions. (I actually love eye shadow, but it can be irritating.)

  45. Marmite*

    I don’t wear make up to work because I have a very active job with a lot of time spent outdoors and it’s just really not practical. I wear sunscreen and try to keep my hair looking neat but that’s it. I wouldn’t want a job where I was required to wear make up, but I do make sure I look neat and tidy for interviews and, if I remember, put on some mascara. I’m lucky to have “good” skin so the oily/shiny face isn’t an issue for me.

    Personally, I feel more confident without make up, so I wouldn’t want to go to interview with much on or it’d make me feel more nervous! I don’t think lack of make-up has ever counted against me at interviews, but I guess if it has I’m glad I didn’t end up working for the manager that counted me out because of lack of make-up!

    1. Sascha*

      That’s about how I feel. If someone can’t handle me with no makeup on, then I don’t really want to be associated with them.

  46. Anon reader*

    I personally feel like anyone can look professional with or without makeup. As long as you look polished and clean and wear appropriate clothing then it should be fine. That said, the worls’s not ideal, so you have to make decisions on what you’re willing to concede on.

    To throw my hat in the ring, I don’t wear makeup to work, and I never have. Never worn it to interviews either. I haven’t plucked my eyebrows, and maybe I have uneven skin, but I look in the mirror and like what I see and feel comfortable, and that’s what’s important to me. I also don’t straighten my hair, which is an issue all it’s own when it comes to arguing what looks professional, but I’ve decided that I dot want a job that would reject my education and skills because I don’t wear makeup and my hair isn’t straight. To me, it’s not a matter of right or wrong, but a matter of comfort and setting my terms for what I’ll compromise on for a job. I’ll wear a suit, make sure I keep myself neat and present myself well, but otherwise I don’t personally budge, and I don’t think anyone should have to if that’s not what they want to do, whether it’s a preference or a political statement or just because they can’t find makeup in their skin tone.

    Sadly, the reality of the situation warrants sometimes having to making those kinds of personal concessions if you just need to get a job and don’t want to take the risk of hurting your chances. It just sucks that women get disproportionality have to make these decisions about things that apparently affect how competent or professionally we’ll be perceived when it really shouldn’t matter. Makeup is fun. I do wear it occasionally, but I shouldn’t have to think about how it affects my career. *sigh*

    1. Anon reader*

      And not say I think makeup is wrong or anything. I just wore some for a fancy occasion and was comfortable and thought it looked great. I think wearing and buying makeup can be fun :) I just don’t like when it becomes less of a fun personal preference and more of a requirement (especially when it has no bearing on your work and there are other ways to indicate professionality). Also I commute by foot and train to work, by the time I’d get to work I’d sweat all of my makeup off haha

  47. Kathryn T.*

    I never used to wear makeup except on stage — I’m a performer. Then I started wearing it to rehearsals and virtually immediately started getting twice as much work. It’s depressing, but what can you do.

    My “full makeup” face involves 12 products; face primer, concealer, foundation, powder, blush, eyelid primer, 3 colors of eyeshadow (crease/lid/highlight), eyeliner, mascara, lipstick. Sometimes if I have a long gig, I’ll add lip primer and lipliner to that. This is the same routine onstage and off, I just use different shades and more of them when I do my onstage makeup. But I’ve also developed a “casual” face, which is primer, powder, eyelid primer, 1 shade eyeshadow, mascara, and lipstick. I have never used a BB cream but now I’m considering it; my cheeks and nose get very red, while the rest of me is ghostly pale.

    Finding a good daytime lipstick was the best thing ever. I have a FANTASTIC show lipstick — I can put it on at 5, eat a meal, suck down a liter of water, sing a three hour show, go out for drinks afterwards, and still have it look great at midnight — but it’s so bold it really gives one pause in every day light. But now, copper eyeshadow + the perfect mauvey neutral lipstick, and I look put together without looking like Joan Rivers.

    1. Claire*

      What brand is your fantastic lipstick? I’m very into the bold lip and am constantly running to the bathroom to check/reapply :(

      1. Kathryn T.*

        Make Up Forever in Moulin Rouge. I also have been experimenting with OCC Lip Tar to good effect.

        1. Claire*

          Thanks! My best results so far have been MAC creme lipsticks, but I’m always on the lookout for new products :)

    2. Zxyn*

      Which lipstick is that? I’m always on the look out for a lipstick that can withstand eating and drinking. Please share :)

      1. Kathryn T.*

        See above! Makeup Forever (not sure if colors besides Moulin Rouge have the same staying power) and OCC Lip Tar. Both are fiendishly expensive, I’ll warn you, in the $18-$22 range.

        1. Zxyn*

          I have the OCC Lip Tar (in NSFW–a red) and it doesn’t last nearly as long as I thought it would given the hype and the texture. It definitely can’t withstand a meal on me. But I will try the MUFE shade :)

          1. Kathryn T.*

            I have to take the MUFE off with Vaseline and soap. I have the NSFW Lip Tar and it does wear well, but not as well as the MUFE.

  48. Amy*

    I’ve had this discussion many times with my friends, and we’ve all got varied opinions, but as someone who doesn’t wear makeup for anything other than special occasions or “date night,” I really think it’s all about 1. looking polished, like AAM said, and 2. setting expectations.

    I am well-groomed and take great care of my skin, teeth and hair. I am incredibly diligent about keeping my eyebrows and nails looking clean and neat. But I don’t wear makeup to work and never have. I don’t like having to put it on, and I don’t think it makes much of a difference in my appearance, so I don’t waste my time on it and instead sleep a little longer (and I look well-rested!)

    So I’ve set my “default” look as no-makeup, and if I”m wearing it, it’s noticeable, just as if your “default” is just mascara or a full face of makeup. People will notice something is up if you deviate from your norm, but otherwise people with any amount of brains and tact won’t nitpick on something like that.

  49. Liz T*

    The tl;dr of this is “it differs from person to person!”

    The story: I was just a groomswoman in an old dear friend’s wedding. Another groomswoman, whom I’ve known half my life, showed up beforehand and asked if I thought she should put on make-up. For a moment I wanted to shake her–this was an important, formal event for our friends, and every other dame in the wedding party had already gone Full Face. I told her she’d probably feel more dressed-up if she did, so she slapped on a tiny bit of eye shadow…and looked incredible. I felt so dumb for inwardly sneering at her question; she would have looked ABSURD wearing all the make-up I was wearing, and as it was she looked perfect.

    So…it differs from person to person!

    1. Sascha*

      Yep, a family friend tried to slather me with makeup on my wedding day (at the behest of my mother), and it looked TERRIBLE since I don’t wear makeup on a regular basis. I got her to tone it down but I still don’t like how I look in my wedding photos. She looked good going full face; I looked like a little girl playing with Mom’s makeup kit.

  50. Jackie*

    An excellent question! I never wear makeup either beyond a little lip gloss; I’d been wondering about this myself.

  51. Leslie Yep*

    If you’ve never done make up before, friends and cosmetics counters are great resources (all mentioned above) but so is youtube! That’s how I’ve learned pretty much everything I know how to do, and there are often multiple examples of each makeup “skill” so you can usually pick someone who resembles you so the skills translate more readily. There are also several videos of a basic full routine.

    You can also get into some more wild and creative looks for less professional occasions, or just for fun on a weekend when you’re hanging out at home. I typically learn by reading, but in this case seeing the video and being able to visualize every aspect really helped as an absolute newbie.

    1. fposte*

      I will try things from YouTube in the privacy of my home that I would never let anyone do to me at a cosmetics counter.

      Which sounds much more interesting than I meant it, but whatever.

  52. Marina*

    I think it depends on your industry and location. I live in the Pacific Northwest, and outside of a few more formal industries like law or media almost nobody wears more than a touch of makeup. When I had an internship on the east coast, though, I felt like makeup (and more formal clothes, as well) was basically required.

    In terms of interviews, I think one thing it’s easy to overlook is your fingernails. Clean your fingernails before you go in. The first thing everybody does in any interview is shake hands.

    1. Marmite*

      Yes! Even when I worked as a nanny (a while back now) working for rich East Coast families meant dressing up for work while working for rich West Coast families meant jeans and t-shirt were just fine. I always preferred the latter, proper work clothes while running around after small children isn’t the most practical.

  53. Jubilance*

    I love makeup, but for many years in my first career I didn’t wear it to work. I worked in a lab with all men & it seemed silly to spend time doing my face when I’d go to work in jeans & safety shoes. Now that I’ve switched careers & I work in a more professional environment, I do a simple “day” face that takes 5 mins or less. Tinted moisturizer, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, bronzer (in the summer), blush and a tinted lip gloss. It seems like a lot, but it really is super easy & quick, and I feel more professional and put together. It’s really light & often people don’t even notice that I have anything on.

    1. TheSnarkyB*

      Jubilance – can you tell me about your tinted moisturizer? I’d like to go light-coverage for the summer and your skin looks great in your thumbnail pic! (It looks like we have similar complexions but I can’t exactly tell from here.)

      1. jubileejones*

        @ Jubilance: I second that request for more details re: your tinted moisturizer.

  54. AmyAnyman*

    OK, I guess I’m going to be the one unpopular jerk to voice the opinion that barring some kind of major medical issue, makeup is absolutely a must, at least for an interview.

    I am personally very pale, with dyed dark hair. My brows are also so light and sparse that they’re almost invisible, so I look kind of like a space alien if I don’t take time to pencil them in. And my pale skin shows every blemish, so concealer has to happen.

    But I made my point initially because I think makeup is necessary even if you’re not pale and browless like me. When you go to an interview, you want to put your absolute best foot forward. Traditionally, makeup is a sign that you have put in a little bit of extra effort to look polished, and to elevate your appearance to something fitting an important formal event. I think of makeup as a suit for your face. I know men don’t have to wear makeup. But I think for women the perception is that you could have, and if you don’t, it can been seen as an indicator that you didn’t care enough put in that effort. Again, I’m not saying I necessarily agree with this, but I’m saying that not wearing makeup can be viewed as a statement in and of itself. And just like I wouldn’t use an interview as a place to make a statement by wearing an unnatural hair color, or showing a tattoo, I wouldn’t go in without my full face on.

    1. Kate in Scotland*

      But again, it depends on industry and region (and of course your personal level of comfort – in your case it sounds like you wouldn’t feel dressed without eyebrows, which is perfectly reasonable). I was an engineer, and make-up was just not a priority for an interview, even though putting on a (trouser) suit was expected.

    2. Amy*

      (I’m not the same Amy as above.)

      I disagree. I actually think that women who wear makeup (even what they seem to think is “subtle” or “natural” makeup) look sort of silly. I really feel guilty about being judgmental, but my gut reaction when I see a woman wearing makeup is that she’s probably sort of vain and unserious. I really try to fight against my first instinct, because I know it’s unfair, but my gut reaction is that women who wear makeup are less smart and less likely to take their jobs seriously, because they’re too focused on their looks. I wouldn’t reject a job candidate because she wore makeup, but it certainly doesn’t make a good impression on me.

      Bottom line: if you’re wearing makeup to impress other people or to change their perception of you, know that opinions vary on this. It may make some people think better of you, but it will also make some people think worse of you. So do what you like for yourself, not because you’re hoping it will make people think you’re better at your job.

      1. GaGirl*

        I totally agree with your last points about being yourself, but I wish you didn’t think a woman was not as smart or serious simply because they wear makeup. You do acknowledge that’s not fair and I am glad you recognize that. I just hope you don’t penalize people for it.

        I’m a lipstick junkie. I’m also from the South and according to my great grandmother, you didn’t go out without “putting on your face,” (even if that was just wearing lipstick) and that’s stuck with me. I’ll wear that even if I’m not wearing anything else on my face. But I am smart and VERY serious, particularly about my career. I just like lipstick. A lot!

        1. Amy*

          I really try hard not to go with my first impression, but rather to actually get to know people.

          Which is why it makes me really angry when people say that not wearing makeup is a signal that you don’t care about your job. Because I try hard to get over the snap judgment I tend to make that people who paint their faces are vain and shallow, I hope that other people are trying equally hard to get over their snap judgments that women who choose to wear the faces they were born with are doing so to “make a statement.”

  55. Anonymous*

    II’ve never not worn makeup to work, as my mom instilled in me that my acne was offputting and needed to be covered up. And other women, especially young women, often judge their female peers who don’t wear makeup, calling it lazy or gross. I’d feel uncomfortable and self-concious without makeup. But my lips recently developed an allergy to most lip sticks and glosses, even stains will give me a rash if I wear them often. It was hard to give up my signature red lipped look, but I got used to it. Probably best to sport natural lips in the office anyway.

    On this topic, what do people think about hair lengths? Is waist length hair okay as long as it’s well taken care of? What about very short hair on women? I used to have very long hair, and in hindsight I wonder if it hurt me in interviews (made me look like a hippie maybe), and now I have short hair, maybe halfway between my ears and shoulders, and I like it but I wonder if it makes me look too “cute” and childish.

    Doesn’t help that I have a very young face, I’m 24 and I look about 16.

    Finally, I hate that there’s so much debate about what women should or shouldn’t wear in the office. It feels like women, no matter where they work, are under a good bit of scrutiny, with people either playing Fashion Police and bad-mouthing their colleagues (“oh my god, what is she wearing?” “did you see that skirt?” “the 90’s called, they want their X back” “seriously”) or treating bare legs, bare arms, or bare faces like some scandal. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have some standards or that women shouldn’t look neat and clean, but maybe we can afford to back off a little.

    1. RLS*

      I have waist-length-plus hair (and I’m trying to grow it further to classic length). It’s never been a problem as I almost always keep it up or back…and in fact is the best way for me to preserve it to grow, as my hair is very fine. I don’t think hair of any length is a problem as long as it’s groomed and contained. I get many compliments on my natural, un-styled, not-recently-trimmed-ends, and ridiculously long hair…and yep, I’m one of those crazies that never want to cut it…I’ve had short hair in the past. Not for me.

    2. RLS*

      and I missed the last paragraph (tired!)

      Hear, hear! Double standards are ridiculous–men just have to not have wrinkled clothes (and can even get away with those), but women have to look pristine, like we have to earn our keep in the office by looking good.

      I wear shorts and sandals at work. My legs are bare and almost always in some stage of stubble. If someone has a problem with my constantly bruised and scraped legs and blonde leghair because I’m female, I invite them to bring up the same issue with the ape-men I work with that don’t know how to shower and you’d swear had dark complexions because of the amount of fur they’re allowed to display.

  56. Ask a Manager* Post author

    For anyone who’s blonde or redheaded or otherwise has nearly-invisible eyelashes:

    If you find that you always want to wear mascara because otherwise you appear to have no eyelashes at all, try having your eyelashes tinted. (Professionally; I wouldn’t try doing this on your own.) I’ve been doing it for years and I LOVE it. It’s a dramatic difference for those of us whose lashes would otherwise disappear into our skin tones.

      1. BeenThere*

        I LOVE IT sooo much, eyebrows too!

        It can take a little getting used to but it’s so worth it, I think it make any blemish look less because it’s no longer the darkest thing on my face. Make sure you find an excellent beautician to do it, I’ve been to some (in Houston) who appear to have no training at all. Some of the best tips I’ve been given to ensure you don’t get tint in the eye are:

        1) gently close the eyes, don’t squeeze them shut as that can push tint inwards
        2) while your eyes are closed star at you imaginary third eye it will give you something else to think about rather than focusing on your eye

  57. FD*

    I think a lot of it too is down to how you feel. If you feel mature, confident, and put together, it goes farther than any makeup, hairstyle, or article of clothing ever can. Attitude can’t completely compensate for a lack of these things (you can’t come to an interview covered in dirt and with ripped jeans on and expect your attitude to cover for it). But the most polished look in the world won’t do much good unless you feel confident (or can fake it plausibly).

  58. anonintheUK*

    I think people would rather I *not* wear makeup. Smudge proof mascara? Ha. I will look like a member of a KISS tribute band within the hour.

    Plus, I apparently have very odd colouring. I am a blue-eyed redhead, but I do not have freckles, nor do I burn. I turn the colour of slightly underdone toast very quickly, and then stay that shade. The last time I went to a make up counter it took me quite a while to convince the saleswoman that yes this was my own hair, and yes this *is* my own skin colour.

  59. Zed*

    To me, this whole post is like walking into another world! I don’t do makeup for ideological reasons (with a side of allergies and “ew, stuff on my face”), and now I kind of feel like I’ve been left out of a club.

  60. Anonymous*

    I’m allergic to makeup and can’t wear it, but this has never hurt my professional career. I am 58 years old and managing a department of 6 employees. What you look like is never as important as your work ethic and how you treat others.

  61. Cat P.*

    I have ridiculously sensitive skin and have to be really careful with make-up (so I almost never wear it). I get rashes on my eyes and other odd reactions. I use some concealer and lipstick (and groom my eyebrows), and generally hope it’s sufficient to look “professional” since there isn’t anything I can do about it.

  62. Nikki T. (formerly Nikki, gettin a little crowded)*

    It actually never occurred to me in college or after to put on makeup for work. I never wore it then and beyond lip gloss, if I find it lying around, it rarely crosses my mind.

    Only ever thought about it in terms of dating, never wear it then either though….

  63. another anonymous*

    I’m a minimal-makeup kinda gal (usually just mascara + a chunky eye pencil in a neutral- sometimes very slightly shimmery – color, love sephora brand ones or urban decay; on a dress-up day a mineral powder foundation).

    I’ll just add that for me – 30, pale with dark brown/red hair and sensitive skin – investing in the right skincare products has made a major difference. I spend a fair amount on philosophy products in particular (I’ve found that no other eye cream works on my dark circles like their “eye hope”) and they are amazing. I get compliments on my skin – now that’s a sign something’s working.

  64. Another Emily*

    I almost never wear make-up. I’ll put moisturizer on my face if my skin feels dry, but you pretty much have to get married to get me to put anything else on (and even then it’s eye shadow, mascara and lipstick only). I have pretty strong feelings about how women in our society are expected to lo0k good for others at all times, but the main reason I don’t wear makeup is because I don’t like how it feels on my face. I work in a very casual industry where makeup is not expected. I am a professional and I look and feel professional at work. So, that’s me.

    What about you? I couldn’t quite tell from your letter if you do or do not want to wear make-up. I think whether or not it’s expected depends on the industry. It probably will be expected if you’re a lawyer, but not if you’re in mining. If you do want to wear make-up but just lack the confidence in how to apply it well, maybe find a well made-up friend of yours and ask her to show you some tricks? If you don’t want to wear make-up then I agree with the commenter upthread who said stick to your guns. Women can and do look professional without it and it shouldn’t be required.

  65. Cassie*

    I met a ballet teacher who felt that every female should wear makeup to ballet class – she actually yelled at us for looking sloppy (in her opinion). Of course, she was of the older generation who wore blue eyeshadow and noticeable blush.

    I wear minimal makeup – my skin tone is splotchy at times, so I like wearing Neutrogena Skin Clearing makeup (similar consistency to foundation, but lighter; contains salicylic acid) and a little bit of eyeliner. Nothing too noticeable but just to darken my sparse eyelashes a bit. And lipsmackers lip balm which has just a touch of color.

    Most of the women in my office do not wear makeup, or wear very very minimal. One woman wears purplish eyeshadow, but aside from her, everyone else is pretty “bare” :)

    1. Lora*

      Huh? I mean, I dance, including ballet a couple times per week, and I can’t imagine wearing makeup to class. It’s seriously physically demanding exercise, right up there with any gym class or martial art you care to name, everyone walks out of the studio covered in sweat and smelling like a mixture of armpits and feet, and runs to either the locker room or home to peel off their gross sticky tights and leotards and shower. Some studios do have dress codes for adults, but they’re typically no more than “long hair tied up, pink tights are better so we can see your alignment”. One studio I went to for a while wanted your leo/tights/warmups/skirt to match, but that was pretty extreme for an adult class–the ritzier studios I’ve taken classes from, where professional companies rehearse in the room across the hall, only ask that you show up not naked, with slippers or pointe shoes on, and figure it’s your own damn problem if you get hair in your mouth or can’t plie in jeans.

      Off topic kinda, but another point of female appearance contention: I HATE high heels and live mostly in bare feet, slippers or low-heeled boots, but ballroom dance heels are actually quite comfy, spiffy looking and not terribly expensive. Should you find yourself required to wear heels for whatever occasion, you can get nice ones for $50-60 from dance supply places. The toe box is soft and shaped for actual feet, the soles are flexible so you can move your feet around rather than holding your feet in one position, and the heels are slightly flared at the bottom so they don’t get stuck in sewer gratings and you can actually keep your balance. No blisters, no weird unbalanced walking, no chafing, no squished toes, foot cramps or bunions.

      Seriously, I am THE WORST at even walking down the hall in regular pumps without falling on my rear, but ballroom dance shoes, 3″ strappy heels are no problem at all.

      1. The IT Manager*

        ballroom dance heels are actually quite comfy, spiffy looking and not terribly expensive. Should you find yourself required to wear heels for whatever occasion, you can get nice ones for $50-60 from dance supply places

        I may try this next time I buy heels (which will be never if I am can help it) because I find it impossible to find comfortable heels and have wasted way too much on shoes I can barely wear. Thanks.

        1. 22dncr*

          For really cheap name brand dance shoes (and other dance supplies) try – he has most of his stuff for $10 and he has ballroom and skating (hello Elizabeth West!) stuff.
          As for makeup in class – I go back and forth on it. Right now I’m wearing it. I was taught that sweat on the face is bad so I always have a towel with me to dab it off. When I was dancing professionally I found that the choreographers were more apt to choose me if I wore it (otherwise I look like a corpse!) so I did. You do whatever you have to to get that notice!

          1. Lora*

            Do you have, like, special sweat-proof makeup? Like theater makeup? I mean, if I wore regular makeup to class my whole face would have dripped onto my feet after half an hour. On the other hand, I can totally see the value in wearing more or less what you’d wear in a performance, just to get used to the feeling of having it on your skin. I have a couple of dresses I wear to class that are similar to my “fancy” dress so I’ll get the feel of how to move in them.

            I don’t dance professionally though, I am a rank amateur :)

            1. Jamie*

              My mother was an amateur ballet dancer. Would take classes when she could and when she couldn’t it was her favorite form of exercise around the house.

              She had the most perfect posture and the most graceful movements of anyone I’ve ever met. Taking folded towels to the linen closet or unloading groceries she just seemed to glide.

              Always did make me feel like Quasimodo in comparison – I’d be happy to make it through a week without bumping into my office door (and apologizing to it before I realize it’s not a person.)

              My point? Ballerina’s never sweat – they glow…seriously.

            2. Cassie*

              There’s a spray (can’t remember what it’s call) that you can use over your stage makeup so it won’t run. I’ve never used it but I saw Clara and the Nutcracker prince spraying their faces with it. I think it comes in an aerosol can like hairspray – but don’t mix the two up!

            3. 22dncr*

              I just use the tinted face powder that I used to use to set my makeup when performing. I always found that pancake by Max Factor stayed on through all kinds of sweat. You just have to find the type (greasepaint, pancake, etc.) that works for you. A visit to a Performing Arts Supply store that carries make-up is invaluable! Hint: it’s also a way to get regular make-up that will last because it’s ment to survive hot lights and sweat. The eye shadow is much cheaper than Dept Stores and will last longer and look better than just about anything you can OTC.

      2. Cassie*

        We were teens and college-aged (this was a summer program). She thought we looked sleepy, which was (in her opinion) disrespectful to the teachers.

        Of course, no one listened to her about the makeup – well, some boys joked about showing up in class with makeup like she “demanded” but they didn’t. (Thankfully – I don’t think that would have gone over well with her).

        When I took dance class, I would wear a little powder to even out my complexion, but I sweat a lot so I probably wiped most of it off anyway. I also tended to turn bright red which I hated.

      3. BeenThere*

        OMG thank you! I am so trying this, I am very practical and refuse to wear anything that causes me pain or discomfort. There a good reason I became an engineer.

  66. Flynn*

    I find this entire thread terrifying and baffling, but the most baffling of all is a comment in the original post.

    How does one “groom” eyebrows? Is there some special little brush? Is this only for people with bushy dwarf brows or is everyone meant to groom them?

    1. Cruella DaBoss*

      LOL….Yes, there is a special little brush, at the very least. I personally prefer groomed eyebrows on women, but there are a few men here that could use it too.

      1. Jamie*

        Sing it sister – my husband could stand a little brush and gel but will not succumb.

    2. Calla*

      Ha! There’s different kinds of grooming. Yes, depending on your eyebrow type, there’s an eyebrow brush and you might want to use it — I don’t have bushy eyebrows but the hairs are long and sometimes they can stick up/lay funny. There’s also clear gels you can use to get them to lay flat/smooth out (I fill mine in so that takes care of smoothing them). Or, for example, since I pluck my eyebrows, “groomed” would also mean I don’t want to go to an interview with stray hairs visible — that wouldn’t look good.

      So not everyone needs it but more than just the bushy eyebrow types benefit from it.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The little brush and/or clear eyebrow gel, which keeps them in place and not going in multiple directions. Makes a difference, weirdly.

      Oh, and not wildly bushy, like a Muppet. So plucking or trimming if needed.

  67. Claire*

    What does “hair neatly styled” actually mean? I hear a lot that its important for women to have a “polished” look but I have naturally curly hair and short of spending 2 hrs straightening it (I’m kind of incompetent in that dept) I worry that it’s not very “professional.” I do my best to control the frizz but its always a little wild.

    I don’t care for every day in the office but I sometimes worry about first impressions and important meetings. Can curly hair be “professional”?

    1. The IT Manager*

      Well … I have short, fine, straight hair and live in the land of heat and humidity. For me, I assume polished/professional means I control my fly aways … usually by putting gel in my hair which I only do when I am trying to control those hairs that don’t want to lay neatly.

      It would be different for you because if I had curly hair (and I wish I did) I would not be straightening it. Or maybe not so different because I’d think first step for you would be to control the frizz. (Yes, much easier said than done especially in the summer humidity.) Wild doesn’t sound so professional either, but I know I have seen women with curly hair manage to look professional. I’ve got no actual advice to offer on how though.

      I wish my hair had some body to it. Grass is always greener… :)

    2. Jamie*

      Absolutely curly hair can be professional…and add me to the rosters of straight haired women who are envious.

      Speaking for myself neatly styled means clean and not unkempt.

      I have long thin and baby fine hair. If I have to crawl under someone’s desk to fix some cabling or wiring or setting up a computer in a dirty and inconvenient area I throw my hair up in a scrunchy messy bun – because it’s just to keep it out of my face while working. As soon as I get to the office I run a comb through it – I wouldn’t be at my desk that way.

      But have you ever worked with someone where you can’t tell the last time they brushed their hair or it looks visibly dirty? Those to me are the big faux pas to avoid.

      And a high pony. I do a high pony on my days off and when in the car and stuff – but if I pony tail it at work it’s low and with either a muted hair tie or a barrette. Less teenager more professional.

    3. fposte*

      The specifics will vary with the hair–curly hair actually gives you more latitude, because the stringy/split ends thing on straight hair shows up fast and visibly and curly hair independence bothers its owner more than it does people looking at it. But basically you should look like you groom it–that you brush it, clean it on a regular basis, and have it cut. How often is enough and how cut is cut will depend on the hair–the point is that you include it in your regular grooming and hygiene and don’t just grow it long because then you don’t have to pay any attention to it.

      I think that we subconsciously “read” hair as representing people’s general hygiene, because it’s more legible than skin. That’s why I think with super-long hair, for instance, it’s good to include signs that say “I give a damn,” like tidy pieces around your face or a crisp trim line, and why it can be good to up the “I give a damn” signs in your clothing if your hairstyle doesn’t say it so clearly.

  68. Shannon*

    If there was ANY way I could look remotely presentable without makeup, I would jump on it in a heartbeat, and not think twice about coming to work! Men don’t wear makeup to work….

  69. D*

    There is a manager in my company that wore the same pair of scuffed boots (winter and summer, every day) for the first year she worked here. Yes, I though her to be a bit thoughtless and wondered how far the thoughtlessness stretched. I now work for her and she has since bought some shoes. And yes, she’s a bit thoughtless (and legitimately stretched pretty thin); I remain thankful that she doesn’t micro-manage me however.

    Yes, appearance sends a message.

    1. Lora*

      OMG, if you hadn’t said that she eventually got shoes, I would have thought you were my employee. I still wear my scuffed boots. Which are awesome, thank you.

      I am totally scatterbrained and stretched too thin, too.

  70. Stephanie*

    I can’t find the specific comments, but a couple of people upthread complained about patchy eyebrows. The threaders always recommend castor oil. I have the opposite problem of giant eyebrows, so I’ve never tried it, but castor oil seems to work well on my hair for growth, so could be worth a try!

  71. Bee*

    A million people seem to have put in their two cents re: makeup, but I just wanted to add this here – I am lucky enough to have passable coloring without product and work in a casual environment, so I do not wear makeup to work. However, when I want to do a “natural” look, I use a little brown mascara and Revlon Colorstay Overtime lipcolor in a shade just a bit darker than my natural lipcolor. Those two products alone add just enough contrast to my features to make me look “done”.

    I have always hated lipstick but the Colorstay Overtime stuff converted me because a) once you put the sealer on, it doesn’t feel like lipstick, or really like anything at all, and b) because it really does stay put for 12-16 hours at a time. I have been known to eat, drink, make out and sleep in it and when I wake up the next day it’s still there, yet it comes off easily with a makeup remover.

    I do have a friend who has oilier skin who says Colorstay Overtime doesn’t stick to her as well as it does to me, so YMMV.

  72. Kathryn T.*

    If this conversation is still ongoing, I have a mascara question.

    I have long, thick, full eyelashes. Which is lovely, don’t get me wrong, but when I put mascara on them, they turn into Big Whomping Porn Star Drag Queen Lashes. This is great for my stage work, but not so good for meeting my kid’s teacher or going to church. But if I wear eye makeup and *no* mascara, my eyes don’t look finished. Right now I sort of cheat it by just hitting my very outside lashes, but is there a better way to deal?

    1. Risa*

      Try using a lighter shade mascara – like brown, instead of black. That may look more natural, and less over the top. Either that or use clear mascara – gives it a little oomph, but relies on your natural lash color.

    2. Jamie*

      I also have lashes that look exaggerated with normal mascara usage. I use L’Oreal Voluminous (I’ve tried a million others but I keep coming back – we’re in this for life) and I do a little wiggle at the base of my upper lashes with the brush to plump up the roots and then almost nothing on the tips. Otherwise they hit my glasses and my upper eye.

      Nothing on my lower lashes – the smallest amount over exaggerates them and I end up looking like a middle-aged Betty Boop.

  73. cali7*

    Took the day off work so can comment guilt free. Didn’t read all the comments so sorry if this stuff was already said. Can I comment to Jamie’s PSA without the caveat that it’s not in response to Jamie’s PSA (really glad you posted that and really glad you got the diagnoses and scheduled the treatment you need!)?

    Please note that when a vegetarian is not feeling well, it does not necessarily mean that they are anemic. I’ve been a veggie-type since freshman year of college (10+ years) and am not anemic. Have never been anemic. Actually hid my vegetarianism from my college running coaches for three years because they talked so much about how bad it was. Almost every time it seems i go to a new medical practitioner (rural area, doctors, etc. leave on a regular basis) they suggest as soon as I mention that I’m a vegetarian that my problems are due to being anemic or vitamin deficient and send me for blood work. It’s gotten to the point where I almost want to start doctor’s visits with, “I’m not anemic and my thyroid is fine. So here’s what’s been going on.” Okay, /soapbox.

    As far as makeup goes cheap white eye shadow, if your skin isn’t sensitive can help with dark circles as well.

    1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

      It’s way after this thread was posted, but cali7 raised an issue I’ve heard of before.

      A friend of mine used to be vegetarian. He wasn’t feeling right, so went to the doctor. Eventually they figured out that his body has an unusual quirk: it doesn’t make an enzyme needed to convert a substance found in plants into a particular substance our bodies need.

      Eating meat provides this substance (I forget what it was) without any extra conversion step within one’s body, so he went back to eating meat. He’s fine now.

      So if a vegetarian isn’t feeling quite right, perhaps they have a random, subtle difference in their metabolism and need an additional supplement, or particular food added to their diet.
      Heck, they might be getting too much of something and need to back off.

      Apparently each vitamin/mineral in the human system needs to be checked for in it’s own way, so this requires a doctor who knows which types of tests are relevant for which nutrient. For example, there’s a substance (calcium?) *required* for blood to do it’s job, so blood levels won’t drop until stores of this substance have been depleted from the rest of the body’s tissues first. Well, if someone is sick enough for their blood levels to have dropped, they aren’t likely to be booking appointments and living a normal life; at this point, they’re usually in the emergency room. All this comes down to the idea that whoever tests your nutrient levels needs to know How to test for Which substances. A regular blood test can miss important stuff. –wow that was long. I’m done. :)

      1. Stephanie*

        Was he B12 deficient? Alternatively, did the doctor diagnose something called pernicious anemia?

        I’ve got that. Basically, your body lacks a protein that provide for B12 digestion. I went to a doctor complaining about really bad lethargy. I was also a bit depressed, but I assumed this was all due to being in the midst of a job hunt. Some blood tests later and B12 shots, I felt like a different person.

        Red meat has the highest B12 concentration, but it’s present in pretty much all animal products. If I feel a bit sluggish, eating beef jerky (or something similar) makes a world of difference. Unfortunately, it’s not really curable, so I just have to stay on top of regular supplements or shots (and not go vegan).

        And yes, I’d recommend everyone get a full blood panel done (or go to a doctor that does integrative medicine).

        /steps off soapbox/

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That’s true of anyone with any diet though; there could always be some weird nutritional thing going on. It’s not specific to vegetarians (and vegetarianism is generally a far healthier diet).

        1. Stephanie*

          Agreed! I should qualify that that’s a weird physiological quirk /condition (that apparently runs in my family). I wasn’t meeting my levels even eating meat semi-regularly. Vegetarianism doesn’t equal B12 deficiency.

  74. Darcie*

    I swore I would never wear makeup until I read this:

    It basically says that wearing SOMETHING makes you seem more competent in the workplace. Of course it’s BS, but it depends if you want to make that choice. I eventually came around and tried it. I’m still learning. It’s annoying that there is a double-standard that men do not have to do this, but as women, we’re used to that, I suppose.
    One friend of mine said “just know *enough* to get by”, and that helped me come around to the idea of learning. I decided to spend my last semester at university polishing up my image (wearing suits/business casual and makeup) to practice so I would know what to do come interview time. (Also you need time to get used to seeing yourself in dress pants without feeling like a clown) I’m glad I did. That way you have some time to learn how to combine colours, buy clothing/shoes, and learn how to do your makeup for when you need to know.

    I think I agree that manicured nails will do a lot to help you look professional, if your interviewer is the type to notice details.

    1. Miss Displaced*

      I’ve been in the working world for 20+ years and every time I wear a skirt suit or full pant suit I feel like an impostor.

      I don’t know why, since I consider my professional. It’s just that I seldom dress up beyond slacks and nice blouse/shirt. For some reason, suits just feel so fake to me.

  75. helen*

    GREAT question!!! I never heard of BB cream until this post, and now I have some!!!!!!!!!

    Not that anyone needs more suggestions, but eyebrow wax is a MUST, neat hair (whether curly or straight, either is fine) nails manicured, and mascara. That is all you need. And the BB cream! So excited to learn about it!!!

    1. Another Emily*

      I have to say that waxed eyebrows are absolutely not a must. To look professional you just need tidy eyebrows. You don’t need to wax eyebrows to make them look tidy. Eyebrow waxing is a very personal choice that cultivates a specific look.

      1. fposte*

        Ditto to manicured nails, for that matter. In general, this isn’t an area of specific “musts”–it’s an area where you want to be aware of specific professional standards and keep yourself on top of them.

  76. Georgiana Mihalache*

    You should look professional and tidy – makeup is not really necessary. Wear makeup only if you know how to use it and don’t exaggerate – practice before going out of the house and make sure that your makeup is discrete and that you don’t end up looking like a night “diva” or like a clown. Use only quality products and make sure that people notice your face and not your makeup. When they notice the makeup, then it’s too much. Ask some friends for an honest opinion before going out.

    Take care,

  77. SubwayFan*

    I never wore makeup a day in my life until I got a great job at a big corporation. I want to be promoted here, and while getting promoted means working hard, it also means getting noticed by the higher ups, and to stand out in a field of engineers who wear polos and khakis, I wear nicer professional wear, sometimes suits, sometimes nice skirts and cardigans. And I wear a little makeup to show I care how I look. If you’re new to it, I recommend a book called Beauty by Rona Berg that has very simple, easy to follow lessons on wearing makeup and some good advice on hair and skin care. I also watched some videos on YouTube, so I could make sure I was doing things properly. I keep it simple, light pressed powder, brown eyeliner and mascara, and basic eyeshadow. I have noticed the difference in how people look at me, more chat about work, and less about what did I do this weekend.

  78. Flo*

    I have found make-up to be a really issue at my new job. At my first shift the owner asked more to put make-up on when I was already wearing it. The manager has an odd accent and I thought she said, “Don’t put make-up on” when if fact she asked for more make-up. I’m not a big make-up person, will go to lectures e.t.c with just a tiny bit (concealer and natural eye shadow say) but had put on mascara, eye liner, lipstick, foundation to look polished. Apparently not enough though, however I consider a larger amount of make-up to be individual and as the job includes wearing a uniform, I considered that this would not be appropriate. The issue of make-up is it is all down to personal taste and depends upon your skin type e.t.c.

  79. Lori*

    What is it with all you people not wearing makeup? What’s wrong with wearing makeup? When did this happen? I thought most everyone wore makeup unless you’re a farmer. I love wearing makeup. It’s fun and it makes me feel better about myself and I like the way I look with it on. People here are either saying they are too lazy or they never wore it or they don’t have time, etc. Never wore makeup? How old are you? 5? Don’t have time? Wake up a little earlier. I don’t know but I feel I’m on a different planet with all these comments concerning makeup!

    1. Anon.*

      Why does makeup make you feel better about yourself? There is not a need for makeup. I see it as an accessory that you can choose to wear or not to wear. Some people look down on me because I do not wear makeup. I am upset that people think you are lazy or think less of you if you do not wear makeup.

      1. Lori*

        It makes me feel better about myself because I feel like I’m not dressed if I don’t wear it. I don’t want to look like I just woke up in the morning. I like the way I look when I wear makeup. I feel that as a woman it is what you should do. I remember my grandmother one time. I was little and we were getting ready to go to the store. She was putting on lipstick and I asked her why she was putting on lipstick just to go to the store. She said, “Because you never know who you are going to meet.” I mean would you go shopping without doing something with your hair? Would you just roll out of bed and go to the store looking like that? Would you go to the store with your pajamas on? Makeup is part of getting dressed. You can be upset if you want to when I say if I see a woman at the store not wearing makeup too lazy to finish getting dressed but that’s how I see it. If you go on an interview without wearing makeup I would think you aren’t putting enough effort into looking your best. If you can’t put enough effort into getting dressed then how is the prospective employer going to think you will be doing your best on the job? If a woman isn’t going to finish getting dressed and she goes somewhere I am going to see that woman as if she doesn’t care what she looks like. Don’t you feel better about yourself after you go to a salon to get your hair done? Don’t you feel better when you are wearing a new outfit? I don’t go anywhere looking like I just woke up. I believe that first impressions count and if you go out looking sloppy and half dressed what do you think the people are going to think about you? When I see someone like that I think they are a slob. That they don’t care about themselves enough to put some effort into their looks. I’m sorry you feel the way you do about makeup, but that’s how I was raised and I agree with how I was raised on that point. However, I don’t think it should be mandatory that a woman wear makeup on the job, I think a woman should have enough sense to wear it. Just like if you were working in an office of a large corporation. Do you think it should be ok for women to wear jeans with holes in them and wear a halter top? Like I said, people usually judge people on their first impression, whether that is right or wrong that’s how it is. I don’t think the employer would be impressed if you came to work looking like a slob. I believe every woman looks better when they are wearing makeup. I’m sure you have seen before and after pics of women with and without makeup. You can’t tell me honestly they look better without makeup. I’m not saying you should look like a clown either. You should look professional on the job and when you go out shopping, you should want to look like you care about your looks. I’m not saying when you go shopping you should dress as if you were at the office either. Just look like you aren’t a slob.

    2. Linguist curmudgeon*

      All over this thread, you’ve been really judgmental about this. Do you think you are reacting defensively because other people have criticized you for wearing makeup at all, or is something else going on that’s making you lash out this way?

      I ask because there have been a TON of excellent comments here with very good advice, which I plan to refer back to, should I someday take a job that requires me to wear makeup. Yours are not among this number. Think about that, and think, too, about the effect your words may be having on others.

      I know this is a bit tone-policey, but auurrrrrgggghhhh.

  80. Anon.*

    I think it is sad when someone tells you that you “have” to wear makeup. Someone said that to me recently. I replied that I did not see makeup as a need. Their response was, “What are you going to do with your life? People will not take you seriously!”

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