ask the readers: makeup and work

Makeup and work: Do you have to wear it to look professional? How much is too much? Is a smokey eye inappropriate for work? Is it weird to apply it in the office bathroom on mornings when you’re rushed? Should you discreetly suggest your junior colleague stop wearing body glitter?

The comments on this post are open for questions and advice about makeup at work. Have at it…

{ 1,084 comments… read them below }

  1. em*

    Re: applying makeup at work–I think it’s fine to do if it’s a once in a while occasion, where you’re truly running late and have a pretty quick routine. However, the woman at my office who spends 30-45 min in the morning applying a full face of makeup in the bathroom (often emerging with some truly dramatic, although well-done, looks) is probably pushing it…especially considering we are nonsalaried, hourly employees.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      At least your co-worker does it in the bathroom. My former coworker did it at her computer. Right in front of customers.

      1. AKchic*

        I had one coworker who did it at her desk and would spend 60-90 minutes a day applying her full-face make-up for her night job (as a make-up counter girl) at her desk (we didn’t see clients). She would also do her hair (another 15-45 minutes depending on style). 3-5 days a week.
        Supervisor knew, didn’t really care (because she got make-up tips/recommendations/freebies). The bigger bosses were livid whenever they caught her but would let the supervisor “handle” it (they didn’t want to micromanage). Ridiculous cluster all around.

        Part of the problem was the position didn’t have much work to do. The position was an ego stroke for one of the Big C’s. Since she was bored and had nothing to do, make-up occupied her time.

        1. Julia*

          90 minutes? I wouldn’t even know what to apply for ninety minutes, and I usually wear a full face. Maybe I could look MUCH better if I somehow had the skills… and I weren’t so lazy.

      2. myswtghst*

        I watched a new employee spend 15-20 minutes applying a full face of makeup while I ran a training class the other day. I was honestly so shocked I couldn’t say anything in the moment (I did pull her aside later and explain why that could not happen again, but am still baffled I had to tell someone that).

    2. Luna*

      This is especially annoying if your office bathroom is on the small side, and the same person is hogging one of the two sinks for a long period of time.

      1. em*

        We actually only have unisex, single-stall bathrooms so, yes, she takes up a whole bathroom for this.

        1. Snark*

          Is there a reason nobody has been like, yeah, apply your makeup at home, arrive for work and be ready to work? Because this is BONKERS.

          1. Josie*

            My thoughts EXACTLY! The only time I even do a touch-up is if I am going out after work…which has not happened since 2008 :-(

      2. Ama*

        One of the things I like most about the bathroom in my current office is that there are no mirrors over the sinks — the mirror is off to the side in a little alcove and has a shelf underneath, so you can very easily have a few people standing there checking hair and makeup without being in the way of anyone using the facilities.

        This is particularly useful on the day of our annual fundraising gala, when most of the women in my office come to work with no or minimal makeup and then go put on their “formal event” makeup right before we leave to work the fundraiser. But it’s also been nice at the end of the day (particularly on Fridays) when people want to retouch their makeup before going out.

        1. Clever Name*

          That’s the only time I would apply makeup at work, beyond a small touch-up like lip gloss or something. If I’m going to an event after work that is for work, I would put on my evening makeup in the bathroom. But I would do it very late in the day, after everyone left if possible.

        2. Zoe Karvounopsina*

          Our office Christmas party is a costumed affair, with all the teams usually having different themes. Our 2017 theme was greek gods and goddesses, and the ladies (a two stall affair) was full of our team falling over each other as we tried to apply makeup/do our hair/receive body glitter (“I’m not trying to be weird, Zoe, but I need more access to your cleavage.”)

          But it only happens on that day, and it is a whole office thing.

      3. Amber T*

        I had a coworker who would leave her curling things plugged in next to the sink FOR HOURS (she would get into the office at 9ish, start curling her hair anytime between 10 and 1 or 2). Every day she was in the office (~3ish times a week). Keep in mind, if she was in the office, she wasn’t seeing clients. I accidentally splashed water on them once (these electrical things that were plugged in to the wall socket) and freaked out so I panicked and unplugged them. Didn’t really know what to do so I just left them unplugged. It got to the point that if I went to the bathroom early and saw them plugged in, and saw them STILL plugged in over an hour later unused, next to the sink, I unplugged them. Others started getting on board. Before you jump on my case about not touching other people’s belongings (which, I mean, go ahead and do anyway if you really want) –
        – these particular traveling curling things were not meant to be heated up in the light plastic traveling case she was using, so the plastic was constantly melting and causing an awful odor that circulated through the vents. Also – probably a fire hazard.
        – we have a locker room style bathroom, where there were plenty of non-sink space to leave that where it wouldn’t get accidentally splashed.

        Also, it was super awkward (I’m sure for everyone involved!) so go in there an pee (or poo!) while she sat there doing her doing her work or friggin *taking a client call.* She had a private office with a door that closed. (Listen, having to deal with the consequences of eating undercooked chicken the night before in an office setting is awful enough, but at least 99% of my coworkers pretend that stalls are completely sound and odor proof and that you have no clue who is in there. I sincerely hope that that client call was as awkward for her as it was for me.)

        There weren’t too many people that upset to see her go.

        1. Clever Name*

          Yeah, if I knew she often left them plugged in for extended periods of time, I would unplug them the first time I went in, not wait until they’d been on for an hour. Honestly, if I was in the bathroom at work and there was an iron plugged in and not a person using it, I would go find whoever was using it and ask if they meant to leave it plugged in. If it was something that someone did all the time, I would just unplug it. If she’s coming right back, it would still be warm / wouldn’t take long to heat up. If she was gone long enough for it to cool down, it probably shouldn’t have been plugged in. That’s crazy.

          1. Julia*

            Or, you know, even if she came back to a cold iron, she could just… not do her hair at work?

    3. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand*

      Yeah, I have no issue with one occasionally applying makeup in the bathroom, or re-applying lipstick or something like that, but if it becomes a habit, or if it takes an extreme amount of time, and you are on the clock, then I am less likely to support that.

    4. A.*

      I used to work with this woman who would flat iron her hair in the bathroom to get ready for happy hour.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I’ve noticed a couple of people at my company doing this! I have never in my life felt the need to be that put-together, but hey, as long as your work’s getting done and I don’t have to elbow my way to the sink (fortunately, we have several), go for it.

      2. SoCalHR*

        I am guilty of this one – only very occasionally – if I run out of the house with wet hair, it dries *mostly* straight. I typically don’t care what it looks like for work, but if I’m going out after work then I like to be polished. So I’ve done a super quick touch up with the flat iron in the bathroom at some point during the day. It maybe takes 5 mins max.

      3. Natalie*

        I don’t know, that seems fine to me I guess? It sounds like it was after her workday ended and she was going directly from work to happy hour. As long as you’re not hogging the only sink or whatever, have at it.

        1. A.*

          Yes I had no issue with it. There were several sinks in the bathroom. It was more amusing than anything.

      4. SS Express*

        Seems fine to me, unless she has super curly hair that requires an hour of straightening and is doing it while she’s meant to be working. If it’s quick, or if it’s happening off the clock (or while everyone else is just sitting around doing nothing, as is sometimes the case on a Friday arvo) I don’t see a problem.

    5. Fortitude Jones*

      I agree. Sadly, I will not be able to do my makeup at work on days like today where a) I’m running late and b) it’s raining out because my new company’s bathroom has THE WORST lighting in the history of bathroom lighting, so my makeup would look awful. I might as well be barefaced.

    6. A tester, not a developer*

      My pet peeve is the women who use the disabled stall to do their hair and makeup. Yes, it has a private mirror and sink! And an electrical outlet! But there are actual disabled people in this company who need to use the stall for actual bodily functions!

      The extra annoying part is that our building has actual women’s locker rooms – you don’t even need a gym membership to use them.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        We had this issue in the community college library where I worked. These restrooms were used by both students and staff. We got a student suggestion in our suggestion box to move the mirror out of the stall but keep it in the bathroom (which is how it is in the bathrooms on other floors of the same building) and it totally solved the problem. After we had the mirror moved, staff on that floor told me that people using the disabled stall for makeup had always been a problem but it didn’t occur to them to move the mirror.

      2. Quickbeam*

        OMG, here too. We also have a woman who does yoga in the h/c stall. Meanwhile the people who need the grab rails need to go to another floor or the gym, a long walk.

        1. Clever Name*

          She does yoga IN THE BATHROOM? That is both gross and sort of an impressive show of dedication. Also super-rude if you have a gym in your office. I would actually say something to HR if people who need an accessible stall are forced to go out of their way because she’s using it for yoga.

          Yoga! That’s so crazy!

    7. Mildred*

      I try to get my makeup done before I leave the house, but sometimes I don’t. My first choice is to do it in the car at the bus station, but if the bus is coming and there’s no time, then I use the onesie bathroom at work, and I make sure I’m quick. We also have a bathroom with 5 or 6 stalls, so I don’t monopolize the only bathroom. It feels embarrassing to put on makeup in the communal bathroom, which is why I use the small one and do it as fast as I can.

      1. JustaTech*

        I once sat next to a young woman on the bus who applied a full face of makeup (no false lashes, and minimal eyeshadow but everything else) while the bus was moving with just a little compact mirror and didn’t get a single flake on me or on any of her clothes. I was super impressed (and told her so).

        1. Mildred*

          I’m impressed, too, but it would be even more embarrassing to me to apply makeup in public.

        2. Windchime*

          I saw a girl on the bus applying layer after layer of mascara. For a full 45 minutes. I was super impressed that she didn’t jab herself in the eye once, since the bus is so bumpy. But her eyelashes looked really thick and caked and gloppy by the time she was done.

        3. Excel Slayer*

          I one witnessed a guy apply nail varnish while standing up on the London Underground. He did it PERFECTLY. And I can barely stand up on the thing without falling everywhere.

    8. nonprofit fun*

      I think this is fine if your routine is ten minutes or less. Personally, I have a walking commute so I’ll often wait until I’m at work to swipe on some mascara or put a little product in my hair. Way better than doing it at home and walking in with makeup either melting from heat or smeared from snow/rain.

      1. liz*

        i understand 10 mins or less but when there is 3 girls in the office that do it every day that takes up time. id like to use the restroom in private. not have someone standing there doing their make up.

        1. Kate 2*

          Yeah, but, if someone had really bad gas or food poisoning or a shy bladder, of if more people than there were stalls had to go at the same time, you still wouldn’t be going in private. It’s a public restroom, not a bathroom at home.

        2. neeko*

          Unless it’s a single private bathroom, you really have no control over the privacy of the bathroom.

          1. Kelly O*

            Yeah, unfortunately, you can’t guarantee privacy in a public restroom. We have a technical school in our building and the female students are in there all the time talking loudly on their phones, doing hair and makeup, and just standing there talking to each other. (I overheard one who was clearly on FaceTime or something – “boo, we can’t see you” “oh baby lemme fix that” – talk about weird.)

            I don’t have a problem, especially if the makeup appliers are considerate and make room for people to wash their hands as they exit. Unfortunately, ours don’t, so I just wash my hands in the sink inside our suite.

        3. CheeryO*

          I’m with you. We have a three-stall bathroom for maybe 15 women on our floor, so we’re usually guaranteed a bit of privacy. There is one woman who routinely does her makeup at the same time as I need to use the bathroom in the morning, and it really bugs. There’s a big difference between someone coming in to pee and wash their hands and someone coming in to silently do makeup at the mirror right outside your stall for 10 minutes. Do it at home, please!

        4. Ainomiaka*

          I don’t think that is something you can ever count on. I mean, is it really that different than someone washing their hands, or waiting in line? The public is inherent in public restrooms, I’m afraid.

      2. Sam.*

        I totally get that. When I lived in DC, everyone with a decent walk in their commute would show up to work early during the summer so we could cool off and put on makeup, because there was literally no point doing it before – you would sweat it all off. Fortunately, this tended to happen in a fairly large staff-only bathroom before opening, so there was no chance of running into clients. Plenty of awkward bonding happening, though…

    9. Nita*

      I would totally apply makeup at work, if I ever remember to bring it in (and then take it home for the weekend). It only takes me ten minutes, tops, and doing it at home is a non-starter right now. I have to get everyone ready for school, and mornings are just total chaos.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I keep “emergency makeup” in my desk drawer for days when I forget or run late. It’s just a tinted moisturizer, concealer, eyeliner and mascara. It takes me less than 5 minutes.

      2. SS Express*

        I keep a small makeup bag in my handbag (concealer, powder, mascara, eyebrow pencil, nude lipstick, plus a brighter lipstick and an eyeliner pencil in case I want to level up) and use this to do my face at work, on the train, in the car or wherever. In my desk I also keep a light foundation, contour/highlight kit, blush, eyeshadow palette and brushes in case I’m going somewhere nice after work. All these items are extras, I’m not taking them from my main collection so I don’t need to remember to take them out and put them back all the time.

    10. Not Rebee*

      I do mine in the car almost every morning, but I also just do a quick-but-functional look that takes about 5 minutes. Because I have a red-light-heavy commute, it’s almost always completely done within the first 15 minutes of my 45-minute commute (I do not do my makeup in a moving vehicle, but am definitely guilty of being That Person who does her eyeliner at red lights). I will sometimes touch up my makeup at work if I’m going out for something important after work, but try and be considerate. I never do my hair in the bathroom (it naturally just does its own thing and that works for me, miraculously, so I leave it alone). That said, there are definitely people who do use our bathroom for hair and makeup, but it mostly doesn’t get in the way. Our company even has some company-bought hairspray on the counter (next to the company bought-tampons and pantyliners, and bobby pins and hair ties in various hair colors, and mouthwash dispenser and cups), but it doesn’t get used a ton. Honestly, I think the people who hog the bathroom the most are the people who insist on brushing their teeth multiple times a day. I understand, and I bet their teeth look better than mine, but that’s almost always something that takes up one of two sinks during the time of day where everyone is either just coming back from lunch or just heading out to lunch, so the bathroom is busier during this time.

    11. Rebecca in Dallas*

      I do this sometimes, I have to get a skin check every 6 months (melanoma survivor) and it works best with my schedule if I can see the dermatologist first appointment of the day. Since they need to see my skin (duh), I don’t wear makeup to my appointment and put it on once I get to work (in the bathroom). I try to be very fast, I think it’s maybe 5 minutes? Plus our bathroom isn’t very busy, so I’m not blocking anyone from using the sink. And I use the bathroom instead of my desk because I’d prefer to be over a sink in case I spill or something. I’d prefer to have my makeup done already when I get to work (I feel like grooming in public is kind of weird) but like I said, it’s once every 6 months.

      1. Clever Name*

        I feel like once in a while it is no big deal. Every six months? I wouldn’t give it a second thought. I think it is only rude if you are blocking access to the sink for longer than 10-15 minutes and it is very regular – like more than twice a week. Everyone has a late day and you do what you need to do to get to work. If you never have time before work AND you are blocking other people, you need to re-examine your morning routine.

    12. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

      I have no qualms about doing my makeup at work or in public generally. However I don’t wear anything more than a bit of mascara, very light eyebrow pencil (yay white eyebrow hairs), a quick dusting of powder, and tinted lip balm. It probably doesn’t even take 5 minutes.

  2. MuseumChick*

    To me, this falls into the “Know you industry/ company” category. I’ve worked at places where no one cared if you wore make up or not. But I have friends who work in industry where physical appearance is much more important.

    Generally though: (with a few exceptions) say no to the body glitter. And, don’t make a habit for applying your make up in the bathroom at work. Like, maybe twice a year your are running late enough to need to do that.

    1. Spelliste*

      It seemed less common (around or below 50% of female colleagues appearing to wear it) when I was in the federal government in DC, even working closely with Secretary and appointees, but I find myself wearing it regularly now that I’m in finance in NY. People seem to put more visible effort in. Both roles were as a relatively small cog but working frequently with big cheeses, to mix metaphors.

      Not sure how much is industry vs. location, but it feels like more of an expectation in the latter. Could just be my particular offices, of course.

      1. Spelliste*

        I should add, low-key would be the way to go in both of these instances! I think being seen applying makeup could suggest not being sufficiently focused on work/mission/professionalism, as could wild or highly visible styles.

        There’s a cost to diverging from norms, and I prefer to spend my social currency on wacky shoes and a weird sense of humor.

        1. TootsNYC*

          you also look like you can’t manage your time, because you didn’t get it done before you left the house (or the gym).

      2. Mildred*

        When I lived in NYC, I usually didn’t wear makeup, partly because I didn’t know how to use it and partly because I couldn’t be bothered. Now that I’m older, I feel the need to wear it more often – this is because it makes me feel more confident, not because of any external pressure (and I still don’t wear it every day). At my job, I don’t think anybody cares if women wear makeup or not.

      3. Kate the Little Teapot*

        I would say it’s both industry and location. In general, women don’t wear anything close to a full face in the Bay Area unless they work in beauty or sales.

        Women in tech here wear basically no makeup (even if we’ve busted loose from the T-shirt as uniform) lest we be taken for the secretary and asked to get coffee in a meeting.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Agreed, although it definitely depends on your sector. Most women attorneys who work for the government or for the private sector, not including nonprofits, wear light makeup in the Bay. Makeup is often seen as part of appearing polished/formal (not saying that it’s right!), so it’s more of a default in regions where law practice or jobs are more formal (e.g., Sacramento and the Central Valley).

        2. Sarianna*

          Yes, and I’d add department to what Kate said! I’m in the Northeast and the few women in the development department of our tech company wear little to no makeup. The women in sales, on the other hand, are usually in full face and dressed to the nines to impress customers.

          1. Susan*

            I’ve moved from dev to project management which is more of a customer facing position, albeit internal only customers. It’s funny that I’ve felt more like dressing up since I made the change. Not sure if it is more because I am getting older or because of the position change, I just think it is interesting.

      4. Jersey's mom*

        Wildlife biologist here. I haven’t worn makeup to work (both in the field and office) in 28 years now. I do wear it, and professional dressy clothes and heels when I’m giving a deposition or as an expert witness in court. First time my boss saw me ready for court he literally didn’t recognize me – walked past me asking the attorney ” where is jerseys mom, court is about to start.”

        Usual field day for me, I have mud on me somewhere and my hair looks like it was processed by a blender. It’s definitely know your field and location for the norms.

        1. MeghanK*

          Science Museum staff here. I have never worn makeup at work, woohoo! I loathe almost everything about it. I don’t mind if staff want to wear it, as long as it doesn’t reach nightclub levels. About 30% of my staff wear something more than lip gloss.

          I have had to set limits though – out of the public eye, off the clock for anything that takes more than a minute or two, and anything strongly scented needs to be applied somewhere off our main public and staff break areas. Nothing like sparking an asthma attack in a coworker because you just have to spray half a pint of something that could choke an elephant to glue your hair in place/cover up sweat from a lunchtime run, or change your nail polish. If I can follow you by scent through a museum with thousands of other people in it, that’s really way too much…

        2. unicat*

          I’m an Environmental Educator at an outdoor adventure center and I don’t wear makeup either!

      5. Koko*

        In my experience DC takes pride in largely ignoring fashion and related things like make-up. I think probably as a defiant response to having been nicknamed “LA for ugly people.”

        1. AMPG*

          Yeah, I almost never wore makeup in DC, but now that I’m in New England I feel the need to do at least something minimal (generally concealer, eyeliner, and sheer lip color). I do it in the car after I’m in the parking garage.

      6. Not Rebee*

        I think an unfortunate effect of not wearing makeup (when combined with being young) is that it can make you look very young for much longer than you might want, depending on how you do your makeup. (I mean, I’ve got a former colleague who is 4 years older than me and just naturally has a very bright-eyed, fresh-faced, young look, and it actually gets worse when she wears makeup). The flip side is that if you overdo your makeup like you’re a 20-something heading out to the club you then look young because you’re way over-faced for the environment you’re in. I think the key to office makeup is, if you’re going to do it, to try and keep it simple and relatively natural. Not to say you can’t do a bold lip if that’s your thing, but if you do maybe you can leave the dramatic eyebrows and the huge cat-liner at home. My go to is just some powder, blush, one shade of eyeshadow (a metallic brown not far from my skin-tone), off-black eyeliner without a huge wing (top lid only), and mascara. That’s it. My look on a night out involves Black eyeliner on both lids, and like three more eyeshadow colors, plus lipstick/liner/gloss. I think it’s important to have a distinction between what’s okay for work and what’s okay for out in the world.

        1. A.M.*

          It’s usually the opposite IMO. Makeup definitely makes you look more grown-up. If I didn’t wear it, I’d look like a teenager, and I’m 30.

      7. Barbara Lander*

        I live in New York and I agree, I think appearance norms do vary from city to city. I had a boss in Florida who got upset that I did my makeup in the rest room after I got there, but in that climate, and with a commute of 1-1/2 hours, doing it at home wasn’t an option.

    2. n*

      Yup. In academia (or at least the humanities, which is my background), wearing a full face of makeup makes you look unprofessional/you get taken less seriously. I often felt conspicuously high-femme for just wearing lipstick and eyeliner.

      1. Dr. Speakeasy*

        More of a mixed bag in the social sciences. I tend to wear a full face but I think a foundation/mascara/chapstick combo is probably the most common. Unless you were really wearing a glitter bomb on your face or your makeup was badly applied, I think any variation works. (And you know… there are some lines where the glitter bomb might work out okay too).

        1. Thlayli*

          Engineering here with experience in both academia and private industry. I only wear makeup for interviews presentations and client meetings. I definitely think female engineers are considered less professional if they wear a lot of makeup, but a small bit of makeup makes little difference. My personally preference is not to wear it everyday anyway.

          I look really young anyway so anything that makes me look tired and old it probably a benefit in my quest to be taken seriously haha.

      2. Umvue*

        Biostatistics here. I also think makeup is not super common in academic posts in my field, but I admit that since I don’t wear it myself I have a hard time noticing it on others, so I could be wrong. However, I can say that some of the women faculty are much more put-together than I am (I’m a staff scientist).

        (A bit of a tangent — my last biostats job was outside of academia, and *that* one was so casual that my director sometimes came to work in sweats!)

        1. LadyMountaineer*

          I’m a database dev who augments biostatisticians – none of us wear makeup. I was thinking about starting to wear makeup again just for me but then I re-think again thinking that I won’t fit in. (Which is probably a crazy thought – I doubt anyone cares.)

      3. DrWombat*

        I wear lipstick and eyeshadow on days I’m giving presentations, but I’ve seen other grad students a lot more made-up. I definitely up things for conferences, though – mascara, eyeshadow, lipstick, but it’s all very simple mostly because I have about zero skill at it at the moment. I kind of wish I understood how to use the other stuff, but the lack of gluten-free makeup options (I have a skin reaction as well as a gut reaction) and the fact that I never learned as a teen has made it seem almost impossible to learn as an adult. I’d have no idea where even to start tbh.

        1. Not a Morning Person*

          YouTube, and search for natural make-up application. Be aware that the younger makeup artists tend to show more dramatic looks or at least use a lot more makeup.

          1. Jordan*

            Seconding the recommendation for YouTube tutorials! I would 100% recommend Lisa Eldridge. She’s a makeup artist in her 40’s, and she’s not only drop dead gorgeous, but her looks are so classy and understated.

            1. Ariadne*

              Seconding (Thirding?) Lisa Eldridge specifically, and Bite Cosmetics is a great gluten-free lip color option too! My very celiac friend gifted me one of their Amuse Bouche sets, which has 4 super-mini lipsticks in a number of colors. The Beauty Department also has step-by-step tutorials for hair and makeup, and recommendations for accessories/tools based on various styles and budgets.

        2. Victorian Cowgirl*

          Merle Norman is high quality makeup and the line is almost entirely gluten-free. The associates at the stores are always happy and trained to give application lessons. I won’t wear any other mascara! :)

        3. Julia*

          Could mineral make-up work for you? There are many brands, not just Bare Minerals. I used to like Everyday Minerals, but I’m also not intolerant to gluten, so I can’t guarantee that it would work for you (although I don’t think I’ve ever seen much more than silica and mica in the ingredients list).

      4. jo*

        Not an academic, but I do recall my female humanities instructors in college didn’t wear much makeup. That changed when I did my masters in creative writing (and in NYC). Professors of both genders ranged from clean-but-unkempt to well-dressed-but-natural to made-up-and-stylish.

        The poetry director wore the most makeup.

      5. Ainomiaka*

        And I personally wear makeup specially to mess with ideas like that. I hate it so much.

      6. A.M.*

        Eh. My sister, a music professor, loves makeup and definitely wears lipstick any time she is dealing with colleagues or students. She’s under 30 and she’s having fun, plus she’s tenured, and no one in her field bats an eyelash (pun intended).

    3. Goya de la Mancha*

      I feel like teeny-bopper retailers and excotic dancers are the only ones to get away with glitter ;)

      1. Nonnon*

        I volunteer for an LGBT+ youth org, and we’re not allowed glitter. Not because it would be inappropriate or unprofessional or anything, but because glitter doesn’t come out. Ever. Our office is like a gate to sparkly, sparkly hell around Pride due to the various crafts and such stored in there.

        1. Erin*

          I used to work in a craft store in college. Glitter is shiney devil dust. Especially if it gets in your eyes.

      2. bunners*

        I taught kindergarten for fifteen years and wore glittery eyeliner or shadow almost every single day – I figured that if I was going to wind up with craft herpes regardless of my best efforts I might as well embrace it!

        I’m currently a stay at home mom who volunteers with a couple of historic and animal related groups and I still rock the glitter liner fairly regularly ;-)

    4. Super B*

      This can be TOTALLY a cultural/regional thing. I’m in Northern California and 99% of the women in my office wear make up, of all age groups and job positions. It is not expected but women in California love their make up! It was even more severe when I lived in SoCal/ Orange County – full on make up on the beach was something that shocked me at first, but I soon got used to it and started wearing it too (not to the beach! but everywhere else).
      I noticed that European women wear a lot less make up… and South American women wear even more (though not the beach. That’s an exclusive LA thing, I think)

      1. Bleeborp*

        I know I’m in the minority as a librarian (now at a college but same at a public library) for wearing pretty much a full face of makeup most days (no body glitter tho!) and I don’t think anyone else thinks one way or the other about it. I’ve seen plenty of totally bare faced women and makeup wearing women move up the ranks so it seems to be no barometer of professionalism. But it is kind of funny since it is very female dominated but it is certainly not makeup dominated, not even here in Texas around Dallas which IS known for being pretty looks focused and women tend towards full makeup

        1. Tafadhali*

          I am a no-makeup kind of librarian, but I also know many others who go all out. That said, it doesn’t usually seem like it’s because of a professional norm — most of the makeup-loving librarians I know here on the East Coast are younger and interested in style, often with a very specific aesthetic (dyed hair, clothes with a nerdy or retro or punk vibe). More alternative, less “neutrally professional and feminine.”

        2. Alex the Alchemist*

          Me too! I work in my university’s library and I’ll do a lot of fun, colorful eye looks and just pair them with a neutral lip and nobody bats an eye. The only time when it was ever commented on (positively, btw) was a day when I wore false lashes, but I explained that I was going straight to my choir concert afterwards and wanted a little something “extra,” and it was all good.

        3. Librarian of the North*

          I work at a public library and I’m a make-up artist so I am always in a full face of make-up. No body glitter because this isn’t 2001. My go to is a neutral smokey eye with a winged liner and red lipstick. I wear the most make-up of my co-workers but they almost all wear make-up. It depends on the library but I find them to be very open in terms of tattoos, make-up, coloured hair, and style of dress.

        4. Anon Librarian*

          Also an academic librarian. I wear light make up most days, go a little heavier on teaching/faculty presentation days. But I have co-workers who wear full, dramatic make-up every day and some that were none, and no one seems to care. I’m also at a small, very specialized satellite campus of a woman’s university, so that may have something to do with it. I think I main campus tends to care a bit more.

    5. Jennifer*

      Nobody cares in my line of work as long as you don’t have anatomy hanging out of your clothes. It’s not like being made up and/or wearing a suit is going to get you a promotion here :P

    6. EddieSherbert*

      It’s definitely a “know your industry” thing. Working for an outdoor retailer where our corporate office has a huge gym + hiking/biking trails, there are many fitness classes throughout the day… a full face of make up with be very unusual! Most of us don’t bother because if you do a fitness class, it’s 40 minutes and you only have about 20 “extra” minutes left to shower, change, possibly eat? (I eat at my desk while working) and get back to work :)

  3. Valancy Snaith*

    I think the smokey eye depends totally on the workplace and what kind of smoky eye we’re talking about. There are definitely some nude smokey eyes that can be totally work-appropriate (based probably more on the level of eyeliner and mascara involved), and some dark smokey eyes that are more “when work ends at 5 and you’re hitting the club at 5:04.”

    1. a girl has no name*

      +1000 There are some great nude smokey eye tutorials that I use and that I wear to work. I just minimize the eyeliner. It is branded as daytime smokey.

        1. Zahra*

          Me too! It’s been so long since I’ve worn makeup that I couldn’t remember how to put eyeshadow at our holiday party last December.

        2. poptart*

          Jessica Clements on youtube does lots of great natural makeup tutorials – she has one something like “instagram natural defined makeup” and another “date night smoky eye” that are insanely helpful and work great for a casual & natural look. I usually do one of those for work, or i think the every day makeup winter 2017 one is a good no eyeliner look!

        3. poptart*

          Jessica Clements on Youtube! All of her natural looks are A+, and there is a smoky “date night” eye that is really good for daytime without looking overly made up.

    2. Annabelle*

      Yeah, i think most people hear “smoky” and think of dramatic black shadow, but I’ve defintiely seen some pretty office-friendly smoky eyes.

    3. KarenT*

      I think a toned down smoky paired with a neutral outfit works (at least I hope it does, seeing as it’s a look I sometimes where!). But smoky eye with a loud outfit or shiny top or something is too much.

    4. AnonasaurusRex*

      Yeah this isn’t smoky eye like dramatic going to the club stuff with winged liner. Blending two colors of eye shadow can give a smoky eye effect while still being very neutral.

    5. Dani*

      Yep, I work at an ad agency and you can definitely wear a light-to-medium-drama smokey eye without anyone caring. Heavy eyeliner or a bold red lip is also fine, but if you did heavy eyeliner AND a bold lip it might be too “night look.”

      Day-to-day, most women in my office wear “no makeup makeup” (foundation, mascara, maybe a neutral lip color). A couple are more into makeup and will do some some shimmery eyeshadow or bold eyeliner. I will often wear a bold lip or use some color with my eyeshadow but I keep it light overall.

      1. srs*

        That’s what I do, and on the days I bike to work I’ll apply my makeup in the office bathroom. But it takes me 3-5 minutes max, so I never thought it might be an issue until I read all the comments today saying that it’s inappropriate no matter what.

        1. srs*

          I mean that I do the “no makeup makeup” of a light foundation, setting powder, mascara and neutral lip. I don’t have a long bike commute, but it’s just long enough for me to sweat off my makeup in the summer, so I’ll usually change my top and put on very minimal makeup once I get to work.

      2. Artemesia*

        When I read this I am so glad I worked in a professional field where the norm was a little lipstick and maybe a hint of natural eye shadow. The idea of having to apply a layer of paint and get it right every day is totally daunting to me. I’d probably look like a clown if I attempted it. I am amazed at people who can get a natural look with foundation and brow, eyelash, eye shadow, blush etc.

        1. Dani*

          Nobody *has* to wear makeup at my office… there are certainly women who come in bare-faced and no one cares. Some of us enjoy wearing it. Like I said, it’s an ad agency; a lot of us are creative types and makeup is just another expression of that.

          1. Julia*

            And as someone who, at 28, still struggles with redness and acne, taking away my right to wear foundation would make me VERY uncomfortable (and look even younger)…

      3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        I always think it looks totally weird when people do a dramatic eye without also doing a strong lip to match. It looks top heavy/unbalanced, and like they forgot to finish their makeup.

        I’m the type of person who thinks that all human beings (including men and other genders) should be able to wear as much or as little makeup as they please, in whatever situation, at any time, for any reason AND be taken as seriously as anyone else, because there is no logical or reasonable basis for doing otherwise that I’ve been able to find in decades of thought on the matter, so I can’t comment on the “too much” or “too little” aspects, because as far as I’m concerned those don’t actually exist.

    6. KitKat*

      Tangentially, one thing that I find so intriguing about the makeup is that on the one hand women can be judged for not caring about makeup (and supposedly by extension their appearance) but also judged as shallow/tacky/etc for putting in too much effort with foundation, eye makeup, etc. It’s like whenever I compliment another woman’s clothing, about 70% of the time she’ll exclaim how comfy it is. Because not caring about fashion is bad but caring so much you wear uncomfortable clothing would also be bad.

      1. Parenthetically*

        I spend A LOT of time on this with my teenage students. Like, society does this to us enough, let’s not do it to each other as well. Opt out of the “My Performative Femininity is Better than Your Performative Femininity” game.

      2. Scott*

        It’s like how people think I’m weird when I wear freshly pressed white tie at work, but call the cops when I don’t.

      3. whingedrinking*

        “You don’t need to wear makeup! You’re beautiful without it!” Then on the days you don’t wear it, you get asked if you’re okay because you look tired/sick.

        1. Mad Baggins*

          This! I was a bit run-down from working out at the gym too hard, and was told “wow, you look really sick!” Then on Friday I wore foundation and blush and was told “looks like you’re feeling better!”

        2. Wet Coast*

          In university I’d have late nights and couldn’t face (hah!) doing anything more than stumble into the closet on some mornings and hope for the best.
          Makeup was hit and miss. I won’t ever forget the prof who asked if I needed to go home as I was so pale. She was worried about me.
          I now wear eyeliner, mascara, and blush every day to ward that kind of thing off.

    7. Parenthetically*

      Egads I love a smokey eye! I can’t do makeup to save my life (BB cream and mascara are absolutely my maximum right now) but I seriously admire the artistry that goes into a beautifully-executed smokey eye. And some of them are for sure work appropriate!

    8. Big Burger*

      It also really hinges on how the smoky eye works with your face. My mother is a very pale white woman with blonde hair and blue eyes. A smokey eye is dramatic on her, and would not be appropriate in many white-collar professional settings. My father and his family are from India. The women in his family are brown with dark eyes and black hair, and heavy eye makeup suits them well, and they can and do wear it in all kinds of professional contexts. I’m in the middle, and I can wear heavier makeup than my mother but less than my cousins. When my mom does my makeup she wonders why I look like I’m not wearing makeup, and when my cousins do my makeup they’re confused by how intense it looks on me.

      1. Emi.*

        Ha, this reminds me of my sister’s theatre director, who said “Black eyeliner is for black people and insecure people.”

        1. Lemondrop*

          I’m pale and blonde and have blue eyes and you’ll pry my black eyeliner from my cold dead hands. It matches my black mascara. I’m not gonna wear brown eyeliner with black mascara.

          My dad used to tell me that the only blonde, blue-eyed women that wore red lipstick were prostitutes. So I never wore it until a few years ago when I realized that HELLO it looks amazing on me so f you, Dad.

          1. Big Burger*

            I don’t mean to imply that dark or heavy makeup looks bad on blonde white people!!! It looks absolutely lovely. All I meant is that the same makeup look can look very different on different people – like one person’s dramatic clubby smoky look is a very neutral, natural look on another person. I’m sure you look incredible.

          2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            Hahaha, my answer to BS like that was always “I don’t care” while I did it anyway.
            They would say “Change x, or you’re not going to school!”
            I’d say “I guess I’m not going to school today then!”
            Them “No wait you have to go to school!”
            I’d refuse to change x. Guess who went to school that day anyway? X-D

        2. Seriously, I'm not high*

          If only it were that simple. I have “bedroom eyes” were my eyelids are very heavy. Without eyeliner to help define them, I look stoned out of my mind. No one gets between me and my eyeliner.

          1. katastrophreak*

            I also have this (I think it’s called a ‘hooded lid’), and my daughter has this x10. When I discovered eyeliner, my mom said, “Oh my god, you have eyes?!?”

            Black eyeliner, black mascara, and tinted moisturizer. It’s all I’ve worn since I was about 15.

        3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          Or people who enjoy black eyeliner.
          Your sister’s theatre director sounds like an asshole.

      2. Geyn*

        This. Also, I find that it can depend on the shape of your eyes. With my mono lid, I can wear dark eyeshadow blended out from my lash line and it still look pretty natural (plus I can’t take it up too high or it will look like I got a black eye).

        My favorite winter look though has been B.B. cream, light blush, light eye makeup, and a sheer to smudged out red lip. It’s been so gray outside and I find wearing a brighter colored lip actually brightens up my face and detracts more from my undereye circles than concealers.

        1. Julia*

          Yeah, I’m a super pale brunette who sucks at eye shadow, but a bright lip in a red or berry shade will make me look so much less dead. Now if I could get my eyes to look bigger…

    9. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

      An alternative photographer I used to know always had THE BEST smoky eyes on her models, and when I asked her how she did it, she said the secret was eyeshadow in tones of BRONZE, not black. Playing with the look myself, I found that it is very easy to either make it super dark and dramatic, or tone it down for a more daytime look.

  4. Lil Fidget*

    I’ll say that I don’t wear makeup, and I accept that there’s a chance I’ll be “dinged” for it on some subconscious level (like, “Lil Fidget just doesn’t seem like the kind of person that would be a Director here, I don’t see her getting promoted,” not “we don’t promote women who don’t wear makeup” – the company I work for isn’t that bad). This is somewhat sad to me, but IMO worth it not to change the way I’ve always presented to the world. Wearing makeup to me feels very sexual – it’s something I do for dates or fancy formal events when I want to look attractive to men. Having to do that at work makes me feel uncomfortable. I understand that other people feel differently.

    1. Star*

      This is where I stand, too. I’ve never felt as though I’m being dinged for not wearing makeup (plenty of women I work with don’t wear it), but I accept that it could be happening subconsciously in some ways. The only times I’ve worn makeup in the last few months have been when attending weddings, and I’d rather keep it that way. I’m not a confident makeup user, I’d hate doing it every day, and spending the time and money!

      1. Lil Fidget*

        I should add, as Ruth says below, I respect that it’s an individual choice and I wouldn’t want to work for a company where makeup was banned, either.

        1. Star*

          Oh, agreed 100%! Women (and men!) should be free to wear or not wear makeup in whatever way they most prefer.

        2. EW*

          I did have a job where you couldn’t wear makeup because of the ISO clean rooms – the particulates from makeup really messed up the air quality. Having this job broke me free from feeling like I need to wear makeup at all. I didn’t even wear that much anyways, just tinted moisturizer and mascara.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I’m not a confident makeup user, I’d hate doing it every day, and spending the time and money!

        I will say, you’ll become more confident if you actually use it, and focus on it.

        My FIL once asked me why I didn’t wear makeup. I told him, “It’s because I think I’ll turn stupid if I do.” Oh, not really, not literally, but during those formative years when I was deciding, “Do I wear makeup?” (early high school), I definitely had that “she’s not a serious person” reaction to the crowds of girls in the bathroom putting on eyeliner and talking about makeup and blush and products….
        (Sorry, makeup girls!)

        I don’t really have that reaction anymore, but it really did shape me.

        One thing I realized, though, is that I don’t feel confident about makeup precisely BECAUSE I didn’t have those formative experiences of playing with it, and focusing on it. So if I try to put on makeup, it takes a lot of mental energy and more time.
        Those girls who played around with makeup in the bathroom in high school can do their basic makeup in almost no time, with very little mental energy, because they started so early, and it’s second nature to them.

        (but yes, there’s the money aspect)

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Oh, I know how to use it. I think I look good in it when I do it for a wedding or whatever. I just have deeply conflicted feelings about having to do that in a professional setting.

        2. KarenT*

          I kinda went in the opposite direction. In my school years I wore make up every day, and was definitely hanging out in the bathroom with girls doing their makeup. It was a genuine interest for me–I loved make up and playing with it. I think it made me feel mature or grown up, perhaps. I still love make up and playing with it, but in my thirties I just don’t have the time. Most days are tinted moisturizer and mascara, but I do do more sometimes, especially on days when I have presentations or big meetings.

        3. Bleeborp*

          I went through the exact same thing! I associated makeup with being shallow or a cheerleader or someone just someone really leaning into all the negative aspects of what is expected in girls and women. Also, on a personal level, I just didn’t want to do it because my mother wanted me to. I love my mom but she was very focused on appearance and I was very much pushing against that. So I didn’t really wear makeup until I was well into my 20’s (when I really needed a job and the place that hired me had makeup and you had to wear it to work!) Even after that I was iffy on makeup and didn’t really get into it until the past couple years (I’m 35!) I hate that yes, I do spend a dumb amount of money on it but it’s fun and I’ve shaken off the negative associations. Youtube has really helped in teaching me about how to apply makeup in a way that I finally like it and it comes easily but it also enables a lot of buying but I’m trying to be better about that!

    2. Boredatwork*

      Some mascara and a stained chapstick go a long way. If you ever want to feel more “made-up” at work with too much extra effort or feeling overly sexualized.

      1. Coywolf*

        Ooh yes I agree, I was pretty bummed when I lost my tinted chapstick because it really helped to keep me from looking too… undone haha

        1. SweetTooth*

          If you’re looking for a cheap replacement, I like some of the Maybelline Baby Lips tinted balms. Some of them surprise me with how bright the color is, but others give the “my lips but better” vibe. For a pricier version, I am obsessed with the Sugar by Fresh line. They are lemony and delicious and the right amount of tint for me.

    3. hermit crab*

      This is somewhat sad to me, but IMO worth it not to change the way I’ve always presented to the world.

      I agree – being dinged for not wearing makeup is a tradeoff I’m willing to make. For me, it’s not that it feels sexual, necessarily, it’s just uncomfortable and I prefer not to (I’m pretty sure the only time I’ve worn makeup as an adult was at my wedding). That said, I am fortunate to “good” skin (thanks, genes from grandma!) and I also wear glasses so I feel that lessens the need for eye makeup.

      1. TheCupcakeCounter*

        I agree that glasses can absolutely negate the “need” for eye makeup. I wear it because I tend to look sort of all one color (fair to medium tone skin, light brown hair, medium brown eyes…)

      2. Another GenX Dev Manager*

        I often think of makeup as my battle armor. So if I am going to give a presentation or have a tough meeting or am just feeling blah on a given morning then I might prioritize the time to put on makeup (I generally wear lipstick all the time). Sometimes I go through a month or two where I do it every day because I can/I want to. I’m in tech, so I can get away without wearing it.

        Of the women on my team I’d say none of us wear it every day, although I think a fair number of us do wear a light foundation/tinted moisturizer) – it hasn’t really affected perceptions of competence that I can tell and it seems to be mixed with the few women at a higher level – some do wear it, some don’t bother. But that also applies to how everyone dresses – some trend more formal, others more casual.

        I do find I can a) get away with not wearing makeup with my glasses and b) also get away with a lot bolder/brighter colors because the glasses help mute them.

        1. KL*

          That’s how I view mine. In my mind, I’m like “I fought the eyeliner and won. On to the next battle, teapot color appeals!” Sometimes I add a roar for dramatic emphasis.

          1. Kendra*

            +1 for “I fought the eyeliner and won,” because that’s pretty much how it feels every time I try to put on eyeliner!

          2. Anon Librarian*

            +1 and I’m totally stealing the “fought the eyeliner and won”! I still manage to stab myself in the eye at least one day a week!

        2. Bleeborp*

          That’s something I like about wearing glasses, too, because some days I will try something new with my eyeshadow and it may or may not have worked but my glasses and the glare do a good job of dulling it! I tried a winged liner today using this weird stamp and it’s…a look. But my glasses will hopefully keep anyone from getting too focused on it!

        3. Amber T*

          Your use of “battle armor” reminded me of BBC’s Sherlock’s Irene Adler’s idea of battle armor, which is showing up to a battle of wits with Sherlock… completely naked. Which does indeed throw him through a loop, leaves him vulnerable and susceptible, and let’s her do her job. Probably not recommended in the real workplace though!

      3. Kelly L.*

        Yep. I just don’t like the feel of it, or the process of putting it on, and I’ve learned that people react better to Kelly-who-never-wears-makeup than to Kelly-who-wears-makeup-and-then-skips-it-one-day. The former is just sort of shrugged at and accepted, the latter gets questions about whether I’m sick.

        I do feel weird being dressed up (i.e. beyond business casual) without it, so I’m probably wearing it if there’s a party or wedding or awards banquet.

      4. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        I once met a woman who was wearing a pair of really amazing, unique, artistic looking aqua/turquoise blue glasses frames. When I complimented them and we started talking, she told me she didn’t like wearing eye makeup so she decided she would invest in super high quality frames that were interesting, artisanal etc instead. By that time she had basically amassed a wardrobe of different frames and would wear different ones all the time.
        I thought that was such a creative idea!

    4. Teapot librarian*

      *raises hand* This is me. I probably did apply a small amount of makeup before I was interviewed for my current position (put on in the bathroom at work) but haven’t since. (Also I haven’t worn heels since my interview.)

    5. Q*

      I never wear makeup. Have I lost out on jobs for that? I don’t know, maybe. But I’m not going to change a fairly significant part of my routine for maybe-getting-a-different-job.

      1. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

        I don’t wear makeup either but in my casual dress code industry I know this hasn’t cost me a job.
        Not that I’d want one where minutiae of my appearance was a deal breaker.

    6. Gyratory Circus*

      This is me, too. I actually had one boss in my first job (in hospital finance) tell me I needed to wear makeup to be taken seriously, even though we were also required to wear suits/formal business attire at work already.

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        If I ever worked at a place like that, I’d tell them I’d be perfectly happy to comply when they ALSO need to wear makeup to be taken seriously.

        Otherwise you are dealing with sexism, and double standards, and the potential for a sexual harassment lawsuit.

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          *When they ALSO tell MEN they need to wear makeup to be taken seriously.

    7. Bridgette*

      I don’t wear makeup to work, either, and I don’t feel as thought it has “dinged” me in anyway. I have sensitive skin and most moderately-priced makeup severely irritates that and the “good stuff” that doesn’t is way too much. I have a small stock of the good stuff that I will wear to a wedding or special event.

    8. Tavie*

      samesies. I think my appearance is probably holding me back in some ways – not just makeup but the daily ponytail and jeans/sneakers – but I’m willing to accept that.

    9. WellRed*

      I totally respect not wearing makeup and don’t bat an eye at those who don’t. But, I am glad l can minimize dark circles, cover zits etc. It gives me a bit of confidence

      1. Breda*

        Yeah. I started wearing makeup when I started an internship in NYC – it felt very Grown-Up and Professional, part of an outfit that included pencil skirts and blazers and high heels that didn’t come from Payless. But when my psoriasis flared and covered half my face, it helped SO MUCH that I was already comfortable applying and wearing makeup. I felt like a monster without it! It probably wasn’t as noticeable as I felt it was, but I just couldn’t bear it.

      2. Triumphant Fox*

        I had terrible acne growing up and makeup became essential to my self-esteem. I got really, really good at concealing and shifting attention to my eyes instead. I worked hard to make a lot of makeup look natural. When I went to college, I did a big 2-week rough hiking trip as part of the orientation process and makeup, deodorant, etc. weren’t allowed. When I got back to campus, the girls in my cabin were like -“Wow, you look amazing!” when I had makeup on. Now that I have very little acne, I’ve gradually reduced my makeup and have really pared it down to the essentials – it takes me 3 minutes for work in the morning, but I can stretch that out a lot if it’s a special occasion.
        For me, it makes me feel put together – like I look alert and a little more polished, but I rarely go all out anymore. Making an effort is much more about the hair, which I find myself putting up every day because it’s easy.

    10. Aurion*

      This is where I stand too. Most cheap makeup also don’t feel all that comfortable–they don’t break me out but they make my skin itch at least a little. I don’t like makeup so I’ve never tried higher end brands.

      Besides, I wear glasses, don’t take well to contacts, and have some eyelid issues, so even minimal eye makeup usually presents problems. Mascara stains my glasses (I have long eyelashes, even tiny amounts of mascara ends up hitting my glasses), and my eyelid issues means eyeliner is out despite loving how I look with eyeliner.

      I would never want to take a job where I feel I have to put on a public face (PR, journalism, law, whatever).

      1. Breda*

        In case you want to try again, waterproof mascara might work better – it’s significantly less smudgey even when it’s not exposed to water. I recommended that to a friend who had the same problem with her glasses, and she was pleased!

      2. TootsNYC*

        my lashes brush my glasses too (so smeary the next day when I use a night-time dry-eye ointment), and I always use an eyelash curler if I want to wear mascara.

        Otherwise, the mascara-coated lashes drag against the glass and it’s uncomfortable.

        But the curler works great. I’m not as practiced at using it as I could be, since I wear mascara about 5 times a year.

    11. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

      I was the kid with the unpainted face on Halloween insisting that my friends pretend that I was green like the Wicked Witch of the West. :)
      I don’t like the feeling of “stuff” on my face so I really don’t wear makeup. Moisturizer is about all I can handle on my face …. and even this bothers me a bit.
      That being said…I do

    12. Tara2*

      Yea, there’s nothing that could make me wear makeup everyday to work. I never learned to do it well, and I have a weird touch… thing, where I cannot stand the feeling of it *at all* (also can’t stand the feeling of moisturizers, sunscreen, or even the feeling of rubbing a dry towel on me after a shower so I just sit there dripping until I’m dry). I’d actually rather be in pain than deal with the feeling of this stuff (which is evidenced by how the sunscreen thing plays out every summer).

      Hopefully I don’t get dinged too hard on this professionally, because I don’t think its ever going to change for me.

      1. mrs__peel*

        I also hate the feeling of sunscreen, and I’ve taken to wearing UPF clothing with long sleeves for extra sun protection.

        Coolibar, Patagonia, and REI have some nice sun-protective clothing, if you’re ever looking for any. Coolibar in particular has some nice cardigans, dresses, etc., that look nice enough for business-casual office wear.

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          I hate the feeling of sunscreen too, and almost all lotions and moisturizers. Anything oily or greasy. For me, it’s a sensory processing issue.

          1. CatMom*

            I know this is way late and I’ve stumbled onto this thread months onward, but Glossier’s sunscreen is the best! It’s not greasy or heavy and it doesn’t get sticky. Supposedly it also has a bunch of antioxidants that “neutralize free radicals” and I’m not even going to pretend to know if that’s A Thing or not, but it’s a great lightweight sunscreen and it doesn’t leave any residue.

    13. JeanB in NC*

      I haven’t worn makeup in years, possibly decades. If I have an interview or I’m going to a social event, I might wear a tinted moisturizer and maybe some blush just to even out my skin tone, but mascara and eye liner make my eyes hurt. I wouldn’t feel comfortable at a job where I had to get dressed way up every day (like big law or finance) and that includes the idea of a full makeup job every day.

      I actually think that’s why I have such good skin in comparison to many women my age – no makeup, no tanning, and of course no smoking.

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        No smoking & no tanning, yes. I am the same. I’ve also worn heavy makeup for most of the last 3.5 decades, and had beautiful skin, because my makeup protected it.
        I got really sick for a long time and got out of the habit of wearing makeup, and my skin definitely does not the same since then.

    14. NJ Anon*

      Ditto! And, yes, I was promoted regardless. I would not work anywhere make up was required unless the men had to wear it too.

    15. lauraxe*

      I love the process of applying makeup, and wearing it, but I almost never wear it to work – not unless we’re having an event. Fortunately I work at a fairly casual nonprofit so it’s never been an issue, but I would struggle in a company / role where you “had” to wear makeup every day… unless the men were expected to as well. It feels like a very gendered and punitive expectation; women shouldn’t have to spend extra time and money when men can just wear their normal faces every day without it being a thing.

      1. SL #2*

        I’m the same way! I love makeup and I really enjoy taking 15 mins and doing it for myself, but for work, I use eyeliner and lipstick. That’s it. My priority is getting out the door on time, not the state of my foundation!

        However, if we have an event or a big meeting, I’ll definitely wake up earlier so I can take my time doing a full face at home.

    16. Isben Takes Tea*

      I don’t wear makeup either, and it’s hard to know if it has affected anyone’s perception of me, because I thankfully worked in an office that didn’t generally comment on people’s appearances.

      Though I was bemused when a coworker complimented me on my eye makeup one day. I managed to get out a “Thank you!” without divulging that they were really just sleep-deprivation dark circles.

      But it made me think that some people assume you’re wearing makeup, even if it’s super minimal, so perhaps you won’t get “dinged” as much as you fear (industry dependant, of course).

    17. D.W.*

      I agree. I’m also part of the group that doesn’t wear makeup and has never worn it.

      It came up once when I was working for high-end women’s retailer in college that management would like us to be more presentable by wearing makeup and jewelry. I also don’t wear jewelry. I’d already been working with the company for two years, did great work, and wasn’t about to change or add another expense for them. I simply told them no, and I kept my job.

      I have wondered if, now that I’m in the professional workforce, my lack of makeup and jewelry “dings” me, but I know I wouldn’t care enough to change anything.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Weirdly, I loooooveee jewelry and always get excited to wear it – somehow that feels like it’s “for me” versus being about being sexually appealing to men, which I admit is just arbitrary personal preference. I have privately hoped that wearing nice earrings might be offsetting the “unprofessional / unpolished” knock people might be giving me for not wearing makeup at work.

        1. D.W.*

          I’m sure it does! I have nothing against jewelry and often compliment those who have accessorized well.

          It was not an image that I grew up with, and we weren’t encouraged to wear it. I tried to experiment with necklaces and bracelets in college and I felt ridiculous. I can’t even wear nail polish or I start holding my awkwardly and can’t get anything done!

          I’m just a plain Jane, but that never stopped my dating life (now married) and no one has ever commented on my appearance aside from the common, “You look so young!”

        2. BadPlanning*

          I also do not wear make up, but love jewelry. I put in different earrings every day. If I’m not wearing a scarf, I usually put on a necklace.

    18. ThatGirl*

      My basic, everyday makeup is the typical “no makeup” look – I use a little primer, powdered base and concealer to even out my skin tone, reduce shine, and feel more put together. (I usually add some mascara, but I don’t need it to feel put together.)

      And while I TOTALLY support every person’s right to wear or not wear whatever they choose, to me that’s not the same as wearing dramatic eye makeup or bold lipstick, I don’t see anything sexual in wanting my blotchy skin to look more even.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah I should have clarified, that’s just about how I personally feel about it, I don’t go around thinking other women are using their sexual whiles to get ahead, or whatever. As with most people who aren’t “in the know” on something, I probably don’t even notice anybody else’s makeup at all or realize that they’re wearing it.

      2. Bleeborp*

        It’s interesting to me that it’s a common theme in these comments that wearing makeup feels sexualized to some women. I can totally understand it- especially if they tend to only have put it on when they were younger going out or going on dates. But for me, I really didn’t start wearing it regularly until pretty deep into my marriage and he doesn’t notice one way or another unless I’m wearing something really weird like blue lipstick. I just started wearing it because I like the way it looks- I don’t even think it looks more or less professional (I’m a librarian and the majority don’t wear much visible makeup) it just looks cool to me (of course, staying within reason at work, the blue lipstick would be a little much!)

    19. HB*

      Agreed. I’m in a pretty casual industry in terms of looks (academia) but I always wonder in the back of my mind if I’m being overlooked for things because I refuse to wear makeup. I try to dress fairly stylishly and professionally and I have my total frizz-hair mostly under control. I hate wearing makeup because of the time it takes and it dries out my skin, my eyes, etc. Honestly the whole makeup expectation makes me pretty furious. I can understand doing it because you do want to be competitive in your industry but…completely sexist that those expectations exist for women and not men.

      I mean, I have male coworkers who are out of shape, come in to work with crazy unkempt hair, stains on their shirts, old ratty suits from the 1970’s, or the ubiquitous cargo shorts-polo shirts-socks-and-sandals combo. And they are PARAGONS of their field. But I have baggy under eyes and I’m not professional enough for a director position? Ok.

      1. Nicole Maria*

        I just want to say I hear you and it makes me mad too.
        I don’t have anything against people who choose to wear a full face of makeup, but it makes me so mad when someone’s natural face/hair/whatever isn’t considered “professional”.

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          It’s because we still live in a stupid sexist world where women are first & foremost valued by appearance and everything else is secondary.

          In a better world, all humans of all genders would be taken seriously no matter whether they wore makeup or not, no matter how much or how little they wear, whether they style their hair, how they style their hair, or what color it is.
          At 51, I *STILL* can’t understand why people care so effing much about what other people look like. Appearance truly means NOTHING. In my long experience I have found that appearance has ZERO to do with whether someone is professional, responsible, trustworthy, honest, hardworking, and so on (I will urge people to remember things like Enron, Bernie Madoff, and the Wall Street financial collapse that negatively affected the economy of THE ENTIRE WORLD- hideous scams pulled off by conservative, clean cut professionals in suits & ties, not people dressed in old jeans & dirty t-shirts or Mohawks & leather or glitter & stripper heels) and it’s far past time people learned that.

    20. Elephant*

      I had a former boss try to ding me for it, and not even subconsciously, but it didn’t work. I had a job offer for a different position at the same company and new boss asked if she could call old boss for a final reference check (she wasn’t on my original list since she didn’t know I was looking) and I said fine since at that point I was going to tell her anyway. Old boss felt the need to share random information with new boss based on her opinion of some things about me, that I had no idea she focused so much on. The things she said were: I didn’t wear makeup (actually not true at the time – when I had started that job I felt like I had to wear makeup so I had been all along, but not nearly as much as her, and mine definitely didn’t cost what hers did (her luggage got lost once while traveling for work and she asked the airline to compensate her for the $500 of duplicate makeup she had to purchase during the interim of not having her things)), I rode my bike to work, and I wasn’t from the state where we worked (we worked for a state institution) and I wasn’t even from that part of the country. To which new boss was stunned as to how to respond and how all of that had any bearing on my work. Since it didn’t I still got the new job and now knew that I definitely did the right thing in leaving – these weird opinions of me by old boss explained a lot in terms of why I could never get ahead in that job. And now, as of a few years ago, I wear no makeup at all, for anything. So much easier and freeing!
      And as for putting on makeup at work, during one of my phases where I wore some makeup, I would often put it on in a work bathroom when I changed my clothes after riding my bike to work and as far as I know that was fine. At my current job there is someone who is often putting on her makeup in the bathroom but she stays out of the way so I don’t see a problem with it.

    21. CleverGirl*

      I also don’t wear makeup to work, although I admit I wear it for interviews because I know that women have less chance of being offered a job if they look less attractive, and even though I hate this, it’s the world I live in. On average I probably wear makeup about 10 times a year.

    22. CG*

      I am very weird as in that I hardly ever wear makeup but I love makeup! I have a huge collection.

      I just wash my face, use toner, and use moisturizer in the mornings before work. I value my sleep too much.

    23. nonymous*

      I’ve been doing more video conferencing lately and found that a little bit of BB cream and tinted chapstick does wonders. Without it, my complexion looks blotchy on the screen, even though in real life it doesn’t seem to make a huge difference either way.

    24. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

      I generally don’t wear make-up to work (sometimes I do, because I do like make-up) and I’ve never been dinged for it (I’m an executive manager).

      My reasoning for not always wearing make-up is this: I have a three year old daughter. I want her to know that make-up is fun and ok and that there’s nothing wrong with people who wear make-up (hence why I wear it sometimes), but I refuse to have her believe that make-up is the currency she has to pay to exist in this world as a woman. This is true for any predominately female trapping (high-heels, long hair, etc.)

    25. BookCocoon*

      I also don’t wear makeup and have wondered idly whether it has impacted my career, but it doesn’t seem to have — it probably helps that I’m not really a ladder climber and have gone more for positions with technical expertise.

      I had a conversation with some women at lunch recently who all said they wished they’d never started wearing makeup because now they have to wear it every day or people will ask, “What’s wrong?” or say, “You look tired.”

      1. Thlayli*

        A woman in my job who spends 20 mins every morning in the locker room said the exact same thing to me. “I wish I’d never started”.

    26. Thlayli*

      I also feel makeup is about looking sexually attractive more than anything. I know there are women (and men) who just wear it to look good for themselves but for me I always just thought of it as something you do when you’re going out on the pull and it would feel really weird to me to wear it in a workplace. I only wear it on presentation days or meeting with important clients. Or interviews. And even then it’s very low key and understated. When I’m going out I look totally different.

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        I once dated a guy that told me “Now that you have a boyfriend, you don’t need to wear makeup anymore.” I LAUGHED at him. I don’t wear makeup to attract men or be sexually desirable and never have (and indeed, the type of makeup/looks I enjoy are pretty much guaranteed to be a turn-OFF for most men.)
        I don’t think I know/knew a single woman who thinks makeup is for anyone but themselves, and that’s including my grandmother who was a flapper, and my mom & aunt who both grew up in the 30s.
        It makes me kind of sad to find that 30 years after I had that shithead boyfriend, that idea still persists.

    27. whingedrinking*

      I used to have a male housemate who was in fashion, and we shared a bathroom. Another roommate scolded me once for leaving stuff all over the counter, and wouldn’t believe me when I told her that in fact most of it was his. The only kind of beauty product I used and he didn’t was lipstick. He told me at one point that in his line of work, he could maybe ditch the eyeliner and mascara, but he liked the way they made his eyes look (he was Taiwanese and acutely conscious of Western beauty standards). The rest of it – all the skin and hair stuff – was absolutely essential for being considered presentable at his job. It was a bit surreal to me.

    28. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

      I have talked to other people (both men & women) who feel makeup is a thing women do specifically to be more attractive to men, period. I find this attitude so strange. Makeup *can* be for looking good to the opposite (or same) sex, but mainly makeup is for FUN! For play! For fashion (like creatively matching your eyeshadow to your outfits)! For the enjoyment and satisfaction of the woman, man, or other-gendered person using it! :-D
      At least, that’s how it’s always been for me.
      I don’t wear makeup regularly anymore, but when I did/do I tend to wear a boatload of colorful products and dramatic looks. Even my less made up/toned down looks do not look neutral or natural. I definitely do not wear my makeup in ways that are pleasing or attractive to men, except maybe a small niche group. But it is pleasing and attractive to ME, which is all I really care about.

  5. Sara*

    I use just eyeliner and mascara every day, but I know people that range from nothing to a full face of makeup. I think whatever you’re comfortable in is fine for the most part. Though it’d be a little weird if you swung wildly from no makeup to smokey eye every few days.

    Except glitter, that seems like the one line I’d say you can’t cross. Only because it gets on EVERYTHING and actually affects other people :)

    1. Just a Thought*

      That is such a good point. I have a co-worker who usually wears no make-up and sneakers and then every once in a while (for not apparent work reason) she’ll show up in full make-up and heels. It always makes me do a double take!

    2. Caelyn*

      I’m in the same boat as you, essentially. I do wear a light foundation and powder to even my skintone and a little bronzer to add some color/not look as “flat”, but the only noticeable makeup I wear is eyeliner and mascara.

    3. saffytaffy*

      I wear glitter on my eyes or lips at my job about once a week and don’t have fallout. That’s what setting spray is for. :)

    4. Elemeno P.*

      I’m a very light makeup person (concealer under my eyes and occasionally eyeliner), but I do wear glitter nail polish. This is partially because it helps me not bite my nails and partially because I’m a volunteer princess for sick children after work once a week (where I do wear a lot of makeup) and it looks more princess-y for them.

      I don’t know if my bosses notice the glitter nail polish or not, but they do know about my volunteering so I think they wouldn’t say anything on that basis alone.

      1. Purplesaurus*

        I’m a volunteer princess for sick children after work once a week

        That is amazing! And sounds pretty fun.

    5. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

      Hahaha! I totally am one of those people who wears either no makeup at all, or a shit-ton.

  6. LadyL*

    I’m always running late so I seldom wear it. I have bad skin and perma-bags, so I’m glad I work in a progressive enough place that it’s not an issue. Sometimes I make an effort on like the first day with the kids I teach to wear it, because I don’t want them to see my eye bags and haggard face and think I’m already tired of them on day 1, lol.

    But still that’s only sometimes. I can barely get showered and dressed on time, if I felt I had to add in a full face and hair routine my employers wouldn’t see me until noon!

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Ditto on saving those precious few seconds on a late morning! And I’m relieved I don’t actually have to look polished for my job. I’m quite good at makeup (used to do stage makeup all the time with ballet) and enjoy dressing up and doing makeup for special occasions. But oh boy, when I’m dashing out the door with my keys in my teeth because I’m putting on my jacket while I sprint to the car… Yeah, it’s just not something that comes easily to me on a day-to-day basis.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      I feel you ;)
      Sleep > makeup!

      I even keep an extra stick of deodorant in my desk because sometimes I’m rushing so much… I forget that too *embarrassed look*

  7. Ruth (UK)*

    I have never worn make up in my life (or, I can count the times I have. Eg. When I was 7 and had blue eye shadow in a play, and once when I was at uni and I let someone have a go at putting some on me, etc). I have no idea how to apply it and prefer not to wear it.

    With that in mind I’m lucky it’s never been an expectation in any of my jobs (currently university admin, previously hospital appointment booking (call centre) and even more previously food/retail work).

    It’s also something that would honestly be a deal-breaker for me. I would never take a job that expected or required me to wear make up (and would leave one that started requiring it) unless my financial and other circumstances meant I had no other choice.

    That said, I also think it should be an individual choice. While it wouldn’t personally affect me, I would also be upset if a policy banned the wearing of makeup unless there was a relevant and work related reason why it couldn’t or shouldn’t be worn.

    1. Steph*

      This is my situation as well. I’m 31 and just never really got into makeup, outside of playing around with it in my early teenage years. I don’t even know what half that stuff is, let alone know how to apply it. It’s never affected me at work as far as I can tell. I do have the advantage of having naturally nice skin, like nice enough that I get compliments on it.

      1. Ruth (UK)*

        I think I am neither good or bad looking enough to be of note. I do have quite a big mole on my chin which I need to shave, and I can get quite spotty when I am on my period (ps. I’m 27, not a teenager) but most of the time I’m quite plain looking. I’m pale skinned and blonde haired.

    2. Red Reader*

      Same, I’ve never worn makeup that wasn’t like, pancake makeup for a Halloween costume, and I’ve never had any professional issues that I know of. But I also work in a fairly female dominated field – I’m in medical finance/administration, my team is 90% women, and the next man in my reporting structure is at least four levels up from me, like at the hospital VP level.

    3. Grey*

      I’ll tread lightly here, but but as a man, this is something I don’t understand about women. Makeup seems unnecessary to me and I think you look fine without it.

      1. Purplesaurus*

        Sometimes when non-makeup wearers think people aren’t wearing makeup, it’s just that they are wearing a “natural” look. They do indeed have makeup on. So I always question whether people (and it is mostly men) who say this are actually aware of the difference.

        As an example, my husband and I were binging old seasons of Walking Dead, and I commented how it seemed unfair that they allowed Andrea to wear more makeup than the other female characters. My husband said he didn’t realize any of them were wearing makeup.

        1. Purplesaurus*

          And to address your question about not understanding why women wear makeup… boy, that’s a really complex issue ranging from cultural/social expectations to individual preference. I can’t think of a perfect analogy, but it might be somewhat akin to why some men wear beards and others don’t. I don’t know if saying, “beards seem unnecessary to me and I think you look fine without one” would change anything about your decision to have a beard or not. Would it?

        2. Triumphant Fox*

          This. My husband is very “you shouldn’t wear makeup” – it’s one of the very few sticking points in our marriage – but without fail, if I do my makeup a little bit, he compliments me more. There is a real difference between his philosophical views on makeup and his actual reaction to makeup in the moment. I have moved toward much, much lighter makeup because of him and it has honestly really helped my self esteem to have him encourage me not to wear it, but I get frustrated that he can’t see that I do, objectively, look a little better with a skin tone that’s more even, eyes that are more defined, and under eyes that aren’t such an intense shade of purple.

          1. Julia*

            If my husband ever told me what I should and shouldn’t do, I would tell him he should walk out the door. Especially something so trivial as make-up – he has no say in that. Unless it’s like “you shouldn’t wear make-up in bed because I’m the one washing the sheets”.

            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              Same. I have a very non-conventional look, and have dated several men (non-conventional themselves) who would then want me to “tone it down” or look more feminine, normal, or to their preferred specifications of unconventional. I told every single one of them to fuck off, and did whatever the hell I wanted.
              None of these relationships lasted more than a few months.

        3. Miss Betty*

          I had a boyfriend, back when I was 23, who didn’t like to see women wearing makeup. Or so he said – but he frequently pointed out actresses and models he thought were pretty. I’d tell him that they were wearing makeup, at least 7 different products, and his answer was always no they weren’t, I was just jealous. !!! (Sadly I dated him for 2 more years and it only ended because he dumped me. Happily, that was over half my lifetime ago and I have much more self confidence now. Today I wouldn’t put up with the things he’d say to me or the way he treated me. Aging has great benefits!)

        4. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          LOL! Is your husband not aware that on stage and screen (both big and small) all actors, regardless of gender, are wearing makeup?

      2. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

        The thing is, it’s going to be different for every woman. Lots of women genuinely like makeup. Lots of women like makeup but only in certain contexts. Lots of women obviously also don’t like or feel neutral about makeup and may or may not wear it depending on the situation. It’s complicated because there is a wider culture of sexism that wants women to looks a certain way and the makeup industry is a part of this. This can bleed into the workplace and so some people will judge women for not wearing makeup, or not wearing the right makeup, or not looking “naturally” pretty enough.

        I mainly say this because there are a lot of factors at hand besides whether makeup is favored by someone who doesn’t wear it. You can’t assume everyone who wears makeup hates it or loves it.

        Also, I know when I’ve worn makeup, it’s not exactly just for one person and more how I reflect in a certain situation (such as job interviews). I know for me, as someone who has mixed feelings about makeup, it’s about projecting a certain image in situations where it’s more favorable to look polished and feminine. I don’t necessarily assume everyone will judge me if I don’t wear makeup but if my odds are unknown, I’ll prepare for that risk.

        (Additionally, and I don’t want to assume stuff about you but as a general point, there’s sometimes a tendency among people who don’t wear makeup to be unable to spot whether someone is wearing makeup. Such as someone with a “natural look” is complimented as someone with no makeup when in fact it’s just minimal, non-dramatic makeup. So sometimes when I hear, “Women look fine without makeup,” I’m not sure if they actually mean that or if they don’t know what no makeup can look like.)

        1. Amber T*

          Plus a million to your last point. I love playing around with make up and will go crazy with colors and fun stuff on the weekends. I keep it neutral for work – various shades of brown eye shadow, black eyeliner, and mascara for work. Occasionally, because I’m rushed or I just don’t feel like it, I’ll skip the bulk of the make up and do a light eyeliner and mascara, and I get “oh, you’re so young and fresh faced without make up!” Nope, still got the make up on. Even more occasionally, when I’m post migraine and I know I’ll be rubbing my eyes constantly, or I bump into a coworker when I’m out and about and not wearing make up, I get the “oh, are you sick? You look awful!” Nope, just not wearing make up.

      3. ThatGirl*

        I would venture a guess that when you THINK a woman is not wearing makeup, but just has “nice skin”… she’s probably wearing makeup.

        I mean, I think women look fine without makeup too – I think people should do whatever they want – but a lot of times when guys say “women don’t need makeup” what they really mean is eyeliner, heavy blush, mascara, lipstick… the “noticeable” makeup. As opposed to foundation or powder or what have you.

      4. LBK*

        I would hazard a guess that you actually see very few women every day who are wearing literally no makeup, so you probably have less of a basis for comparison than you think.

      5. SarahTheEntwife*

        Please never say this to an individual woman unless she specifically asks for your opinion. It’s hugely frustrating to have men comment on something that frequently isn’t even slightly about them.

        1. Julia*

          This. I’ve already bagged a man (if that’s what people think make-up is about) and he doesn’t care whether I wear it or not, but I wear it when I go to work or to meet people because I like not looking like someone hit me in the eyes or like I’m about to faint (I am very pale and prone to redness). I’m NOT wearing it so some guy thinks I’m hot.

        2. Grey*

          I said I’d tread lightly because I suspected someone would find sexism where there wasn’t any.

      6. sam*

        I can’t think of a single woman I know that wears makeup (or not) based on what men think. It may not be ‘necessary’, but neither are ties, or jewellery, or cargo shorts. People are gonna do what they’re gonna do. I wear makeup because it’s fun and it suits my overall style. I know some women who wear it because they have uneven skin that they don’t want people to focus on, or they want to look more awake that day, or bright colours make them happy, or whatever.

        I mean, I personally think a lot of men would look great with makeup (and being so opposed to it is something I don’t understand about men), but that’s never gonna influence their decision to wear it. Yeah?

      7. Meliza*

        I mean this genuinely, and not in a snarky way, but it’s really important to realize that many, many women do not wear makeup in order to look good to men. There are lots of commenters here that have described their makeup as confidence boosters, “battle armor”, camouflage for skin conditions, or any number of reasons. Personally, I wear makeup because I think I look f*cking great in it and it boosts my self-esteem. I think Purplesaurus made a fantastic analogy with the beard thing – it’s a personal style preference that we do for ourselves. I recently dated a guy who did the whole “I think you’re beautiful without makeup, I don’t know why you wear it, etc” and it could not understand for the life of him why I got so annoyed with it (also, he kept saying it after I asked him to stop). He just assumed that I did it to look nice for him and that I couldn’t possibly wear makeup to look nice for myself.

        There’s also a really frustrating double standard re: makeup in society, where women who wear a lot of makeup are often viewed, even subconsciously, as shallow, or vain, and our makeup choices are picked apart, but if we don’t wear makeup, we get dinged (subconsciously) as looking haggard, or even unhygienic, or not caring enough about our appearance. It’s a tough line to walk. So if you want to understand makeup and women, understanding this part is a good place to start.

    4. Nikki T*

      Yeah, I’ve never worn make up and I have a curly fro…so people have all kinds of things they might want to hold against me. But, whatever, I get my job done…

      1. Haha*

        I know you mean well here, but … lots of women who wear makeup don’t do it based on the opinion of men, or anyone in general. I probably started wearing makeup based on societal expectations, but these days it’s something I find fun and interesting. I work in a place where it doesn’t matter if I do, and I still do cause I like how it makes my eyes look.

        My point being that it doesn’t really matter that you think we all look fine without it. Offering that opinion up isn’t somehow reassuring–men seem to frequently mention this in these discussions, as if there could be no other reason people (including men and gender binary folks!) wear makeup. It’s actually annoying and frustrating, because well, it assumes once again that something we do isn’t about our own preferences, but based on what men think of us.

        1. Haha*

          Well, that didn’t nest correctly at all. Comment fail. This was in response to commenter Grey.

  8. Penny*

    You absolutely don’t have to wear makeup to look professional. I love makeup but I only put on my eyebrows for work because I’m lazy and nobody cares what my face looks like. Like Lil Fidget, I associate makeup with going out/getting dressed up.

    1. eee*

      yeah to me the idea of doing your makeup at work, unless it’s like an emergency because you absolutely have to look super “done” at your job or there’s a special even, is so weird because like…i assume you wouldn’t go out in public and head to work in the first place if you didn’t look acceptable? like brushing my hair–if my hair got tangled by the wind i’ll brush my hair when I get in to work, but otherwise i don’t need to because…i just wouldn’t leave the apartment if my hair was truly looking like a rat’s nest, or i’d at least do it on the bus ASAP. similarly with makeup, sometimes i’ll get to work and think “whoa i look really washed out by my outfit, if i have a lipstick on me let me do a quick bright lip so i look more normal”, but it would be so weird to do a full face or more than a quick touch up because like…if I looked okay enough to get here, I look okay here. makeup isn’t necessary to look put together.

  9. Jane Snow*

    I work in a fairly low-key industry, which is nice. So makeup is commonly used but not required to look professional. I don’t wear a full face, just a bit of eye makeup so I don’t look so washed out. Most of my female colleagues use subtle coverage, light enough that most of my male colleagues or other colleagues unfamiliar with makeup probably assume they’re wearing none at all. A couple of my coworkers wear statement makeup (striking lipstick, falsies, etc.), and that’s fine too. The whole range is considered within the bounds of professionalism.

    I feel very grateful to not be in an extremely judgy industry, so people can do what they prefer. Some of my friends in more conservative industries HAVE to wear makeup and heels every day, which I think is absurd.

  10. ballpitwitch*

    It’s a sad fact that women who don’t wear makeup at work are seen as less professional – but it’s a fact that isn’t going to change anytime soon, so I feel it is necessary. I’m not the kind of person who looks significantly different without makeup, so I could probably get away with not wearing it or wearing less on a day I am feeling not too great. But if you are the kind of person who contours, etc. and it changes your appearance significantly, you could have a situation as jarring as these people who change their appearance in the middle of the day we are always hearing about. I’m not a fan of people doing their makeup after leaving the house, whether in the office bathroom or in my rear view mirror. At one office I worked at, women would plug their curling irons in in the bathroom and do their hair in the mornings. Just wake up early enough to do all this stuff before you leave your dang home!

    1. Arielle*

      I don’t think you can make a blanket statement that all women who don’t wear makeup at work are always seen as less professional when it’s so industry and office dependent. I wear either BB cream if I’m broken out, or nothing. The other women on my team also wear nothing 99% of the time. We just had a company-wide town hall and our product president gave an hourlong presentation wearing a peace sign T-shirt under a blazer and no makeup, and I don’t think anyone saw her as unprofessional.

      1. ballpitwitch*

        Honestly, after reading these comments, I am clearly in the minority haha.

        Industry is definitely important, I guess when I was thinking about it I meant professional as in “put together” or something? I think the key is not really noticing that you are wearing makeup – if I am distracted by it, it is too much. But it can also be distracting when someone has a huge imperfection or very noticeable bags under their eyes, unfortunately. I feel a lot more confident when I am wearing makeup, but if the women in this thread feel that confidence without it then more power to them!

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        There’s a bunch of research about this (I’ll link in a follow-up comment). Of course it varies by industry, country, company, etc. But generally: women get more opportunities and more money if they wear “natural” looking makeup.

          1. Stellz*

            I was going to post this stuff but decided to search the comments first – so glad I did and didn’t post twice!!

            The NYT article you posted was the thing that made me start wearing makeup to work – I was in my late 20s at that point so it’s hard to say if my career improved afterwards because that helped or if it was just because I finally crossed that 5-7 years threshhold though. (Also, as a data analyst, I don’t want to imply that my unique experience in any way validates/invalidates actual research!)

    2. Anonymous Ampersand*

      I’ve seen stats that in the UK, women are judged for not wearing makeup in the North, but not in the South. I think it was on the BBC years back, but I can’t point to the source. I’m in the North but honestly I don’t think I’ve ever been judged for it.

      1. Tau*

        I did wonder about country and region. I’m in Germany and I get the impression makeup is less typical here than both the US and the UK.

        1. Wren*

          My partner has a French coworker. When she first started she wore a fair bit of make up, but scaled back drastically when she realized that wasn’t he norm in their office-casual Canadian workplace. I assume that means her previous level of make up was more typical among her colleagues in France.

        2. Julia*

          Yeah, I see a lot of bare faces and “why are you wearing make-up?” judgmental women in Germany (I’m German myself). Heck, wearing dresses is uncommon in Germany.

    3. SallytooShort*

      “but it’s a fact that isn’t going to change anytime soon, ”

      Strongly disagree. It’s already changed in many professions.

      1. ballpitwitch*

        I get where you are coming from, as this thread shows that a lot of people do not think it is necessary at all.

        But I still think that there is a huge disconnect between saying it doesn’t/shouldn’t make a difference and the reality that we all make judgements based on appearance. If 2 female candidates interview for a job and they have identical qualifications, the one who looks and dresses more polished/professional/put together is probably going to make a better impression 99% of the time.

        I’m not saying this is right or that it won’t change, but I still think it’s true.

        1. Struck by Lightning*

          It’s interesting because women in my particular branch of government are often seen as LESS professional if they have more than mascara and maybe some neutral lipstick. Women who do the “full face” are mentally placed in the admin/HR lower ranks and sortof assumed to not be interested or capable of doing technical and field work (which is the stepping stone to management).

          Just as wrong as assuming the opposite, but I can honestly only think of one woman who did the full face thing that was considered good at her job outside of admins.

          1. curly sue*

            This is the same in my field (faculty in higher ed). Full makeup is for admins + staff, occasionally a grad student in something like the MBA programs. Most female faculty I work with wear minimal to no makeup, and wash-and-go low-maintenance hair. (She says, hair jammed into a bun with a handful of mis-matched bobby pins for the fourth time this week.)

          2. ballpitwitch*

            Perhaps I am biased because I am an admin! But I’m also someone who is seen as very brainy and technically savvy as well, so I don’t think wearing making places me in some sort of lowly ditz category haha.

            All I know is that the girl who wears flip flops (and no makeup, come to think of it) in my office comes off as unprofessional and incompetent. And lo and behold, she is both of these things in reality.

        2. Luna*

          I think the problem with this argument is that 1) wearing makeup in and of itself does not make someone look more polished/professional. The way the makeup is done really matters. 2) You’re assuming that the interviewer has the same values you do when it comes to appearance. But this is not always the case. Just as many people might judge you for wearing makeup as for not wearing makeup, and you don’t really have any way of knowing where the individual interviewing you falls on this spectrum.

    4. LawPancake*

      In my industry, women who wear makeup are definitely seen as more polished. Same with women who color their hair. It’s a stupid double standard but pretending it doesn’t have real world effects doesn’t stop it from effecting you. If you’re amazing at your job, it’ll be looked past, but if you’re average, then your appearance holds a little more weight. Now, in a male dominated casual dressed industry that may not be the case, but law, finance, insurance, etc. it sure is.

      1. Anon for this*

        If you’re amazing at your job, it’ll be looked past, but if you’re average, then your appearance holds a little more weight.

        Or, TBH, if you’re a WOC you’ll face a harsh penalty for not being super-polished in the ways available to you (i.e. clothes, nails, but not hair by Western standards), regardless of your job performance.

    5. BadPlanning*

      This sadly reminds of the comment my ex made to me, “Women with short hair just have to accept they’re less attractive.” I choked on my own spit.

      1. Joielle*

        This, in turn, reminds me of a comment that I’ve heard too many times, always from strangers – “I usually hate short hair on women but it actually looks good on you.” Nobody asked for your opinion!

      2. Thlayli*

        Haha. I have shaved me head twice and both times I got so many guys chatting me up. I got a lot of “you look like Sinead O’Connor”, a few “Natalie Portman” and one “Samantha Morton”. Never got told I looked like Britney Spears though.

        Tell him to YouTube the video of “nothing compares to you” and then say women with short hair are less attractive.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          I just shaved my head for the third time and I love it. And I always get far more (nice/admiring!) comments than I do with longer hair.

      3. Elizabeth H.*

        My experience is that men so rarely like short hair! I always remember this quotation I read from Michelle Williams, saying that basically every man she meets hate her short hair and that her ex-husband Heath Ledger is the only man who ever loved it, and that’s part of why she keeps it short. That really stuck with me.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      Contrast to how you usually look matters. So if you normally have heavy contouring and eye makeup and show up without it, you look “washed out.” But if you’re normally nude/minimal and show up in heavy makeup you look “on your way to Rocky Horror.” If people were asked to rate the attractiveness of a stranger at different levels of makeup, they’d give different feedback than if a familiar person suddenly showed up looking different because Change Is Bad.

    7. sin nombre*

      I flatly reject this. If people view me as less professional because I don’t wear makeup (ever — last time was my wedding ten years ago), that’s crappy, wrong, and sexist and I’m not going to allow that to dictate my personal grooming. For what it’s worth, I work in tech as a software engineer where it sucks to be a woman in a lot of different ways, but being expected to wear makeup isn’t one of them in my experience. And I think I look just fine bare-faced — I have pretty clear, even skin (thanks mom!), high contrast coloring, and glasses that help hide or distract from my tired-looking eyes. But even if I didn’t, the hell with the fundamentally sexist idea that women’s faces have to be corrected for public viewing but men’s faces don’t.

  11. chocolate lover*

    I rarely wear it, and fall into the school of “it’s not required to look professional” though I concede it can make you look more polished in some cases.

    I overheat extremely easily, especially since I commute via public transportation, so when I do wear makeup at work, I don’t put it on until I get to work. But I also have my own office to do it in, it could be awkward doing it in a shared work bathroom. And I don’t think people should be monopolizing a single-person restroom for purposes of putting on make-up, just in case people need the bathroom for its intended purpose. At an old job, there was an older woman who came in to work with curlers, and then took them out and styled her hair in the bathroom. That struck me as too much personal groom in shared work spaces.

    Once a candidate we were interviewing had rhinestones on her nails. The rhinestones kept catching the light and flashing in the corner of my eye, distracting me the whole time. I’m visualizing the same effect with body glitter, and wouldn’t care for it. I also think body glitter is a bit too much for a professional office in general, though I know it can depend on the office.

    1. Beancounter in Texas*

      Ditto. I think makeup is a tool that helps one look professional, but I don’t think of it as required as well. Generally I don’t emphasize looks when it comes to professionalism, if only because I’ve encountered quite a few great looking people who were rude as hell.

    2. KitKat*

      I think this is the distinction to me – you can definitely look professional without makeup, just like you can look professional in cheaper clothes. But there are definitely some industries where it’s not just about looking professional but about looking polished, and I think that “polish” for women seems to depend much more on adhering to typical/traditional/white + upper-class norms of more expensive clothing, some amount of makeup, and wearing your hair a certain way, especially if it’s anything other than straight.

      (I say this as a woman who shops in thrift stores, doesn’t wear makeup, and doesn’t have straight hair, and would not work somewhere that required “polish”)

      1. Lindsay J*

        This. I can pull off professional perfectly acceptably.

        But polish is something I just can’t achieve (or. realistically, would require me to spend a lot of money and time on learning how to and obtaining the things I needed to do so, and doing it daily). I interviewed once for a high end retail position in a casino which seemed to require polish, and was both unsurprised and not upset when I didn’t get the job.

    3. Natalie*

      I also put my makeup on at work and I really can’t imagine it being a big deal, although that’s probably because it literally takes me 90 seconds (eyebrow pencil and mascara) and I could do it while peeing if I wanted to. The habit of waiting started when I was bike commuting since sweat in your eyes hurts enough without something in it, but now its kind of routine for me.

  12. Guy Incognito*

    A little while back now, I was running low on makeup so I decided to go without for about a week so I wouldn’t deplete it before I had the chance to restock. Even though I had worn it literally every other day of my time at my job up until that point, no one batted an eye. So I just said forget it, and shaved 10-15 minutes off my morning routine and haven’t looked back. It could just be my profession/office culture, so don’t take this as Gospel. But I couldn’t be happier :)

    1. Naptime Enthusiast*

      I used to wear full makeup (foundation, bronzer, eye shadow, etc) when I first started working, for the first 4-6 months. I came in one day with no makeup because I woke up late and was sick, and ended up leaving work early that day. My well-meaning but clueless coworker announced, “well you don’t LOOK sick”. From that point on I decided that if nobody could tell the difference between sick and a full face of makeup, I would capitalize on the extra sleep so I wouldn’t need as much makeup to cover the bags under my eyes :)

      I do have senior acquaintances that were told they needed to change their style to be taken more seriously, meaning fitted outfits, heels, styled hair, and makeup on a regular basis. They’re now VPs so obviously the feedback was helpful to them.

    2. Newbie*

      I had a similar experience to you. I wouldn’t go crazy with my makeup, but I used to do liquid foundation, blush, eye shadow, lipstick, etc. It took me around 20 min each morning and while I enjoyed doing my makeup some days I would definitely run late because of it. I can’t remember why but one day I didn’t do my full routine and only did concealer, blush, and mascara and absolutely nobody noticed. After a few days I decided to just say f-it and stuck to my more simplified routine. I don’t think I would ever fully go without makeup to work, but I have enjoyed doing something simpler and now it saves me time in the morning plus money on makeup! haha I’ve also notice my skin is much better too, win-win!

  13. Work Wardrobe*

    It’s so subjective… personally, I look my best with makeup, but I don’t think I look “made up.” I wear it every day, quick routine, 5-10 minutes at home.

    A lot of women just don’t wear makeup. Although I think many women in my office *could* look more polished/professional if they minimized redness or splotchiness and added a bit of color to lips. But who am I to say? It’s personal preference, right?

    1. Pineapple Incident*

      I do this – 6-7 minutes in the car when I arrive at work. A little concealer to balance out redness, a cc cream I use as foundation, eyeliner, mascara. It’s all about preference – I feel like I look like myself at this level of “made-up.” I know women at work who wear none, and some who wear more than I do, but no one here is judged for it I don’t think. We have a branch chief in my office who never wears discernible make-up and is a negotiating badass – THAT is what people remember about her.

      That said, no one in my office monopolizes the bathroom (with only one sink) to put on make-up in the morning. If someone did, they’d probably catch some flak for it.

    2. Fiennes*

      I also look my best with it. I look fine without it, but my coloring is VERY pale. So while friends & family think nothing of it, if I go out in public with a naked face, I often have someone come up and ask me if I’m okay! Apparently, my “natural coloring” is other people’s “vasoconstrictor reflex before passing out.” My daily routine is simple, though: subtle eyeliner or mascara, B.B. cream, and lipstick. I touch up with powder (oily skin, humid climate) and tinted lip balm a couple times a day.

      My work involves public appearances sometimes, and for that I go full out. Foundation, eyeliner/eyeshadow/curled lashes, some rosy highlighter on the cheeks, bold lipstick. I even use a setting spray and start with a blur cream base. Photos are taken at these events, and they get posted all over, so I’m honestly making up for those more than for the event itself (though if you’re talking from a podium to a big convention room, I don’t think defining the features is a bad idea.)

    3. Beancounter in Texas*

      I’m prone to allergic shiners and I wish I was an expert at covering those up so I wouldn’t look so tired.

      1. Aunt Piddy*

        Try Bye Bye Under Eye from It! I have awful allergies and it’s the only thing that will cover up my black eyes.

    4. Bleeborp*

      Same, it’s none of my business but I see some coworkers and just think about how I wouldn’t feel comfortable at work with my zits just out to play with all my red blotches and my lips the same color as my blotchy skin! But I also know if I just stopped wearing makeup one day I’d get used to how I looked and it’d be no big deal. But every one is different and really, the main thing with makeup is that either you find the products that work for you right away by luck, you enjoy trying lots of different things (that’s me) or you tried makeup a couple times, didn’t care for it, and decided “not for me!” and have no interest in trial and error. Which is fine, I just happen LOVE buying and trying things but I’m that way about food, about clothes, about all kinds of things.

    5. Ann Furthermore*

      Same for me. I feel more pulled together when I’m wearing makeup, like it’s the finishing touch. I don’t do anything elaborate — start to finish, it takes about 5 minutes. I feel naked without it, especially lipstick.

    6. HannahS*

      I mean, I think it’s worth questioning why you feel that women, specifically, would look more professional if they had clearer skin and redder lips, but not the men.

        1. HannahS*

          Your personal desire to have men wear makeup doesn’t negate the fact that women are by and large expected to wear makeup in order to look professional when men are not. And also, I’m responding to something that Work Wardrobe said specifically about the women in her office. So that’s pretty much exhibit A.

        2. soon 2be former fed*

          Yep, and groomed eyebrows, an d moisturizer. Lotion too. I definitely notice poor grooming in men.

    7. EA*

      I’m the same as you, Work Wardrobe! It takes me about 10 minutes to apply eyeliner, mascara, a hint of blush, and loose powder (without it I have an oily sheen). I really believe the 10-minute investment makes me look more awake and put-together!

  14. Jubilance*

    This is definitely a “know your industry” thing. When I worked as a chemist, I don’t even think anyone noticed if I had makeup on or not. I kept it pretty simple then – eyeliner, mascara, lip gloss.

    I’ve been in retail for the past 5yrs and there’s definitely an unspoken vibe of being more fashionable/trendy because my company is often mentioned when people think about affordable, trendy apparel. As a result, a lot of the women here where some level of makeup but I don’t think it would be a hinderance if someone didn’t. Wearing foundation/eye shadow/liner/mascara/lipstick is the norm around here. Doing something “extra” like contouring everyday or a dark smokey eye would be noticed and also out of place here.

    I love makeup (I’m Sephora VIB Rouge) so I like wearing makeup to the office. I like when I get comments on my highlight or eyeshadow.

    1. Lora*

      Yes. If you’re going to be on the shop floor or in the lab, no makeup is expected and a marker of your hard work and value to the company: “my value is in the lab, using my brain; I am not here for decorative purposes”.

      At CurrentJob, women do not wear makeup. It’s the Lady Scientist Uniform: easy-care hairstyle, slacks or somewhat frumpy skirt/blouse combination, glasses, cardigan sweater.

      1. Jadelyn*

        I’m not sure if you yourself think that no makeup means “my value is in the lab” etc., or if you’re describing a viewpoint you’ve seen other people ascribe to, but I really hope it’s the latter, because that is rubbing me extremely the wrong way.

        I wear makeup (winged eyeliner, specifically, and then just some powder and mascara because it looks really weird to just have eyeliner and nothing else) because I like the way it looks on me. Because given a choice between reflexively smiling to myself when I catch sight of my face in a mirror and flinching slightly in that same moment, I’ll take the former, even though it costs me a whole extra 5 minutes in the morning when I’m getting ready. And I find the idea that my choice of personal adornment means I am “here for decorative purposes” to be deeply offensive.

        I’m my team’s analyst, systems specialist, and overall tech guru. That’s my value to my company, whether I wear makeup or not, and choosing to wear makeup that makes me happy does NOT change me from valued intellectual contributor to “decorative”. Fuck that mindset. Sorting women (because it’s always women or people assumed to be women who get hit with this) into “valued for brains” and “here for decorative purposes” is incredibly misogynistic.

        So even if you’re just describing a general mindset you’ve observed…it’s really Not Okay and I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to push back against the choice to classify women as “decorative” versus “smart” based on their personal presentation.

        1. the_scientist*

          I’m as tired of Performative Femininity as I am of Performative non-Femininity. It’s not as subversive as you (general you, not specific to you, Jadelyn) think it is to be anti-makeup, or anti anything else traditionally coded as feminine, because you are then setting the assumption that the default/preference is masculine. Plus it just reeks of “cool girl” insecurity to me.

          So what if you like a bold lip, a strong highlight, or a good cat eye? That doesn’t make you any less focused, less skilled at your job, or less of an intellectual powerhouse. Women can be more than one thing.

          So TL;DR I agree with everything you said.

          1. Aerin*

            I used to be way into the performative anti-femininity thing when I was younger. No pink, no makeup, nothing girly. Now I’m in my 30s, and I generally don’t care as much. I don’t usually wear makeup, but if I feel like a good blood-of-my-enemies red lipstick or some awesome accessorizing, I’ll just do it. It for me, not for anyone else.

          2. Julia*

            Thank you. Why is being feminine bad? Why do we have to “be like men” in order to be taken seriously? Why can’t we meet in the middle, or consider some “feminine” traits and some “masculine” traits good? Or just let everyone be whoever they want?

        2. Lora*

          The latter – how other people see it. I’m in New England, and this seems to be the aesthetic in the People’s Republic of Cambridge.

          Left to my druthers I wear a little bit of BB cream, tubing mascara and Maybelline Ink matte lip goo. But I’ve also been sneered at for being overly femme in appearance, especially for liking 3″ stiletto heels when not in the lab / on the shop floor, so.

          1. Stellz*

            Sidenote – that Maybelline Ink Matte lip goo is manna from heaven! I wasn’t a big makeup person until my 30s – although now I just do it for fun and wear very little to work – and until I got my hands on this stuff never work lipstick because it was so freaking impractical (never lasted, I’m terrible about reapplying, my lips have a weird shape that makes traditional lipsticks look weird, etc etc) but now I buy that stuff in every color that goes with my skin tone. It is legit.

        3. Luna*

          I read Lora’s comment more as describing that viewpoint.

          And I don’t think there is always anything performative about feminine or non-feminine things. People like what they like, they are not performing just by being themselves. Just because someone prefers not to wear makeup, does not mean that she is to blame for the masculine being the default, nor does it make her insecure or in the “cool girl” category.

          1. mandassassin*

            I don’t think that Jadelyn or the_scientist were saying that no-makeup people are doing the insecure/”I’m the cool girl” thing – rather, that the no-makeup people who put down makeup people as “frivolous” were doing it. *That* is performative anti-femininity: thinking/acting like their choice is superior because it’s not the “girly” choice.
            PS – so much of everything we do is performative! That’s not a negative, and it doesn’t necessarily mean a conscious “performance” like acting. It’s about how we view each other in society. We don’t exist in a vacuum, so everything we do around other people can be seen through a performative lens – I might be wearing makeup because I find it aesthetically pleasing, but because of our cultural context it will be seen by people around me as performing femininity. Some people choose to perform femininity (makeup/dresses/heels/whatev) to affirm or subvert their gender as they present to themselves or others. You’ll see the term used this way in sociology/gender studies/that sort of thing.

        4. Lora*

          “So even if you’re just describing a general mindset you’ve observed…it’s really Not Okay and I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to push back against the choice to classify women as “decorative” versus “smart” based on their personal presentation.”

          I don’t disagree on this point, but the field and industry I work in is so very sexist that this is way, way far down on the list of Work Culture Things I Want Changed – so far down that it honestly doesn’t even rise to any level of consideration for me. My industry is still struggling with “don’t harass women out of STEM jobs,” and fair pay, and them figuring out how to hire someone other than 3-9 white men for every woman or person of color is definitely a solid generation or two away. Changing how they think of appearance is the least of my worries, unfortunately.

        5. Former Cosmetic & Fragrance mgr*

          Just a +1 for wearing eyeliner without mascara. Two or three women I work with that do that and it’s actually unsettling to me. :-)

  15. Dr. Doll*

    Grabbing some popcorn here…

    I darken my eyebrows a bit and put lipstick on before going to class. That’s the extent of it. I’m envious of people who have the self discipline to do a bit more, like the woman down the hall who has beautiful eye makeup every day. Because she wears it every day, it’s just “her” and that’s fine.

    I admit I hate the current fad among my students of having inch-long false eyelashes and right-triangled eyebrow pencil, I think it looks much too telanovella.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      Heh – the older sister (a high school senior) of my daughter’s elem school classmate came to pick her up after school. Her inch-long false eyelashes and over the top makeup combined with inappropriate clothing choice (booty shorts and skimpy tank top) was kind of a shock. Then again, I’d say that look is maybe to be expected on students who are still experimenting but I really hope I never see it in a working environment.

    2. SarahTheEntwife*

      Last time I was in the hospital, the resident for the wing had absolutely perfect eyeliner. I was just in awe. I’m a librarian and I’m happy if I can make it out the door with pants on and get through the day without spilling coffee on something; I can’t imagine having a resident’s schedule and yet still having time to get your look that perfect.

    3. Bleeborp*

      I have learned so much about makeup from YouTube (and to a lesser degree Instagram) and it’s awesome because it turns out, I love makeup but false eyelashes for everyday use is definitely a weird thing social media has pushed that sets up kind of a weird expectation. When someone is filming a video, they’re wearing them for maybe an hour, not necessarily a whole day of school! But to each their own, they can look great!

      1. Thlayli*

        I wore them on my wedding day and it looked amazing but omg they hurt! My sisters told me they’re not supposed to hurt but they were so sore.

  16. TotesMaGoats*

    1. Putting on make up at work.
    I keep everything I need to touch up my hair and makeup in my desk. I often have evening events and by 5pm, I’ve touched most of my make up off and need to reapply. A quick check of lipstick before going to a meeting with big wigs is never a bad thing especially since I always end up with lipstick on my teeth. Be subtle both in application and wearing and you’ll be alright.

    2. Do you have to
    Acknowledging the double standard regarding women, men and make up, I feel that most people would look more professional with just a smidge of makeup. A little foundation goes a long way for all of us. Do you need a full face of it or looking like Tammy Faye Baker? Lord, no. But aside from the people who wake up with no blemishes and a pearly glow, full lashes and no under eye circles, I think all of us can get a little help. I know I look dreadful without it and that my five minute (or less) routine makes me look more awake and older. Putting on makeup doesn’t have to be a chore and is a skill like anything else that can be learned.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        I’m not saying you have to you. You do you. But you’ll read sometimes that “I just can’t figure it out”. It’s a skill like anything else.

        1. Hey Nonnie*

          I have literally followed YouTube tutorials step-by-step, and while the video star got a lovely airbrushed look, mine looked crayoned on. Thick and clumpy, even after blending the hell out of it.

          So yeah, some of us just can’t figure it out.

        2. Anonymous Ampersand*

          I feel that most people would look more professional with just a smidge of makeup.
          But aside from the people who wake up with no blemishes and a pearly glow, full lashes and no under eye circles, I think all of us can get a little help.

          It came across as saying everyone should. *Shrug*

      2. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

        This! I have the hobbies I have because they bring me joy. Adding a new one I don’t even like would have a huge opportunity cost.

    1. Annabelle*

      Eh, I don’t like the idea that only people with perfect skin get to go makeup-free. I love makeup and wear a lot of it in my free time, but I don’t generally have the energy to put it on every morning before work. And my non-dramatic makeup routine takes like, 10 minutes so it’s not really a time thing.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Yup. I have acne scarring that is never going to be completely covered by non-stage makeup no matter how much I put on, and I frequently go makeup free either when I don’t have time to put it on or when I want to give my skin a break. My face is my face, and people will deal. (And funnily enough, one of my coworkers told me the other day I’m so pretty when I only had on moisturizer and sunscreen, so apparently my scarring isn’t as awful as I think it is and makeup isn’t necessary for me to look presentable.)

    2. Ceiswyn*

      Where do you learn this skill, and how do you endure the days of looking like a clown until you’ve got it right?

      I have very fair skin and a little foundation makes me look three days dead. If I use foundation I also need to use blusher to add some colour back in, but I don’t know where to even start with that and, well, did I mention ‘clown’. Add to that that I wear spectacles, and if I take them off to apply eye makeup I can’t see what I’m applying, and… this really seems like an awful lot of effort for me to put in in order to meet an arbitrary societal sexist double standard

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        If you don’t want to wear makeup, then don’t. If you feel confident as you are, that’s great. I don’t. I know I look better with a little make up on. That’s me. I completely agree it’s an arbitrary social standard.

        That said, practice is how you learn. A good make up store will teach you to apply it. Youtube.

        1. Ceiswyn*

          But you said that you think most people could use a little help and would look more professional with a little makeup. So now I feel rather as if I’m being judged and found wanting for never having got the hang of it.

        2. Bleeborp*

          I know you’re getting a little shade for suggesting learning how to apply makeup is an useful skill but I can’t help but agree. And it is passing a little judgement but I’m being candid in an anonymous forum so I’m okay with that. I think it’s wise to learn how to cook to some degree but it’s not required either but I do judge someone a little when they refuse to learn.

          Now, there is the gendered aspect of makeup and I did bristle against this being exclusively an expectation of women but, so I get that, but ultimately it’s been a good thing for me so I know for me it has been a good skill to develop.

          1. Helena Handbasket*

            I completely agree! I think makeup is something people get pretty defensive about, but I think it’s a useful skill like anything else that helps improve your self-image. For example, I couldn’t care less about fashion and the skill of putting together a well-balanced outfit, but I will happily agree that it’s a skill that everyone can definitely benefit from. Not passing a judgement for anyone who chooses not to (including me!) but it is a beneficial thing to know how to do for those that choose to learn it.

            1. Newlywed*

              please tell me your un is a “friends” reference to the incomparable helena handbasket?

      2. Beancounter in Texas*

        Ceiswyn – YouTube. Seriously. I don’t really know how to apply makeup well because I haven’t practiced. But YouTube has a ton of makeup bloggers who do tutorials and specialize in face features, like hooded eyes or acne-scarred skin.

        1. cat socks*

          +1 to YouTube

          There are so many beauty channels ranging from beginner makeup to advanced looks. I follow a lot of channels. I don’t know why, but I find it entertaining to watch people put on makeup.

        2. Blue Anne*

          I’ve tried to learn from youtube tutorials, but even the simplest ones just seem to be telling me to do it. Which I don’t know how to do.

            1. Bleeborp*

              That is definitely something to keep in mind- they are painting for the camera, not for real life! And to find people you like- I can’t with Jacklyn Hill types. There are people doing more realistic daily looks.
              Truly, the most useful thing I learned from youtube is the basics of color theory- blue eyes look good with warm colors. And that the basics are to blend a subtle neutral color in the crease, put a lighter neutral color on my lid (I like a shimmer) and you’re good. If you’re bad with eyeliner, use a liner brush to put dark eyeshadow along the lash lines (I think it’s easier to apply than eyeliner until you get used to it.)

      3. Penny Lane*

        Most people learn it from their mothers when they are young teens. It’s a common rite of passage for a mother who, when she sees her young teen putting on makeup (and invariably putting it on too heavily, etc) to take her someplace where they will show her how to do it well (a light touch, neutral colors, enhancing her looks versus covering them up).

        It’s kind of like asking “where do you learn the skill to brush your hair or floss your teeth.” It’s just part of many people’s normal growing-up-life.

        If you are using foundation and you need to add blush to add color back in, it sounds like you’re using a foundation that is the wrong shade for you, and/or you are using way too much. Most people don’t even need foundation, or if they do, just a tiny dab will do. It’s my experience that people who are also flummoxed by makeup tend to wear way too much and then don’t understand why it takes so long and they look clown-like.

        Of course, if you don’t want to wear makeup, then don’t and that’s cool, but you asked “where people learn this skill” – they learn it the same place they learned how to brush their hair.

        1. Ceiswyn*

          Well, I’m way past my teens and my mother never showed me, so that ship has sailed.

          Also, my foundation (actually tinted moisturiser) is exactly the right shade for my skin, which believe you me is a rarity, and on those rare occasions I wear it I wear it very thinly to avoid clownosity or vampirism. I think you’re making some false assumptions here because most people have much warmer-toned skin than I do. My skin is naturally chalk-white and non-tanning, and the only thing that makes me look alive is the trace of pink in my cheeks (and nose, darnit, but that’s usually what I’m trying to hide). Obviously if I put foundation on my cheeks and nose, that then removes all my colour and I have to add it back in. Or not, because I never got the hang of blusher.

          Your original post said that most people look more professional with makeup, so… it’s cool if I don’t want to wear it but I won’t look professional?

          1. Ceiswyn*

            Apologies, I didn’t double-check names; please ignore my final paragraph while I go get more coffee :)

          2. Julia*

            As another pale person, I get it. I tend to wear pretty full-coverage foundations because my face is often very red (and no, that’s not because make-up doesn’t let my skin “breathe” in case anyone wants to suggest that), so I need to wear blush as well. Heck, even without foundation, I’d need to wear blush, because my cheeks are ironically the only part of my face that aren’t always red.

            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              I am also a naturally pale person, and for daily wear (when I feel like wearing a face) I use a pale foundation, pale matte powder, and very slight to no blush in subtle but not neutral colors (like peach or brick), I usually sweep a little over my kids & brow area and that’s darker than my blush. The color in my face comes from my lipstick, and if I am wearing eyeshadow that day.
              I don’t do bronzer, contour, or highlighter either, I’d rather make the most of my nice fair skin.

        2. Blue Anne*

          >It’s kind of like asking “where do you learn the skill to brush your hair or floss your teeth.” It’s just part of many people’s normal growing-up-life.

          eeesh. I really don’t think those are the same. Can we please not pretend that putting on makeup is part of a normal, required hygiene routine like brushing hair is?

          1. Natalie*

            Eh, plenty of people don’t learn to floss their teeth and plenty of people don’t actually routinely brush their hair. All of these grooming routines are cultural – none of them are actually some kind of human default.

            1. Blue Anne*

              Okay, but that’s kind of beside the point. In the culture most of are discussing, I really hate “basic face of makeup” being equated with something as basic as “hair brushing”.

              I know there are exceptions and things (I actually had to teach almost all of this stuff to myself) but that doesn’t mean we should reinforce this cruddy view.

              1. Natalie*

                I really don’t see that happening in the comment you replied to. She didn’t say anything about what was “required hygiene”, just where a lot of people learn it – the same place they learn to brush their hair or whatever. It doesn’t need to be a controversial statement that most people do learn this kind of thing from their same sex parent or another adult. You seem to be bringing in a big inference about value and then responding to that.

        3. Amey*

          This is probably true but so not universal – my mother has never, to my knowledge, worn makeup. I absolutely had to teach myself and while I like to wear a bit of makeup, I do feel a bit uncomfortable with it. Both of my sisters are similar, I think, and have had to find a tentative comfort zone in adulthood. It just wasn’t done in our household. I think this isn’t totally unusual for my generation with mothers who came of age in the feminist movement. I think my mother’s stance on it is very much a rejection of her 1950s childhood when she and her sisters always had to be perfectly turned out.

        4. Lindsay J*

          But many people’s parents didn’t do that.

          My mom never did.

          Of course, I never expressed much of an interest in makeup as a young teen, except in the glitter goo with stars and such in it we were all putting on our faces at that age. Maybe if I had expressed an interest then, she would have.

          But then, she may not have. She was always very feminist in a way that was against traditional female gender roles. Sometimes to my detriment. Like she never taught me to cook or do basic house hold chores, either, though she did teach my little brother to cook and clean and etc because she wanted to make sure he wasn’t always depending on his future spouse to do the work of keeping him alive. But, like, I needed to learn how to keep myself alive, too and didn’t get to learn to do that when most people do.

          I’ve learned mostly on my own through the internet. But it’s also something I decided to do for me, and something that did take some time to learn to do correctly. (And also it seems like it might be more difficult to learn as time goes on, because a lot of beauty bloggers and vloggers are young and I think a lot of times the “daytime” tutorials sort of fall into the same trap that television shows fall into with “office appropriate” outfits. That is to say that they’re not really appropriate for or in sync with office norms at all.) If I had not been interested in learning to do my makeup well and was doing it just because I thought I had to, I would have likely become discouraged and quit very quickly.

          Also, it seems like it’s like cooking. Cooking was something I learned to do pretty easily due to the wealth of cookbooks available and recipes on the internet. I’m not a gourmet chef by any means, but pretty much anything I try to make turns out edible. But then, there are some people who try to cook and can’t make pasta or rice, never mind anything more complicated. Are they not following the instructions correctly or exactly enough? Are they not paying attention? Are they not able to identify and accommodate for differences between their setup and that of the recipe creator? Are they really just naturally bad at cooking? I’m not sure, but I know that two people can follow the same exact recipe and come up with wildly different results and I know the same is true with makeup tutorials as well.

        5. No thanks*

          This is your own fantasy not reality that mothers teach their daughters. The flaw in your assumption is that these young girls you speak of are self conscious and seek distance from their mothers on sensitive issues. Another is that many mothers do not wear makeup themselves and so would not have these skills or desire to teach their already beautiful daughters that they need to improve themselves. Also makeup and styles change so what a mother does is exactly what a daughter does not want. You don’t know what you are talking about.

      4. Breda*

        I learned it in theater, so transitioning to a Normal Face was a matter of using about half as much of everything, hah!

        For blush – I also have very fair skin, so I usually go with the lightest shade of cream blush I can find in the drug store. Cream blush blends a lot easier than powder, so it looks more natural and less clowny, and it’s also easier to use a very little and then build up if you want to. Stuff like bright or dark lipstick, or dramatic eyeliner, I started playing with on nights when I had no plans, so there was no pressure and I could get comfortable with it while watching a dumb movie in my own home.

        But seriously, I think a lot of people are interpreting “you can learn this” as “you HAVE TO learn this,” and you don’t. You can do whatever you want! But no one was born knowing how to apply make-up, everyone who is good at it learned it somewhere.

        1. Drama Mama*

          I don’t wear makeup, and have three daughters, and they all learned to apply makeup in theater. I laughed out loud at your first paragraph, SO TRUE!

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Ha! I rarely wear makeup; my college student does; last semester she took a class on theater makeup.

      5. Falling Diphthong*

        Sephora Urban Decay Naked Skin in green. (It’s green all the time, not green in the tube but beige when it hits oxygen.) It evens out pinkness without looking like you painted a beige layer over your skin.

        -Also very fair; I freelance but occasionally want to go out and look a tad more polished.

        1. Arjay*

          So does it completely disappear into your skin, so your natural pinkness and the green color just appear neutral? Or does it require powder/foundation/concealer on top to then camouflage the green tint?

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I always wear it straight. I have very pale skin that shows any hint of redness.

      6. ket*

        From a fellow fair-skin-er — all the liquid foundations made me look like that oompa-loompa politician (orange!) and I hated how they felt on my face. A few years back I discovered mineral powder makeup. It didn’t feel all glue-y and I could match my skintone. Game changer. For the first time ever I didn’t feel stupid in makeup.

      7. NaoNao*

        The biggest skill I see that differentiates the pros from the still learning is *blending*. That and a light hand/adding layers delicately until you achieve the effect you desire.

        In your case, Ceiswyn, it seems like you may want to look into mineral foundations in a powder form that are dusted on in very sheer, thin layers, not liquid or ‘cake’ formats.

        I found that stick or cream blusher is also much easier to master, as you can use your fingers and blend it in lightly and naturally.

        The trick is for blusher: smile, and apply on apples of cheeks (the part that pops when you smile) and then blend upwards to temples.

      8. Paula, with Two Kids*

        I’m late to this, but wanted to say getting the right shade of foundation is important. Find a brand that carries many shades, and has the right undertone. I usually end up with the palest I can find (105 covergirl advanced radiance). Or get a makeover and have the salesgirl find your shade. If you can see where your makeup “ends” then you have a shade that doesn’t match, and there is no way to make that look natural.

        Any brand with only a few colors will never have a shade light enough. Also, put on plenty of moisturizer right before (I use my olay regenerist serum), that will help the foundation spread and blend.

        And also, I don’t advocate that there is any need to wear makeup if you aren’t into it. I had years of allergies/dry eyes where I had to give up all eye makeup. Days where I’m not feeling it, etc. I think being professional is about being *you*, the you that you love.

    3. Fiennes*

      Worth noting: makeup use among men is subtly ticking up—and “subtle“ is the keyword here. It’s not just flamboyant looks; increasing numbers of guys use some B.B. cream/eyebrow pencil/other stuff that doesn’t scream “makeup” but adds some polish. Maybe it’s the era of Instagram at work. But makeup companies have taken notice.

    4. A tester, not a developer*

      Looking more awake sounds good. Looking older? Not really what I’m going for. :)

    5. yasmara*

      It took me a long time to realize that women whose make-up and hair looked great at the end of the day probably touched it up throughout the day! I work in tech and just recently even when working at home I’m apt to have video calls. I do a tinted moisturizer/cc cream/light foundation with sunscreen (depending on my skin that day), fill in my patchy eyebrows, curl eyelashes + mascara, blush (very pale person, prone to looking sick/tired w/o a little color, pretty obsessively avoid the sun), and a neutral Your Lips But Better (YLBB) lipstick. It takes less than 5 minutes. I might powder my t-zone after lunch & refresh my lipstick & run a brush through my hair (30 seconds). Honestly, it takes me longer to take my medications & vitamins in the morning than to do my make-up.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        There’s also setting spray and things. A while back I was looking over some tutorials on how to get lipstick so it doesn’t smudge off on everything, and the answer seems to be “wear about five different products on your lips at once” and was sort of disappointed but felt much less incompetent about my coffee cups always having purple rims by the end of the day.

    6. SarahTheEntwife*

      I enjoy playing with makeup from time to time, but for me it’s decoration, not concealment. If the goal is for me to look like me, only vaguely Photoshopped so that we can pretend I don’t have pores, that just make me feel angry and self-conscious.

      One of these days I need to grab my sister-in-law of the badass makeup skills and see if she can teach me to do eyeliner. I have an incredibly strong glasses prescription and so can’t actually see myself in the mirror well enough to follow the handy YouTube tutorials. I also either have weird-shaped eyelids or just don’t understand how eyeliner works.

  17. Cordoba*

    I previously worked in an environment where nobody could wear makeup because it was a contamination/safety concern, but the dress code was otherwise professional.

    If somebody from that company were transported to another white-collar environment sans makeup I doubt that the people in the new spot would regard them as unprofessional boors because of it.

  18. Lia*

    I wear makeup, and have for my entire professional career. I wear it because I like the way it looks and I feel more confident when I look pulled together. Same reason I wear well-fitting clothing and dress for a notch above my position. My makeup is a natural look, with tones that highlight the good and minimize flaws.

    That said, I work in university administration. Most female faculty do not wear makeup, administration is maybe 50/50. Rarely do you see anyone with clubbing-style makeup (or clothing) – we’re a suits/dress clothes office and very rarely dip into business casual.I think it’s a “know your office” thing.

    Do I put on makeup at work? Only after work, if I am going somewhere without stopping home first. I might touch up lipstick or re-comb hair but nothing that takes more than 30 seconds.

    1. Chinook*

      I too have always worn make up at work but not at home. I find it helps me make the transition to a more formal/professional mind set.

      As for how much, I believe make up should not draw attention to itself. There is a time and place for heavy stage makeup and that is on stage or at a night club (because you need it for the lighting). But, for work, makeup shouldn’t shout its presence – it’s purpose is to improve a person’s appearance and it is not doing its job if it is distracting from the person who is wearing it (does that make sense).

      At the same time, I never judge a woman for not wearing make up and I don’t notice the difference. I judge more on how neat a person is, which can happen just as easily with uneven complexion.

    2. Healthnerd*

      Same here for make up style. I have always worn it for working indoors. As a teenager, I had outdoor jobs (lifeguard & referee) and never saw the point of wearing makeup. For me, its about putting together a more “work look.” Our office has a casual dress code and on weekends I never wear makeup running around to do errands. Putting on make-up makes me feel like I’m getting into work mode. Again, I think its more about routine than actual look. No one would bat an eye if I showed up sans makeup.

      I think many people also associate putting on makeup with a long drawn out routine. My makeup routine takes less than 5 minutes (spot concealer, loose powder, mascara, maybe eye liner if I’m feeling fancy). About once a week, I apply my makeup at work in the bathroom because I’m coming from an early morning Physical Therapy appointment. Since my routine is fairly minimal, when I do apply at work, no one notices (also I don’t think they’ve had their coffee yet )

      I also work in academia but more specifically in social work so I think the progressive nature of our school lends itself to a more casual attitude on makeup. However, even in academia, I notice a difference between appearances between the different departments. Medical School employees adhere to a more strict business casual dress code and even some departments trend towards business attire. I have noticed females who work in these areas tend to have more regular make-up and hair styles.

    3. Salamander*

      I do, too, and always have. It takes me about 3-5 minutes for a work look, and I enjoy the process. I guess I feel like it’s a few moments of pampering time before heading out, because I found stuff that smells nice and feels good on my skin…so it feels like self-care time before going into the world of URK.

  19. grace*

    I’ve always worn makeup at work – it makes me feel more put together, almost like a way of signalling to myself that okay, you’re out of the house, now act like it. I know people who don’t and people who do, and I really agree that it’s industry dependent.

    That said, I think in the vast majority of environments, makeup should be used to enhance, not distract – I keep my wings of my eyeliner short and sweet if I do them at all, I don’t smokey anything, etc. The real focus should be on my work and professionalism, not on my makeup, in general.

    1. grace*

      And while I have never applied makeup AT work, I’ve definitely done my mascara in my car in the parking lot – for some reason, that’s the one step I always run out of time for at home…

  20. Alice L*

    I don’t think for the most part that you should have to wear makeup to work (exceptions being if you worked in TV or something similar where it seems to be a requirement). I do find though, that it makes it a lot easier to look polished when wearing even minimal makeup. On a different note, I read recently that studies show women that do not wear any makeup get paid about $10,000 less on average than women who do wear makeup.

      1. JaneB*

        I’m allergic to every make up I’ve tried if I wear it for several days running – EVERYTHING. Especially on or around my eyes. A $10k less pay check for being allergic is a bummer…. good thing I’m in academia I guess?

    1. Yorick*

      I think the industries where a polished appearance is important (so makeup would be expected) tend to be high-paying ones.

    2. hermit crab*

      Well, that might be a case of correlation vs. causation. I imagine that women are more likely to wear makeup when they are in higher-profile positions in more formal professions. So it’s not so much that, between two CEOs, the one wearing makeup gets $10k more – rather that the CEO is more likely to wear makeup than the call center rep, and she also gets paid more.

      1. Alice L*

        Yes and no. I don’t see why a CEO would be more likely than a call center rep to wear makeup. Lots of women wear makeup because it is like a hobby to them, no matter their job. Why would a CEO need to wear makeup for their job? An actress, or model obviously would need to.

        1. Alice L*

          Just thinking, couldn’t that deter women who don’t wear makeup away from such high profile jobs then? If it seems society excpects you to wear makeup in a position where it really has nothing to do with how you function in your position, you are basically getting forced to be paid less by choosing a job where it doesn’t matter.

              1. Lindsay J*

                Seriously. I’m 32 and while I’ve never added it up I’m sure I’ve spent $10,000 on makeup in my adult life. And I don’t wear it every day, or even most days. I just like playing around with it for fun.

                (I added up all the costs of all the makeup I remembered owning at the time when I was considering a lawsuit for being illegally evicted a few years ago. It was quite a bit. And I wasn’t making much money then, and the makeup had been accumulated in the span of a couple years after I left most of my stuff behind when I moved cross country.)

                Actually, right now I have, according to my rough calculations, $1177 in makeup, makeup brushes, brow grooming supplies, and my makeup case. This has been acquired over the course of 3 years of so, does not include any costs for nail stuff, doesn’t include stuff that I’ve used and run out of. lost, or forgot about, and is a mix of stuff purchased from Sephora and drug stores on occasion. If I used makeup every day or only brought high end or had to have every cool new thing that came out it would be much higher.

          1. hermit crab*

            Yeah, I’m sure the actual causal/correlational relationships are actually quite complicated (and fascinating).

            That said, personally, I know I would not choose certain high-level jobs/professions, and a big reason why is that I would “have to” wear makeup, heels, jewelry, etc. So your comment here definitely rings true to me.

        2. bridget*

          Well, a CEO tends to meet with important people you have to impress for business reasons a lot more often than a call center rep, and makeup is often associated with more formal events where you need to present as “put together.” So, for the same reason that a CEO will wear a suit more often, she might wear makeup more often.

          The male partners at my law firm wear well-tailored suits really often to meet with clients and other movers and shakers. The male support staff (IT, office services, billing, what have you) wear sometimes-wrinkled khakis, and that’s fine because they rarely meet with external people. The suit doesn’t *cause* the partners to make more money, the partners wear suits because they are in a higher-profile position (and also have the money to spend on nice-looking suits, perhaps like the female CEO has the money to buy high-end makeup).

          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            But the issue here is that women get financially dinged AT ALL for wearing/not wearing makeup, when this is not even a consideration for men.

  21. Arya Snark*

    I work from home now, but rarely wore it when I did. Light eyeliner/mascara, neutral eye/lip shades and a bit of powder foundation to even things out and reduce shine if I did (and also something I might do now for a bigger meeting).

    I had someone I used to work with reach up to my face the moment I entered a coffee shop where we were meeting with our mutual boss so she could rub out the line my glasses had made on my nose. I stepped away, expressed appropriate shock, but managed not to slap her hand away. DON’T DO THAT.

    If you ant to wear make up, wear it. If you don’t, then don’t. Personally I think a light touch is better but I’ve never been a big make up person so maybe that’s just me. Body glitter would depend on how obvious it was – I had a slightly sparkly lotion once upon a time that I wouldn’t consider inappropriate but I’ve seen other kinds that would be reserved for a night out.

    That said, if you ladle on the scents (perfume or air scents) and I have to sit near you every day, we’re going to have to talk.

    1. Galatea*

      “she could rub out the line my glasses had made on my nose” I audibly gasped tbh. I’m on Team Never Touch Me Ever, but what on EARTH would possess someone to touch your FACE?

      1. Arya Snark*

        She was also apt to make comments about whether I was OK because I “looked pale” and pick fallen hairs off my shirt, telling me there was something wrong with me if my hair was falling out. Um, yeah, I am pale thanks to my uber-white ancestry and I have long hair so they are noticeable when they fall out which is perfect normal.

        We were friends once but due to those reasons (and more) we no longer are. I don’t take to being judged continuously very well.

        1. JeanB in NC*

          My best friend of over 30 years can pick hairs off my shirt – anyone else? No thank you. Your coworker sounds like she was a person with no sense of personal boundaries.

          Note: I just actually did the math and I’ve known my BFF for 40 years! Holy crap, where has the time gone.

          1. Arya Snark*

            The picking I didn’t have as much of an issue with but the verbalization that there was something wrong with me when in reality I hadn’t brushed it after letting it air dry so there were some strays falling out was much more annoying especially after I dismissed her comment and she wouldn’t let it go. She’d also tell me something was wrong with my liver because I had a bit of pain in my ribs on one side when in reality it was caused by a long backpacking trip.

    2. Jadelyn*

      I commend you on your self-control in not smacking her hand away. I’m not sure I’d be able to stop myself if someone *reached for my face* without warning.

    3. Traveling Teacher*

      Goodness, did this woman think she was your mother?!

      I mean, moms pull that all the time, whether it’s needed or not, plus tell you that you need a haircut and “are you wearing that?”

  22. Pammat*

    No makeup here; it makes me break out. Never had anyone say anything, pro or con, to me about it in my 27 years as a professional. I’ll use blotting paper in the summer so I don’t have a sheen, but that’s about it.

    I have to say I don’t tend to notice makeup on other people either, unless it’s either dramatic or missing after always being there. (One coworker had to stop wearing mascara for a while when she had eye surgery, and I noticed that.)

    1. knitcrazybooknut*

      My skin is a weird combination of rosacea and sensitive that causes it to burn makeup off my face like the surface of the sun. I think it’s genetics + wearing stage makeup for years of middle school and high school musicals. I’m in my 40s and I might finally visit a dermatologist, but I really don’t see myself bothering to wear any makeup that will do anything besides REPAIR any damage already done.

  23. Ptarmigan*

    I don’t wear makeup at all. It probably does make me look less professional at work, and I do work in an industry where it probably matters (though I’m not customer-facing or anything like that). But I have a good job that I love and I guess I’m just willing to take whatever negative effects not wearing makeup may be having on my career.

  24. Definitely Not Maybeline*

    I was just wondering this recently because I’m actually the exact opposite of most ladies: I hate wearing make-up! It’s such a hassle and with my sensitive skin, always seems to irritate me after a few hours. Aside from a little foundation to hide the bags under my eyes, I prefer not to do make-up on a daily basis.

    However, in my new job, I’m seeing that make-up is a lot more common. Lots of women wearing full make-up. I’m starting to feel underdressed and like I need to step it up a bit, though I really hate to do so. My wardrobe is on par with everyone else but my make-up is not at the ‘normal level’ of the office. Do I need to give in?

    1. Chicken*

      Since you dislike wearing makeup and feel underdressed, you could try doing something else to look/feel more polished – dress a little nicer, do your hair differently, make sure your nails are nicely groomed (with or without polish). If you dress just a touch nicer than the standard – which could just mean adding an accessory of some sort – perhaps you’ll feel like you are on par with the the standard without needing to add makeup.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        Yep – in the nails department you could get something inconspicuous like a French manicure (or learn how to do those yourself) and for clothes you could go for a nice necklace/bracelet/belt/brooch/…

    2. AnotherJill*

      I think that confidence in yourself and your abilities is more important in a work place than makeup. If you feel confident, that will show regardless of what is on (or not on) your face.

    3. Liz2*

      So here are my suggestions, but they may be useless if your skin really is too sensitive and you really think the trade off isn’t worth it.

      I found using a BB cream saved my make up life. I also have sensitive, difficult skin (oily plus cystic acne in my late 30s, yay!) and hated foundation. But BB cream is so light and easy and does all the work I need for that simple polished look that I only need a tiny amount of foundation (which if you pay more for can get super sensitive light ones), a pat of powder, a swiff of a wet foundation brush to set and I’m good to go! I also do a basic eyeshadow for shape, keep my eyebrows shaped and put on an all day lipstick.

      On warm or busy days I still feel it later getting annoying, but I wear boring clothes and shoes and hair and have bad teeth so this is my way of polishing the look all around. It’s all about your priorities and preferences.

    4. saffytaffy*

      Do you feel like foundation is the problem here? Because many women don’t wear foundation and still wear professional makeup! A lined lip filled in with lipstick and mascara might suit you, and if you wanted to add more you could go for a gel/cream/liquid blush and a single neutral eyeshadow fluffed over the entire lid.

    5. marymoocow*

      I don’t think you need to “give in”, but for me personally, lipstick makes a big difference. It instantly makes me feel more put together. I usually stick to nudes or mauve-y pinks so it doesn’t feel dramatic. I don’t know if this will work for you, but this has been a good option for me and really helps me feel better about my appearance, so I wanted to share just in case it could help.

      1. Arjay*

        I agree with this. I wear nice clothes, but that’s usually the end of any effort I make. If I have a meeting or something where I want to feel put together, I’ll swipe on a little lipstick. I’ve also started leaving a neutral and inexpensive pair of earrings and a necklace at work (seriously, like the $5 paparazzi stuff) that I can add to help myself feel more polished.

        1. JennyAnn*

          I already had a ridiculous jewelry collection, and my introduction to Paparazzi is not helping at all.

    6. Fortitude Jones*

      I don’t think you need to, but if you’re really concerned about fitting in, then try a tinted lipgloss for a pop of color. Since you have sensitive skin, you may want to avoid putting anything on your face or be prepared to spend some money for higher end makeup like Hourglass (which is vegan and gluten free – I love this stuff).

    7. a-no*

      I don’t think you really need to ‘give in’ if you don’t feel like it.
      I personally wear a bit of mascara everyday and have a small thing of liquid concealer I use for any issues that pop up (and I dab a tiny bit on my finger then blend it over the issue by tapping and wear no other face make up like foundations etc).
      When you start feeling like you look nice I find you’ll present like you look nice. I take the time to make sure I look polished without putting on a ton of make up – so hair & nails.

  25. RussianInTexas*

    I don’t think my job will care either way, there are women here who do wear make up and those who do not. I do, because I like the way it looks, and like to play with make up in general. But I keep mist things pretty neutral, no smoky eyes, glitter, super bronzer or highlighter, etc.
    I also apply/fix make up at my desk if I go out after work, but always with the office door closed, and everyone who could see me is pretty much gone. Otherwise may be lipstick after lunch.

  26. Kat*

    I am envious of those who don’t need to wear make-up. I do because I don’t have good skin and I’d cry if I had to go out to my job and let everyone see that. Although I still need to find really great make-up that’ll last longer than half a day and stop drying on my skin. Basically I have the worst skin and it’s depressing. So yes, on the other hand, mascara and lipstick make me feel cheery and a bit more acceptable. If I wear lipstick it’s usually just light and not very noticeable. It just adds a bit of colour to my boring face.

    I didn’t wear make-up till my early 20s and am a bit sad about that. There’s so many fun looks and cool things you can do. I’m still learning, but I love buying a couple of make-up items and playing about with them at home. Even if I still cannot apply eyeliner!

    1. anoni for dis*

      Hi Kat, have you tried a setting spray to keep everything in place? I use Skindinavia (order on amazon, I believe it’s the same company as Urban Decay) or I think I’ve heard good things about NYX setting spray. Either way, I suffer from mild rosacea and don’t feel comfortable without full coverage foundation, so I feel your pain!

      1. Kat*

        No I haven’t, how does that work? I know there *must* be products to help, but there’s so much around I never know what to try!

        1. anoni for dis*

          OK setting spray has changed my life! You do your makeup as usual, at the very end when you are done with everything except mascara you mist it alllllllll over your face, then do your mascara. Let it dry, and that’s it! It has helped make my make-up last all day long, you can’t see my pores at the end of the day and I still look like I’m wearing makeup when I get home from work!

    2. Lilly Puddle*

      Same here. I have rosacea and have had since my early 20s. I’ve tried going without makeup, but it often leads to lots of unwanted “Hey, looks like you got a little sun this weekend” comments from people (including strangers), and it got so demoralizing to have people frequently saying, basically, I NOTICED YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH YOUR SKIN that now I just wear makeup every day to cover it up as best I can. It would be really nice to just go without, though. Don’t you envy those people?

      1. Heina*

        Me too! I even hate the positive-sounding “you’re so rosy!” or “aw you’re blushing” or ” you look like a little china doll” or whatever ridiculous, infantilizing comments people make because I have rosacea flush. I invest a lot in good skincare, green color-corrector, and creamy concealers/foundations/BB cream so that people don’t talk down to me because I have a skin condition.

        1. Anon for this*

          I think I have something similar to rosacea (I was diagnosed with *something* as a small child, and told there was nothing to be done about it, but I forget the name), and I always assumed I couldn’t wear makeup because so much would be needed to hide it. (I briefly tried BB cream, but I rubbed off on things, so that was the end of that.)

          I don’t get comments from strangers, probably due to my chronic RBF, but I definitely see people’s stares. Though, to be fair, my weight, premature grey hairs, or any number of other things could be the direct cause of that.

          I did have an acquaintance say to me once, “Wow, you’re really sunburned!” And I just wanted to say, like, “You’ve known me for what, three years? Have you never looked at my face before?”

          Anyway, I guess I’ve learned to ngaf anymore. After all, there are plenty of men who seem to have what I have, or what you guys have. And if they’re not offending the eyes of others, then neither am I!

        2. Hey, what's wrong with your face?*

          I have bouts of rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis. Imagine how fun it is when all three flare up at the same time… mineral foundation and tinted moisturizers are my friends, but only now that I’ve found the right skin care regimen.

    3. Lady Phoenix*

      Kat, I’ so sorry you that your skin makes you upset.

      You should first get your skin examined. Is it oily, dry, normal, or combo? I use to be oily, but I notice it has leaned towards dry now with only a little oilness around ny forehead, nose, and chin. Getting your skin examined will help you find the best skincare and nakeup to compliment your skin and its quirks.

      Another thing is that once you have the right foundation, invest in a setting spray and primer. That stuff makes your makeup last much longer. My favorite is elf for primer and nyx for setting spray.

      And for eyeliner? Use medical tape. Line and angle it from the corner of your eye to the end of your eyebrow and do your shadow and liner. When your liner dries, carefully peal the tape off for a super clean look.

      1. Liz2*

        I think your tips show the mark of a true pro. But I hear it all and just cringe at the cost, time, and layering. I grudgingly accept my desire to look polished with bb cream, foundation, powder, eyeshadow, and lipstick. But anything else is beyond my morning capacity of hand eye coordination, the time I am willing to wake up, and the money to buy more tools for THAT reason.

        On the other side, when I go out to fun events, I have tons of fun colors and glitter and will happily spend a half hour or more on my face to work for a costume or ensemble, but that’s a fun outing for me. Not my everyday gotta go and be “on” for the job thing.

      2. Kat*

        I went to Kiehl’s and she looked at my skin and gave me suggestions. I bought the stuff and it didn’t work at all. I don’t know who can tell me these things! In shops no one seems to know and they definitely have no idea how to advise someone with bad skin. I get oilier on my forehead but my cheeks are so dry. I use organic moisturiser because fewer harsh things… but makes no difference. I’ve tried various foundations that are marketed at dry skin… Nope! I tried primer! Nope! I like the primer when it goes on but it doesn’t change how long the makeup lasts.

        I literally do not know what else to do. I do my usual because I own the stuff, but I really do hate how I look. I mean, because of my skin. I could live with everything else if that could be fixed. I took medication in my 20s. I’m now in my 30s and it doesn’t seem a huge amount better. Makeup could, I feel, at least make me feel confident during the day, but how to get the right combination seems impossible. It’s overwhelming. I don’t want to keep feeling this way. :(

        1. MeowMix*

          Hi Kat!

          What is your skin care routine? Often that is the source for the types of problems you are describing.

          1. Kat*

            Ugh I just realised how much the above comment was a bit of a feelings-dump, but I can never talk to anyone about this.

            Routine… well, mornings I wash my face and apply a gentle moisturiser from Green People. It has no perfume or anything. I then just use Bobbi Brown’s cream foundation and occasionally a primer underneath, not that it makes much difference! I had a serum from Green People too but it didn’t do much and I didn’t know if it was giving me more skin problems. But recently I’ve been breaking out in areas I haven’t for a long time. It’s really depressing. Maybe it’s this product combination.

            Evenings, I use a Green People cleanser and then either apply the moisturiser again or use a Bioderma one for skin problems if I need to clear up some stuff on my face. I don’t really do a lot, actually. I want to switch cleanser but not sure what to. And I always worry that new stuff will make me break out… but then, the current stuff must be doing that somehow too. I have tried products from La Roche Posay and Bioderma. I really liked one cream by Bioderma but they stopped doing it and I’ve been panic-trying others ever since. I am now looking at Lixirskin as their cleanser looks like it might be decent, but again… no idea!

            1. Rosie*

              De-lurking to reply to Kat – I’m so sorry you have such a rough time with your skin. I’m realising myself – now it’s getting noticeably worse – that the redness I thought was just my complexion is actually almost certainly progressing rosacea (GP appointment booked…).

              So I’ve been looking into this a lot recently, and several of the dermatological skincare lines like La Roche-Posay and Vichy do BB and CC creams and foundations. It might well be worth asking a dermatologist about those, especially since you say the pattern of your breakouts seems to be changing, and might need a new approach.

              Some online retailers will let you order a pack of samples to try. Korean BB creams are also nice, I’m finding. People with acne might want to look for products marked ‘non-comedogenic’, and I’ve read that ‘allergy-tested’ on a label may be more reliable than ‘hypo-allergenic’, for people with sensitive skin.

              I’m working in Europe, and no- to little-makeup is the norm in my company., although some people wear more. I love makeup, especially with my increasing skin issues, but I’m trying not to wear it too noticeably at work because I so appreciate the relaxed, egalitarian approach to professional appearance, and I want to support it. I still find I prefer to camouflage the redness a bit though.

        2. Lady Phoenix*

          I notice that “makeup artists” you find at makeup stores like Sephora aren’t actually professional makeup artists at all — as in “went to beauty school” and such.

          Your best bet is to talk to to a dematologist first and then shop from there. You can then ask the person “I need something for dry skin” and get some choices there.

          Also, matte foundation + dry skin = dry patches. Sucks that matte seems to be the “thing”.

          1. Kat*

            Yes, I don’t use matte foundation, or at least I don’t think I do! I use a cream and not a powder. I use Bobbi Brown just now, but it’s expensive and for the difference it doesn’t really make, I need a new thing.

            I not long ago went to a department store and to a makeup counter. The girl was so disdainful looking of me when I declined her offer of a ‘makeover’. She didn’t understand that to me, having my existing makeup removed in front of a whole busy shop, and then reapplied, was a nightmare. And she didn’t get either that my skin easily breaks out when I try new stuff on it, so just caking me in new product wouldn’t be a good idea.

            I went to a dermatologist years ago for my medication for my skin. I don’t know if the GP would refer me if it wasn’t ‘serious’ enough now. I’ll maybe ask my GP, though.

            1. CA Teacher*

              I am an evangelist for Revlon Color Stay foundation. It’s pretty full coverage and legit lasts through my workouts (plus it’s like 10 bucks). I let it sit for like 5-10 minutes while I get ready and then set it with NYX set it and don’t fret it loose powder. I have never had any problems with it not lasting through the day–with no touchups, no primer, no setting spray!

    4. SansaStark*

      I second the setting or priming spray, but read the ingredients carefully since most of them contain alcohol which is incredibly drying to the skin. It took me a long time to figure out what caused the dry patches on my face. ELF priming spray is fantastic and hydrating. I actually just spray it on my beauty blender before applying foundation. It takes an additional 10 seconds and my makeup lasts the whole day. I hope you find something that works!

    5. CML*

      Part of my reason for wearing make-up is because I enjoy it and I prefer how I look with it. That being said, I don’t have great skin either. If it’s helpful, try a dermatologist office. The office I go to has a medical center (treatment of skin cancer, skin issues, etc) and an aesthetics center (laser treatment, minor surgical, but all about aesthetics of the skin. I’ve found my dermatologist to be much more helpful in taking care of my skin. I go to the medical center for skin checks annually and then if it’s an aesthetics issue (I have a lot of pock marks from years of bad acne), she can set me up an appointment with their certified estheticians in the aesthetics center.

    6. Libby*

      For eyeliner, one tip I saw from a YouTuber was she got an inexpensive brand and practiced it every night, right before she washed her face. That way if she messed up, she was just going to wash her face anyways.

      1. Alex the Alchemist*

        Love this! It’s similar to the makeup advice my Nana gave me when I was growing up- If you don’t know if a color will look good on you, buy it from a brand like Wet n Wild (or another inexpensive brand, this was just her favorite) and then if you like it, you can make a bigger investment!

    7. my two cents*

      I had mild acne as a teen, and in college I started bare minerals which I ended up using for some time. I have fairly sensitive and extremely dry skin – irritation and/or dryness will lead to oiliness, resulting in awful patches of breakout. It was good coverage, but the powdery mess from the mineral foundation drove me nuts.

      About 4-5 years ago, I switched to Korean BB creams and haven’t looked back. BB cream goes on like a tinted moisturizer, and it’ll blend to match your skin tone. You can layer more as needed, and they usually have SPF 40+. I pay about $15 for my Skin79 ‘gold’ type BB cream, and it’ll last me at least 2-3 months. IT Cosmetics makes a CC cream – I liked it, but it’s more coverage than I ever need.

      1. my two cents*

        Man, and re-reading through this thread again… I, too, have dry/easy-irritated cheeks that flush very bright against my very pale skin (due to daily medication). Like, flushing bright enough that multiple kids have asked ‘hey lady, why are your cheeks so pink?’

        BB cream is my jam.

        FIND A PRIMER YOU LIKE, TOO. I ended up using Smashbox Primer Oil, yes – oil, during the winter in Wisco.

      2. Kat*

        I will look into BB creams! I heard a lot about them but as usual couldn’t work out if they’d be a good idea for me or not. I used to wear tinted moisturiser and I liked it much better than foundation, but the coverage wasn’t quite enough for me.

        1. my two cents*

          Lots of different brands of BB creams out now. I like Skin79, and I used Missha for a long time – both are available from Amazon. Dr Jart and IT Cosmetics both make ‘cc’ creams (corrective cream I guess?) – I found Dr Jart to be a little too dark for me, and the IT one offers significant coverage.

        2. StrikingFalcon*

          If you go to a store like Ulta, they often have samplers out you can try (although not all the less expensive brands have them). Ulta and Sephora will also both take anything back as long as you are within their return windows, and consider “I am allergic to it” a valid reason to return things. I’m in the process of trying to learn makeup, and this has made it possible for me to even try – I’m allergic to a LOT of stuff that’s out there.

    8. Not a Morning Person*

      I’ve heard that IT and Bare Minerals are good makeup for people with skin problems. I think the powders are drying, but apparently for younger skin and with a good moisturizer they are amazing at covering up a multitude of problem skin issues.

    9. Mikasa*

      I would cry, too. I hate, hate, hate my eyes. I need mascara and eyeliner to make me feel like my eyes are normal, and I feel so jealous of people who’s eyes are symmetrical. They don’t need to do the weird eyeliner and mascara things I do. I wish I didn’t have to use either. I want my eyes to be pretty with no makeup.

  27. Earthwalker*

    Seems wrong that a company would expect that women paint their faces and not expect it of men as well. The demand that women wear makeup hearkens back to the days when women were employed as office decorations and fringe benefits for the men. Not that women (or men) shouldn’t wear makeup if they choose, as long as it’s not unprofessionally sexy, but it should not be a requirement.

    1. Coffee Cup*

      I mean, not that I defend dress codes (I actually find them pointless outside of security concerns) but you could make the same argument about ties, an unconfortable pointless thing that is expected of men and not of women. *shrugs* We could argue that all gendered expectations should be abolished, but in a work context I don’t necessarily thing women have it worse in terms of how to look presentable. I have seen many comments saying that “no one would look twice at a unkempt male CEO”… And yes, they absolutely would. Otherwise men would not have bothered with ties and starched collars.

      I am all for relaxing norms across the board, but I just don’t think women have it better or worse here.

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        Oh believe me, I feel the same way you do about dress codes, and think ties are ridiculous, but none of those are quite the same as telling women that their actual real faces aren’t good enough for them to get a job/promotion or be taken seriously or considered professional.

  28. Sylvan*

    I’ve made the decision that if the average man’s face is good enough to be seen without makeup on an average day, then mine is, too.

    I would wear makeup if I, like a lot of women, liked using it for self-expression, fashion, or just plain fun, but I… don’t really, lol.

    1. Star*

      Yup. Sometimes my face is a bit more blotchy, or I have a small breakout, or I didn’t sleep well the night before. That also happens to the guys I work with, and no one expects them to paint over it.

      1. Bleeborp*

        I definitely agree that it’s frustrating that makeup is only expected in women but I’m a woman who enjoys makeup and have come down on the other side that I feel bad for men that it isn’t often culturally accepted to use makeup…my husband will get big honking zits on his face sometimes and I’m like ooh I wish I could just dab a little concealer on there!

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          I don’t think it’s really an ‘other’ side! Men should feel just as free to wear makeup as women do.

          1. Mikasa*

            I think it is. We’re expected/pushed to wear it, and men are expected/pushed to never wear it. I see guys breaking out badly, and they probably don’t even think of makeup to conceal it while women might because that’s how the standards have been.

  29. Turkletina*

    I’m a blonde person who interacts with people mostly by video chat (I’m remote), so I always wear mascara just so that people can locate my eyes! While I personally seldom make more of an effort than that, my colleagues run the gamut from no makeup at all to fully contoured face. I’ve found that clothing has a much bigger effect than makeup on my impressions of people’s professionalism. Now I’m wondering how many other people feel differently!

    1. Junior Dev*

      Haha, I never wear makeup to work but I just gave a conference talk where I did my makeup first, and looking at the video, you would be totally unable to tell what my face was doing without it (the lighting was really bad).

      1. OtterB*

        I came here to say something like this. I never wore much makeup and pretty much gave it up altogether 20+ years ago. But a few years ago I started singing with a women’s chorus and had to learn how to do makeup for performances. We use full scale stage makeup for a few things, and “heavy street makeup” for most of our community performances. The group’s makeup chair did a demo for us once where she made up one side of her face and not the other. From across a big room, the made-up side looked normal, and the non-made-up looked washed out. That stuck with me. So now if I’m going to be making a presentation for work, I use tinted moisturizer, lipstick, and mascara, and sometimes eyeliner. Still don’t bother with it day to day.

        Re the “smoky eye” discussion, that was part of our full makeup one year. Looked good from stage distance. From closer up – well. Our director said we knew we’d put it on heavily enough when we looked like an aging raccoon hooker. ;-)

        1. Jadelyn*

          I skip makeup sometimes if I’m not feeling it, but if I have a videoconference that day I’ll wear at least minimal eyeliner and do my brows so that my face shows up looking like a face on the call.

      2. Fiennes*

        Yes—I always go big when I have a conference. You show up better in a big room/on video, photos are more likely to be taken/posted/tagged, etc. I also wear bold lipstick at events, partly for the above reasons, and partly because my personal anecdata suggests people are more likely to recognize/remember me.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Same here, Turkletina. I’m a redhead with pale lashes, and used to wear carefully applied eye shadow and mascara so my pale lashes were visible. One day I was running late and skipped the eye makeup. No one batted an eye, you should pardon the term. From then on, I maybe swiped some mascara and wore a somewhat bold lip color, and that was that.

      I agree, clothing probably makes more of an impression than makeup. But I still wear tinted moisturizer and mascara at the very least. No one’s fired me for this yet!

      1. MeowMix*

        I’m a redhead with absolutely CLEAR eyelashes. Sometimes I get mine professionally tinted (typically once a year, just before a vacation) so I feel comfortable going totally makeup-free. Otherwise my eyes can look very…pig ish…when there are literally zero visible eyelashes. Mascara forever!

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I still use mascara because my lashes aren’t quite as light as yours, but they are straight and short. Mascara forever, twice!

        2. Coppertina*

          Me too! Redhead with invisible lashes. My coworkers will NEVER see me without mascara. Other than that, just lip gloss/balm. Weekends, I’m fine skipping the mascara unless we’re going out with friends. My eyebrows are quite bushy so I’ll get them waxed every so often. Sometimes my esthetician adds color before I can say no. It always looks ridiculous as she uses a blondish/light brown shade. I prefer my pale, ginger brows, just shaped.

        3. Coppertina*

          Forgot to add, I tried eyelash tinting decades ago & ended up with an eye infection. Has it gotten any safer?

  30. anoni for dis*

    Some of my peers wear no makeup and some of them wear a little more makeup. I tend to wear makeup every single day just as part of my routine, but I put it on at home and I wear neutral shades of eyeshadow to the office. I might bring a compact to touch up for a special event, but I would not make a habit of doing my makeup once I’ve arrived at work. I also despise the lady who uses the bathroom to get ready (she doesn’t work for the same company we share a floor with a different company so there isn’t much to be done about this) because I’m trying to use it for it’s intended purpose (think…office pooper) and there are only two stalls so it’s not like we have a gigantic bathroom to begin with. I think false eyelashes or glitter on the eyes would be too much for an office look, and hair extensions that change frequently I think could be a distraction. But I don’t see a problem with makeup if you like it or bare faced if that’s your thing.

  31. LadyIce*

    I’m an office person at a lumber yard, so I rarely wear makeup. I have on occasion, but I also have to get here at the crack of dawn, so that extra 20 min of sleep is nice. Even in terms of office people, it’s fairly male dominated, so while I’d love to do bold lip occasionally, I have no idea how my coworkers/boss would feel about it.

  32. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    I rarely wear it. And when I do it’s for me or because I’m doing something after work. (Or I don’t feel good – it fools my brain for a split second that I can’t possibly feel as bad as I thought.) I’m not skilled enough to do anything drastic. But I look different enough when I wear it, that people will always comment. Nothing bad. Usually just confusion, “You did something….is it your hair?”

  33. Cadbury Cream Egg*

    I do makeup for me. When I feel like I look good it gives me confidence which I then project to others. I’m pretty subtle with what I use but unless you’re makeup like Mimi from the Drew Carey Show I’m indifferent to how others do it.
    I also do it in the parking garage at work. I’ve noticed quite a few other women doing the same thing.

  34. RES ADMIN*

    Glitter is definitely over the top.

    I’ve seen people applying make up at their desk–which I find strange and off-putting, although I would never say anything to them about it.

    Having said that, I do wear makeup (albeit carefully enough that most people don’t notice one way or the other) and it never takes more than 5 min or so to apply–at home in my own bathroom. It would never occur to me to apply it at work so I am always confused when someone does.

    1. neeko*

      People wear glitter at my job and it’s no big deal. Depends on the culture of your office.

    2. All. Is. On.*

      I think it depends on what makeup is being applied at the desk. I don’t really see a difference in putting on lipstick in view of everyone vs. lip balm, but applying, say, false eyelashes or heavy foundation would be off-putting to me.

  35. Your Weird Uncle*

    One of my shortest jobs was at a very nice local spa where the owner told us she wanted us, the front desk crew, to look like we were going to a wedding every day with fancy hair and makeup. Makeup just doesn’t last on me – either it melts off from heat/humidity/running around, or I unconsciously smudge it off by touching my face too much/blowing my nose/living. Ugh. I totally admire people who can wear makeup and apply it very well, and I love to play around with it myself, but I was not happy having it ‘full makeup’ as a job requirement.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      My goodness, I hope the pay was high enough to allow you to meet this standard – full wedding requires money! I work one summer at a restaurant that wanted us all in fine clothes and looking good, but that money to do that came out of our pockets and I was totally irked about it. The Applebees I worked at the summer before provided those polo shirts!

      1. Your Weird Uncle*

        Ha, the money was definitely nowhere near that good. This was pre-recession, but definitely a geographical area where ‘you’re lucky to have a job, you’ll take what I give you and like it’ is the predominant theory about wages.

        I didn’t even mention the open-toed shoes and the requirement to have manicured/pedicured nails….since it was a spa, we were expected to use the salon on site but never for free, oh no. (I also have rubbish nails and spending my free time repairing chips and cracks did not make me happy.)

        I think I lasted about 3 months in that job, and hated every minute of it.

  36. Greengirl*

    I wear it so I look a little older (read more sophisticated). I work at a university and get mistaken for a student despite being 30 and wearing blazers. I tend to wear very understated makeup though so it looks more “office wear” than “young chic”. My routine is foundation, powder, eyeliner, eyeshadow, and blush. The eyeshadow is usually grey or purple and never smokey eyed. The blush is applied lightly. If I wear blush I don’t wear lip color because then I feel too made up. So I am wearing make up very differently than the 19 year old students (ie cat eyeliner, intense mascara, highlighter, glitter, crazy colored eyeshadows, etc). I could probably get away without wearing it but I think it makes me look a little more polished.

    I will put make up on at work before events sometimes. Since we have to change for events from jeans, etc for setting up to dress with nice shoes anyway, it’s not really frowned upon. I think doing make up every morning in the bathroom would be a little much. Sometimes I do my makeup in my car in the parking lot at work.

  37. Boo Berry*

    As someone who personally gets a lot of fun and enjoyment out of makeup, I say go for whatever gives you confidence and makes you comfortable.

    I come from a culture where you don’t go outside without first “putting on your face” and luckily it’s something I have a positive relationship with, but that’s not the case for everyone and that’s totally okay.

    I definitely have a work look and an off the clock look and that circles back to the idea of knowing your environment at work. However, I would say to keep the grooming at work to a microscopic minimum. Touching up your lipstick after lunch is one thing, resetting your curls with hairspray and doing a full face strobe is quite another.

    1. RussianInTexas*

      I am from a culture like that too! I did train myself out of dressing up and putting the full on make up for a grocery store run.

      1. Bleeborp*

        I bristled at that kind of thing when I was younger but now that I’m older and I developed a more positive relationship with makeup it’s getting more and more “oh I’ll just put on some powder real quick to go to the store…a maybe a little eyeshadow…and some foundation…and bronzer and highlight and liquid liner and 2 mascaras” and suddenly I’ve put my whole face on!

    2. Emily Spinach*

      I have a lot of fun with makeup, especially when I’m going out socially, but I definitely have a strong sense for myself of what kinds of looks are for work (for me) and which aren’t.
      If I’m going out with friends say to see a band, I might wear highlighter and gray lipstick, or contour my face or do a dramatic colorful eye. But I would emphatically NOT teach in that makeup. I avoid anything “trendy” at work–grayish/greige/dark lipsticks, highlighters, very heavy brows, super colorful eyes. And I have a lot of fun with all those things, just not when I’m teaching.
      Many days I teach in none, and most days I wear mascara and a neutral lip tint, and some days I wear a fuller face that’s non-sparkly and mostly neutral. I don’t think my students notice or care at all. Sometimes my colleagues comment–most women I work with don’t wear much makeup, so they’re very easily impressed if I do a fuller face. I sometimes exercise midday, and then it’s such a burden to re-do a full face, so… that’s another consideration!

      The area I wonder about a bit more than makeup is women’s hair: I have long-ish hair, and I often don’t do it at all. It’ll just be in a high bun or a messy low bun. I feel like I need some super fast ways to style it when it’s wet that look “nicer.” On days when I have meetings with administrators I have to add half an hour to my routine to dry and style my hair!

    3. Doks*

      My mama has always worn makeup, so I grew up watching her put it on before she went to work or before we went out at the weekend. I wear full makeup to work – usually winged eyeliner (I wear glasses so it never looks so dramatic on me) and usually bold lip (because I have huge lips that I was made fun of at school, but screw it I’m 26 now and I love them!), and it makes me feel nice. People at work often compliment my makeup, so I wouldn’t say it’s too much.

      There are also people in my office who wear no makeup, and that’s fine too. My main issue is not whether you are or aren’t wearing it, it’s whether you look polished enough. There are some ladies in my office who always look fresh and neat with zero makeup on, and some that look like they just rolled out of bed and haven’t brushed their hair. There are also ladies who wear very strong makeup but it’s tidy and work appropriate, and somewhere where it’s always a little messy (slightly smudged mascara, faded lipstick, unblended blush..).

  38. Buffy Summers*

    I wear makeup every day, but I don’t have to. I’ve just gotten tired of the “You look tired,” or “Oh, what’s wrong, are you sick?” comments.
    I think a smokey eye would be a little much. I love smokey eyes and would love to be able to pull that off, but I think I’d get some side-eye if I came in with a full on smokey eye.
    Gotta draw the line at body glitter. I don’t know that I would mention it to someone, but it’s definitely a no-no in my book.

    1. Tris Prior*

      Ugh, I got so sick of being told that I look tired, or being asked “What’s wrong?” or “Have you been crying?” because I’d gone without. Sigh, no, this is just my face. I was born with my very dark circles, you can see them in my baby pix! And yes, I’ve also gotten those “um….. do you need to talk?” comments from people who assume they’re black eyes due to domestic abuse. :(

      I feel like wearing makeup actually helps people focus on my work, rather than how I look completely exhausted or like I’ve been hit by my partner (who is the gentlest dude you’re ever going to meet, seriously). It SUCKS. But I guess I don’t think about it much any more, it’s just part of my routine and I can get it done in less than 5 minutes.

    2. Elephant*

      Oh, this reminds me of when my mother-in-law tried to compliment me that I looked better now that I was done with my master’s degree (presumably when I was working and in school I looked exhausted and horrible all the time, even though she had never said that and also I never said I was exhausted and rundown in the first place and had no issues with my own appearance). However she didn’t seem to remember that it wasn’t the first time she had seen me since graduating, and she didn’t realize that this time I was wearing makeup and the time before I hadn’t been. So while she thought the change was due to one thing, it was really due to her liking my appearance with makeup over it without, so her “compliment” was more about her preference, than about me. And I can’t imagine what she thinks now that I don’t wear it at all – I must look awful. That’s the challenge though if you tend to make comments to people about their appearance and why personally I try not to unless I’m 100% sure of what I’m getting into.

  39. Little Orange Nail*

    I rarely wore makeup when I was an actuary who interacted with nobody except other actuaries. When I moved up into management and started working with people elsewhere in the company and outside clients, I stepped up the formality of my clothes and I started to wear makeup to work – Nothing crazy, my whole routine takes 6 minutes, it’s just bb cream, neutral eyeshadow, and mascara. I don’t put on lipstick until I leave for work because I always kiss my husband goodbye in the morning and he doesn’t care to wear my lipstick :) I do not put on eye makeup at work, if I’m in a rush, I just do without. Though I routinely apply or touch up my lipstick at my desk.

    However, speaking of lipstick, I have been a serious amateur dancer my whole life, and I have some opinions about the power of lipstick and mascara. I think everyone who gives presentations in front of groups of people should wear both (And since men generally do not wear makeup, they are definitely missing out on the power of this) If you are standing more than about 10 feet away from the person you are talking to, your facial expressions don’t have the same impact as when you are up close. A bright lipstick and a good swipe of mascara make your eyes and lips stand out better, and make it easier to communicate with your facial expression to a room full of people.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      That is really a valuable point. I used to dance and did a lot of theater to boot, and the role of makeup in simply making your face more visible makes a huge difference.

    2. Traveling Teacher*

      Wow, this may be the first really good, logical reason I’ve read about wearing makeup at work in a long time, if ever (I don’t subscribe to the “polish”/”professional” reasons…). You’ve given me something to think about, thanks!

  40. stitchinthyme*

    Another non-makeup person here. Don’t like how it feels on my face, and I wouldn’t take a job the required me to wear it. (Not likely to happen, as I work in software development where I never have to interact with customers.)

    I wouldn’t care if I saw someone putting on makeup in the office bathroom. Hell, if they feel uncomfortable doing it in the regular restroom, our office has a couple of private bathrooms with showers (for people who bike to work), so they could do it there if they wanted. Long as they’re not touching up constantly at their desk to the exclusion of actual work (as I recall one LW complaining about a coworker doing that), it’s no harm.

  41. Foundation FTW*

    I have poor skin and do feel that make-up is essential for me to look professional. Although I’m in my mid-30s, I have friggin’ acne like a teenager and going without wearing anything definitely makes me appear younger/less knowledgeable/taken less seriously at work (this is amplified a million times when at conferences/trainings with people outside of my company – trying to workshop with a 55 year old guy in business suit when I look like I’m lost during “take your daughter to work day” is not conducive for me).

    I hate this. But it’s how it works for me in my industry.

    1. Rae*

      I have extremely red skin and I am in the same boat. A few times when I haven’t work it I have been asked if I was ok or had a fever due to being so red.

      1. anoni for dis*

        ditto! One day I didn’t wear makeup and the old receptionist asked me if I was sick. I said “no I’m just ugly” and walked away

        1. soon 2be former fed*

          Please, no ageism. I’m sixty-tw, and likely old to you, but the offensiveness here had nothing to do with age.

          1. Maggiekiwi*

            I kind of figured anoni for this meant old as in former, rather than old as aged.

    2. Lala*

      Same. I go without makeup around the house and sometimes on vacation, but it is a rare day where my skin is clear enough to go without makeup in public. At minimum I always wear concealer and mineral powder foundation. Depending on how much time I have in the morning/how dressed up I feel like I need to be, I’ll also do eyeliner and eyeshadow. I almost never wear mascara, though–doesn’t matter what formula or brand I use, it comes off and gives me awful dark circles under my eyes (I have tried low-to-very high end, many varieties of waterproof, etc., so I’m not looking for recommendations).

      I actually keep an emergency concealer stick in my desk and in my purse for the once in a blue moon days where I have a brain fart and walk out of the house with no makeup at all, because I feel too self-conscious without something covering my redness/acne/blotchiness. I really, really wish I didn’t have to bother with it most of the time. My workplace definitely doesn’t care about or require make-up either. I seriously envy the people with good enough skin to go without.

      1. Lala*

        Though on the plus side of having a crappy complexion, in the past when I had a boss who was ornery about sick leave, it was really easy to get them to believe me if I went in with no make up or washed it off in the bathroom. Sometimes looking terrible can have an upside!

    3. saby*

      yeah, in my workplace it’s totally fine to not wear any make-up but I have problems with (a) acne and (b) terrible post-acne marks that basically leave a small purple splotch on my face for 4+ weeks after the zit itself disappears. I always wear a minimum of spot concealer and undereye concealer for work.

      I think somewhere during my days working front-line customer service I absorbed the idea that it’s unprofessional to look particularly tired/ill/unkempt/anything other than cheerful and pleasant, so I have always thought of visible blemishes (at least in their angry red stage) and undereye circles as being on the same level as uncombed hair or wrinkled clothes. In an ideal world makeup wouldn’t be gendered, but also, even in this world, I’m not really sure why concealer is. The men I know who have started using concealer or tinted moisturizer to minimize acne or post-acne scars definitely feel less self-conscious about their appearance, just as much as the women.

  42. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    I’m strongly of the belief that makeup shouldn’t be required to look professional. I don’t think wearing it (tastefully) is a bad thing — regardless of gender! — but the notion that it is an intrinsic part of professional womanhood I find to be profoundly misogynistic and completely rooted in the mindset that women are obligated first and foremost to be attractive. Why worry otherwise about an uneven skin tone, a blemish, or near-invisible eyelashes? (And why only worry about them for women — are female pimples somehow more visible than male pimples?)

    As for what’s appropriate — know your industry, know your company, know your face, and know your skills. I’m hesitant to draw a bright line overall, because there’s such a wide variety of what exactly you can do and what works for different face shapes. Sure, don’t wear dramatic stage makeup unless you’re in fact on a dramatic stage, but aside from that? Different people can carry off different looks.

    1. Arielle*

      It is just another way of policing women’s appearances in a can’t-win kind of way. Already in this thread I’ve seen blanket statements that “visible makeup is not professional” and “not wearing makeup is not professional.”

      I hate wearing makeup but I love buying skincare products so my goal is having skin that looks so good that it looks like I’m wearing makeup when I’m not. :) That’s just something I enjoy, but not something anyone should feel obliged to do.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        It is just another way of policing women’s appearances in a can’t-win kind of way.

        Boom, there it is. You’re either an unattractive woman who doesn’t care about herself (if you don’t wear it) or you’re vain and shallow (if you do).

        For me, I like wearing makeup when I have the time to do it, but it’s pretty much predicated on me having a short commute, because I’m not cutting into either my sleep or my wakey-uppy coffee-and-internet morning ritual to pretty up my face.

      2. Arjay*

        I love buying skincare products too, but it turns out besides just buying them, you also have to USE them. That’s the part where my master plan falls apart!

    2. Galatea*


      re: your parenthetical statement: this is actually my go-to argument for when friends of mine want short hair but get freaked out about face shape or weight or whatever — most men have faces, most men have short hair, nobody gives THEM any problems about it, you’ll be fine!

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        100% yep.

        Honestly going through a butch phase when I was in college was so helpful to me because it really helped me re-evaluate what appearance meant to me, and what standards are applied to masculinity vs. femininity.

      2. Anonymous Pterodactyl*

        OMG. In all my wondering about “could I pull off X cut?” I had never thought of it that way.

        I feel profoundly liberated now, so thank you! :D

      3. Coffee Cup*

        Eh, I don’t know. I know a lot of men who would look much better with longish hair but don’t do it because men-have-short-hair-dammit. I see a lot of comments on how worse women have it appearance-wise in this thread and I am surprised by how much I disagree. We have so much more choice on so many appearance related things.

    3. Penny Lane*

      “Why worry otherwise about an uneven skin tone, a blemish, or near-invisible eyelashes? (And why only worry about them for women — are female pimples somehow more visible than male pimples?)”

      Sometimes people care about these things because that’s how THEY want to present themselves – not because they’re worried about being “judged.”

      1. Jadelyn*

        On an individual level, yes – but I think CBF was more talking about broad expectations being applied to women who don’t inherently care about those things, but feel pressured to care because of their gender.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Exactly what Jadelyn said. I’m not talking about individual stylistic choices here, I’m talking about the mindset that a woman who wants to look professional must wear makeup to do so.

    4. Mike C.*

      Also, I find the calls for women never to touch up in public to be misogynist as well. It seems to go back to that idea that women should be perfect looking creatures and anything that betrays the work that goes into it spoils the illusion.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Bingo. Women must not only be attractive at all times, but must support the illusion that the attractiveness is entirely natural and no effort goes into it.

        Sailor J on YouTube goes into a great bit about this. “If men know that we can shapeshift, they will tell the Church!”

      2. Kate 2*

        Yep, like the scolding over lipstick rings on glasses (literally impossible to avoid) or touching up lipstick at the table after a meal.

  43. RussianInTexas*

    To add, I do the whole make up – foundation, concealer, blush, powder, a bit of highlighter, eye brow pencil, eye liner, eye shadow, mascara, lipstick/lip gloss. Takes me about 10 minutes in the morning. But again, I like the way I look with it, and not telling anyone that they need to do it too.

  44. AdAgencyChick*

    I don’t wear any at all. I’m starting to wonder whether I should, since I’m approaching A Certain Age and I’m wondering whether I should try to look a little more refreshed, shall we say, for work.

    But I keep procrastinating on actually biting the bullet and doing it (that and dyeing my increasingly gray hair). I just hate the idea of adding more maintenance to my morning routine!

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      Maybe go to a Sephora or something and ask them for a Super Basic face. There are tinted moisturizers out there and the like — it’s like a 2 in 1. You don’t have to go super crazy and dive into contouring and all that (which…what is that and how).

      1. JS*

        I would stay away from Sephora as far as getting them to do your makeup. I have never liked their skills when it comes to that. They are the mecca when it comes to selection and where I shop though. I would go to M.A.C. and if you buy $30 worth of products you get 30 mins of them applying your makeup, artist at M.A.C have a lot more training and skills.

        Best way to get started imo is find a youtube video of someone’s makeup who you like and follow their steps in application. Thats how I taught myself to do makeup and now I can do a full Kim K professional contour.

        1. MechanicalPencil*

          Ah, I was thinking of MAC. I don’t have either in my area, so my brain confuses the two. MAC makeup and my skin totally hate each other so I have to go a different route.

        2. Fortitude Jones*

          M.A.C. makeup artists are terrible as well, especially for people who want a subtle, natural look.

      2. oranges & lemons*

        Obviously I am too immature to wear makeup because when I imagine asking for a basic face, in my mind the salesperson will bring out a selection of faces to suction over my own.

    2. Lil Fidget*

      That’s too bad, because I’ve always thought I should wear it because I look too young to appear professional (I’m trying to get up a level, and the people at that level tend to be older) – I was hoping when I started to get grey hair and a more mature face, I’d look the part better, and not have to face the pressure of makeup! Just goes to show, you can’t win.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        In my niche of advertising, there’s definitely some pressure to appear young and hip, because hey, that makes you creative, right? Except we’re also expected to have deep knowledge of certain subject matter that doesn’t always come with age, but experience sure does help! *industry-directed eye roll*

    3. Kathenus*

      I don’t wear any either. I am at A Certain Age and definitely don’t look the same as when I was younger. But for me personally, this is the way I look, so be it. I have no interest in wearing make up and am happy that I’m in a field that doesn’t make me feel penalized by that decision.

    4. J.B.*

      As a fellow resident of Certain Age land, I am now wearing makeup more often. Just BB cream and a little blush. I recently gave up coloring my hair and am loving the less effort.

  45. Lab rat*

    I’m in academia, physics, where more than a line of crayon/discreet lipstick means you’ll get asked “are you giving a presentation today?”. But to be fair many men get asked that too when they wear button-up shirts.
    Here pretty much anything goes as long as you’re a good worker, don’t show your underwear, and don’t stink. A few graduates wear noticeable makeup (mascara, vivid lipstick, the occasional glitter) and it’s not a problem. I can’t say if it’d impact their credibility if they wanted to ‘rise in the ranks’ though.

    1. Nicki Name*

      I’m a software engineer and it’s much the same for me. It’s not unusual for women in customer-facing parts of a software company to wear makeup, but a female engineer putting on more than something basic and discreet would be weird. Even on the rare occasions when we may be involved in meeting customers, the expectations are more about just wearing something more formal than a T-shirt and jeans. (Same for the men.)

      1. BadPlanning*

        Indeed — you could probably pretty accurately pick out women who work in finance/law vs software at my company based on their make up level.

        I used to wear make up in high school, then only for special occasions. Then only to attend weddings. Then I realized I had a bunch of old make up that even if I wanted to wear make up, I probably shouldn’t wear that stuff. Throwing it all away felt weird. But good.

  46. MechanicalPencil*

    I have a fairly low key makeup routine, but I sometimes go for a bolder lip color when I generally don’t wear anything. I’ll do a subtle smoky eye normally (soft black, easy on the eyeliner) and then if I’m headed out that night just darken it all up. I might do something to even out skin tone, but generally no. It’s pretty much just brow, shadow/liner, maaaybe lips.

    Body glitter is always a no. Glitter gets *everywhere*. I barely wear makeup that has shimmer in it to begin with, so body glitter is me saying I’ve been kidnapped and am signalling for help.

  47. Anita-ita*

    Oooof! Tricky question. As far as not wearing make up, I do think it’s important to look professional and polished if that’s the industry you work in. I had a coworker once who had terrible dark circles under her eyes. She had big round eyes and didn’t wear mascara but wore a brown eyeshadow, which didn’t look good. She always looked tired and worn out. Her face had no color and if she had stopped using the brown eyeshadow and added in some cheek color, mascara, and concealer under her eyes, she would have looked so much more professional. Almost every person I worked with commented on her bad make up was and how tired she looked all the time.

    That said, I think if you can pull off the on make up look, then kudos to you! I like my face without make but but I add mascara, cheek color, and a bit of eyebrow mascara. If you wanted to throw in a light nude eyshadow I think that would be fine as well.

    I have never been a fan of face make up or heavy eye make up so it’s partially my opinion but also has a professionalism aspect. Unless you work in the fashion industry, at a hair salon, make up artist industry, entertainment industry (I’m sure I’m missing some…), I don’t think heavy make up is appropriate. I know some people have skin conditions to cover up and that’s fine, but 4 layers of foundation with concealer and contouring, eyeliner, 8 shades of shadow, and the whole shabang is not necessary.

    A lot of this is my opinion that less is more and adding just a touch to enhance your look is what looks best. I do have friends that are into make up and they use it as a form of self expression and artistry but I think each one of them looks better with less :)

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Out of curiosity, would you say that a man who looks tired and pale should wear cheek color, mascara, and concealer? Would you consider him less professional because he’s looking a bit grey?

      1. Anita-ita*

        The circumstances are different for men since most don’t wear make up. Like I said, it’s an opinion I have. Men can look unprofessional under a different set of circumstances and make up has nothing to do with it (clothes, greasy hair, unkempt hair, unkempt face).

          1. Anita-ita*

            Of course they do! Men and women have different face structures and they age differently. Unfortunately I don’t think women age as gracefully as men. Nothing wrong with touching up with some make up if it helps you look more alert and professional. I agree with the below comment, it’s possible for those who look more alert and professional are treated differently than those who don’t (depending on the industry).

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              I think that women age just the same as men do, but we’re calibrated to expect attractiveness as a primary feminine quality, and to equate attractiveness with youthfulness.

            2. Autumnheart*

              No, men age far more poorly than women do, as anyone should know simply by looking. Never using moisturizer or sunscreen does a number on one’s skin. It’s a social convention that women are expected to always look youthful and are judged negatively for visibly aging, and men are not.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                Honestly, I think both of these things are true. Objectively, women age “better” than men, since they get fewer wrinkles/less sun damage thanks to moisturizer and sunscreen. Subjectively, men are considered to have aged “better,” because wrinkles are considered acceptable on men, so a man with wrinkles is considered more attractive than a woman with the same amount of wrinkles (yeah, George Clooney, I’m looking at you).

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  Yep, I find it profoundly unfair that ‘silver fox’ seems to be an almost exclusively male description.

                2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  kc89 – as a lady who has to shave, I’ll report back on how that affects my aging!

                  (No lies, though, I do think it helps with my complexion. Since I started shaving, I’ve had little to no zit problems.)

      2. Little Orange Nail*

        I think most men would benefit from some makeup, and it has definitely been my experience that men who look tired or hangdog are treated with less authority in the office than men who look alert and engaged.

        1. oranges & lemons*

          Yeah, I think this is one of those ways sexism harms men as well–I’m sure there are plenty of men out there who would like to cover up their zits or whatnot, but unless you work in TV or other fairly limited areas where it’s more common, I don’t think most people would think it reflected well on them. On the flip side, men aren’t judged as harshly for physical imperfections, though.

        2. Triumphant Fox*

          Agreed. My father uses a tinted moisturizer/bronzer because if it’s winter and he hasn’t had much sun, he just looks so sick. His skin gets this pale yellowish hue and it really bothers him – I’m really glad he does this instead of tanning. With it, the color balances out any under eye circles and really just makes him look more like himself. I think it helps him be perceived as authoritative and energetic instead of old.

      3. Kate 2*

        Just look at all the commercials there are for hair dye for men. Definitely some of this stuff applies for them. Like being clean shaven. Men in more conservative fields, like finance or politics, are almost universally clean shaven. That’s just the expectation, from my experience in the field.

    2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

      And I’m sure the friends you have that do it for artistry and self expression don’t give a rat’s patootie whether you think they look better with less or not. Because it’s about them, not you.

  48. Emma the Strange*

    Nope! Haven’t written makeup of any kind since my sporadic experiments with it in middle school. I work at a tech company where shorts in summer are fine, so no one notices or cares.

  49. Katie the Fed*

    My “routine” such that it is, is about 2 minutes at most. Just tinted moisturizer/sunscreen, a little cover up for the under eye circles, eyeliner, mascara, and tinted lip balm. I don’t think it’s required at all, but I look less tired with it.

    1. Windchime*

      My makeup routine is very quick, too. Moisturizer, then CC cream, a little bit of blush, soft eyeliner, mascara. Sometimes a little neutral eyeshadow, but it’s always gone within an hour or so anyway so I often don’t bother. I don’t like heavy lip color so if I do anything, it’s a tinted balm.

  50. shep*

    I try to at least fill in my eyebrows. (Seriously considering investing in microblading so I don’t have to fill them in myself anymore!)

    I’ve also been trying to put on a “modified” full face every day, i.e., obviously not full-out glam (which I’m no good at anyway…), but enough to feel very presentable. It’s certainly not required in my office, but I know I look exhausted/grumpy/unapproachable without it. And I just feel more confident when wearing makeup, which I think in turn projects confidence to my peers and supervisor.

    That said, I absolutely don’t judge if other women choose to wear or not wear makeup! I have fun putting it on [mostly], and I like feeling put together and confident.

    1. shep*

      (Which is not to say that women who don’t wear makeup AREN’T put together and confident; just that I PERSONALLY feel like makeup helps me mentally feel put together. Haven’t had my coffee yet this morning!)

  51. Galatea*

    This is something I worry about — it’s honestly the least of the ways my appearance could hurt me (I look/present pretty noticeably Not Cishet, I have a couple of ongoing skin conditions), but it’s the one I get the most hung up on.

    I’m in tech, but I’ve found for pretty much anybody who isn’t a man that that doesn’t really mean there AREN’T rules about how you should present yourself, they’re just different and weirdly obscured — this attitude of “well we don’t care about appearance! Dress codes don’t matter!” but then also you will lose out if you step outside that norm. It’s very frustrating.

    1. Galatea*

      …Wow, well this was a wild misfire, and is just incoherent out of context.

      Not wearing makeup at work is something I worry about.

      1. Rosie*

        I think you’re so right that the ‘no rules’ rules are often based on a deeper set of unacknowledged rules and assumptions!

        By the way, your name isn’t a John Lyly reference is it? Because, if so, that’s just awesome.

  52. She who has never baked a potato*

    A friend of mine told me of a time when a woman in her office, who usually wears mascara, came to work sans mascara one day and the whole office teased her about it (the reason given was that she has quite pale eyelashes so without eye makeup she looks startled). It got so bad that she /had/ to go apply it in the bathroom so people would leave her alone.

    Okay so the applying of mascara isn’t exactly a difficult task, but to work in an office that would spend so much time reading someone over something so minor is just…uncomfortable.

  53. else*

    I think this must be a profession specific thing. I’ve never worn it in my life, and that is common in my profession (academia/libraries). Wearing makeup is also common – I think it’s personal choice. What IS uncommon is a full-on glam face, especially in the Southern style, even here in the South. It’s also position based about what the norms are, I think – professors and researchers usually don’t wear makeup, administrators or librarians usually don’t or wear natural or standard professional makeup styles, and hourly staff usually do wear it and are the only ones I’ve ever seen wearing a full face and obvious makeup.

  54. AnonEMoose*

    I usually just wear a bit of eye makeup (shadow, liner, and mascara) at work. I try to keep it to more neutral colors and nothing too dark or bright, unless it’s a really small amount as a highlight. And sometimes lipstick or lip balm if my lips are dry.

    Recommendation: If you wear eye makeup, and you haven’t tried it, the eyeshadow primer from Urban Decay is the makeup product you will pry out of my cold, dead hands. Put on a small amount, let it dry, and then apply your eye makeup normally. And it will stay put. All day. It won’t crease. It won’t run. It’s amazing.

    On rare occasions when I have meetings that involve bigwigs, I might wear a full face, but that’s rare for me. It might be different in a different job.

    But in general, for work, I’d say it’s heavily environment-dependent. If you’re a makeup artist, or appearance otherwise matters a lot in your job, then I’d say to try to conform to what your coworkers are doing. If it’s more of a regular business environment, I’d say to keep your makeup in neutral/natural shades, and make sure you know how to apply it well.

    If it’s a quick routine or a quick repair job, I’d say it’s fine to do in the bathroom at work, just try not to take up too much space. I’ve done a full application at work, but in the afternoon when I was leaving to go somewhere else. As an occasional thing, as long as it doesn’t take too long, I think it’s fine.

    1. JS*

      Further recommendation: If you have a Nordstrom Rack near you buy the primer from there. It’s $18 at Sephora but only $9 there and they usually always have it in stock. Its in all their stores as Ive bought it there on both coasts in US. They also have the all nighter spray which YMMV on but its good for dry heat environments, so-so in humidity for keeping makeup on.

      Agreed though, makeup in afternoon for after work is fine, you shouldnt be doing more than quick touch ups throughout the day.

    2. Nemo*

      Urban Decays eyeshadow primer is my favorite. I’m signed up for their email list. If there is something I want from that company I’ll put it in my cart and leave it there for a week or two and always get offered a discount. One time I got the primer, a bottle of setting spray and a travel sized bottle for $5

  55. Emi.*

    I’m curious whether people think trendy makeup looks less professional. For example, super-matte lipstick is trendy right now (right?), so does that come off as less businesslike than a more classic look?

    1. Chicken*

      Super matte lipstick is still somewhat trendy but on the way out, I think. I think makeup is similar to clothing in that ultra trendy looks are read as less professional, but dated looks are also read as less professional. Something contemporary but not too trendy is generally read as the most professional.

    2. Cookie Monster*

      I would say as long as you’re sticking to reds, pinks, and neutrals, super-mattes are still totally okay! (Red and bright pink may vary by office, in a business casual setting so long as you don’t have drastic eye make-up with it, I’d say you’re more than fine.)

    3. AnonEMoose*

      I think it depends on the trend, personally. Something like super-matte lipstick, I think it depends on the shade. I generally try to avoid anything sparkly or glittery in my makeup for work, but as long as the lipstick isn’t really bright and doesn’t clash, that probably wouldn’t register with me.

      1. Curious Cat*

        +1! I don’t think there’s a huge difference in professionalism between gloss vs. matte, but it’s all about the color and shade.

        1. Triumphant Fox*

          I remember when super glossy lips were popular, and then super shimmery lips. I can’t imagine either being very professional – they’re so distracting (more so, I think, than shimmery eye-shadows…probably because your mouth is always moving?)

    4. bb-great*

      I think it comes down to 1) unusual colors and 2) amount of makeup. Basically, is it distracting? Matte red or neutralish pink isn’t going to raise eyebrows, but dark purple or hot pink might. Likewise a subtle amount of highlighting is probably fine, but really obvious contour wouldn’t be. Of course this will depend on industry just like the makeup question in general.

    5. walkingwhilefemale*

      I think it really depends on your company and office culture. I work with mostly mid-20s – early 40s women in the marketing department of a large ($2b+) multinational company – we all sit together on the same floor, and the company as a whole skews that way in age by the sheer volume of folks we have working for us. Our office is located in a large east coast metro area for even further reference. Mostly everyone here wears makeup to some degree, ranging from nothing at all to a “natural” full face, but it’s never really commented on aside from compliments!

      I’ve noticed some people will come in with a new, trendier matte lipstick shade or a new mascara, and someone else might compliment them on it or say, “Oh, is that new mascara?” in a complimentary way. No one usually tries a new or trendier look on the days when we have higher-ups or client meetings in the office, however.

    6. Mananana*

      I wouldn’t think twice about someone wearing something like super-matte lipstick to the office, but if it was a more “out there” trend (glitter eyeshadow, spidery eyelashes, rainbow eyeshadows) I’d wonder why they are made-up for the club, not work.

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        For everyday wear I prefer the least glossy lipstick I can find and have for the last 30+ years. And I’ve *always* been able to find something matte. Don’t see why super-matte would raise an an eyebrow.

    7. Kate 2*

      Most people in my experience have no clue what’s trendy! I love makeup but I don’t follow the trends myself. I think it would be important if you worked in advertising, fashion, or makeup, but in most industries the men and most of the women just don’t care, if they even notice. Exceptions for things like pastel blue eye shadow and glitter, which are joked about and used as gags on sitcoms and SNL.

  56. Localflighteast*

    I’ve never worn makeup at work. I never figured out the adulting skill required to apply it. I look like a clown if I try.
    my current workplace is pretty relaxed and it honestly isn’t an issue. To make it look like I am actually making an effort appearance wise, I do other things like dye my hair to match our current marketing colour.

    TBH I actually kind of resent the fact that women are expected to wear this stuff.

    1. Trig*

      Yeah, reading this thread, my opinion has gone from “it’s fine if people want to do it” to “THE DOUBLE-STANDARD IS REALLY UNFAIR AND I HATE IT AND I’M SO GLAD I WORK FROM HOME.” Like, all this stuff about people feeling like they must hide redness or bags or whatever (either to feel confident in themsleves, or actively judging other people!), and colleagues commenting about someone looking sick or tired when they don’t wear makeup! Because clearly if women have any blemish at all they aren’t professional and only perfect-looking women should work!

      It makes me maaaaad! I still say it’s fine if people *want* to do it, but I also lament the fact that we’re in this cultural space where women feel like they *have* to but men don’t.

      1. Kat*

        I agree – I am personally someone who prefers the look of their face with makeup but it can get really absurd how strong this social sense of “my face is unacceptable to be seen when my dark circles are visible” can get! I am a medical student, and I had a surgery rotation where I was getting up at 4:30am and working more than 12 hour shifts… and still putting on makeup in the morning (concealer & cat-eye liner*). So I didn’t look too tired, when literally everyone involved in surgery looks tired! The patients on the table didn’t care! Why did I miss even an extra minute of sleep?

        *Besame’s “mascara cake” is ideal for a cat eye that will last 14hrs, through the OR and still be easily washed off, for the record

  57. A.N. O'Nyme*

    To me it feels like it’s a mix of know your company/industry and what you’re comfortable with. I personally don’t wear a lot of make-up (usually none, occasionally eyeliner, mascara and/or lipstick) but if you feel good and don’t look like a clown? Go for it.

    1. A.N. O'Nyme*

      (clicked submit too fast) Personally I’ll be most likely to wear make-up when I’m nervous for a presentation or something. I consider it my warpaint :) .

    2. Jadelyn*

      Applying makeup…to…your boobs…? o.O

      I desperately want to know the context but I’m kinda afraid to ask.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        It’s more boring than it sounds really: classmate in high school had a foundation that was more than one tint off. So putting it on her face made it clear her neck was a different colour, so she did her neck too. But she was also wearing a slightly low-cut shirt. Thus, she put some on her boobs so it wouldn’t be noticeable. And of course the best time to apply make-up to your boobs is in class.

      2. LBG*

        Back in the ’80’s, women would add contour to their cleavage to enhance their assets. I can’t say I ever saw anyone do it for work, but more for going out on the town.

      3. Kelly L.*

        I had occasion once to be on television, and they had to make up my decolletage to make it match what they’d already put on my face! They’d matched the color pretty well, but I flush.

  58. k.k*

    I had a very similar experience. I’m a person that loves makeup as like a hobby (you can often catch me watching tutorials, I’m up on trends, and can spend too much time/money on it), and used to wear a full face every day. Then I was running low on some stuff and went with a more minimal look, and it was totally fine. My daily is now just a light BB cream, spot concealer if needed, mascara, and a lip tint/balm. I could probably wear none and no one would care, but this is my preference.

  59. But you don't have an accent...*

    I think wearing makeup depends more on your skin and personality than anything. I have rosacea and adult acne, so my skin would likely be more distracting if I didn’t wear makeup. Years of high school with a bright red face year round taught me that past October, people WILL ask you why you’re sunburned and replying “I’m not, it’s just my skin” with a glare isn’t something that make you “easy” to work with.

    As for some of the more advanced things, like smokey eyes, heavy contouring, odd lip colors (black, blue, purple), etc., is not something that I think is appropriate for most industries. And a big no to body glitter!

  60. Blurgle*

    I have so many feelings about this one. If it were in my power I would make it a federal crime to expect employees of either sex to wear makeup or to judge their professionalism or “polish” (ugh) on whether they smear expensive allergenic grease all over their face.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


      When I’m queen of the entire world, that will go right in my list of edicts.

    2. Traveling Teacher*

      Especially from a purely economical standpoint, it’s an invisible tax. There’s this horrifying figure out there that women spend 150,000-300,000 as an average over a lifetime on makeup, depending on the survey…

      And that’s not even to mention the time! Time finding, buying, applying, removing… Once I stopped wearing makeup, I toted up the time I saved over a week/month/year (figuring in the application, touching up, removal, etc.) I was saving an average of 30-45 mins every day!

      1. Traveling Teacher*

        And, this is not to say that no one should wear it! People who like it should feel free to do whatever they like/feel comfortable with. But, if an employer is outright expecting it for “polish,”…that’s something else entirely.

  61. CLD*

    I bike to work. Then work out at lunch. Then bike home. So make up wearing is almost non existent in my work life (and in my real life if we’re being honest). I often wonder if I should be wearing it, but then I think about the effort and waste of product and this woman doesn’t have time for that!

  62. JS*

    I dont know why you would ever wear body glitter unless you worked in trendy clubs/bars where glitz and glam were expected. I think body glitter and body highlighter are two different things though, highlighter is subtle.

    I for one LOVE makeup, I hit Sephora Rouge every year but I rarely ever wear makeup to work. I work in advertising but my job isnt client facing. It would take an extra 20-30 min in the mornings for me to do it and it already takes me 10 minutes to do my skin care routine. I would have to dedicate an extra 30 mins to makeup which imo is precious sleep time as I am night owl so I average 5-6 hrs.

    1. Emily Spinach*

      The time is part of my issue: I spend a fair bit of time on skincare, so to put on “neutral” makeup sometimes doesn’t feel worth doubling the time I’m already taking to get ready. But other days it’s fun and it’s how I do want to spend that 10-15 minutes, so it just varies.

  63. Trillion*

    Slighlty off topic, but the best thing about wearing makeup everyday, especially eye make up, is that when you *don’t* wear it, you look sick. If I’m genuinely sick and need to convince my boss that I’m better off at home, I come in without the makeup. Works like a charm.

    1. k.k*

      Ha, so true. I’m naturally blessed with super dark under-eye circles. Even if I put on the rest of my face, if I skip the under-eye concealer I look on the brink on death.

      1. Trillion*

        It’s even better when the manager suggest you go home before you can even broach the subject. “Oh hey, you look terrible. You feeling okay? Maybe you should go home.”


    2. Trillion*

      Also heads up to those that don’t normally wear makeup. If you do wear it for a job interview, your manager may know something’s up (similar to wearing a suit to work if you don’t usually).

      When I’m secretly interviewing (like now), I try to allow for a few minutes to refresh or apply makeup as part of my “get interview ready in the car so I don’t let the cat out of the bag” routine. But if something happens and I end up needing that time back, it’s infinitely better to be on-time but without makeup than late but fabulous.

      1. Jadelyn*

        This x100 – if you don’t normally wear makeup, but are going to for a job interview, apply it in the car or a public bathroom right before the interview, and make sure you take it back off before you go back to work, or else people will think something’s up.

        I tend to dress very simply in slacks and sweaters or simple blouses, with mostly flat shoes or boots. One time I had found an old skirt I hadn’t seen in years while cleaning out my closet, so the next day I wore it to work, and wore heels with it because it looked better that way than with my usual flats. My *entire team* asked me, one person at a time in discreet moments when they could get me alone, if I had a job interview that day. Anytime you look fancier than normal, it’s a thought that’s going to cross *someone’s* mind.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      LOL! I wear makeup even when I’m sick, but skipping the blush/undereye concealer is a pretty good “see, I really am sick!” visual aid.

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        When I’m sick, I’m lucky if I feel good enough to get dressed, let alone put on a face.
        That said, if I’m only a little crap feeling, I might put on clothes and a little face to try and convince *myself* that I don’t feel so bad.

    4. Canto Bight*

      I was going to say the opposite of this! I rarely wear makeup in part because I have witnessed this phenomenon with other women too many times. I’d much rather my everyday, bare face be the thing people are used to than if I’m running late or don’t feel like spending time primping in the morning having to deal with “are you feeling okay?” and “what’s wrong?” comments all day.

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Oh, this is so true! My co-worker and I both wear basic makeup every day, and one day she didn’t and I totally asked her if she was ok (and I felt bad about it in retrospect, though we’re pretty open with each other generally).

  64. CoconutLaCroix*

    I wear a full face of makeup every day. I also wear makeup — albeit a bit less — when I go to the grocery store. I’ve got my system down pretty well and can knock out everything including work-appropriate smokey eyes in 15 minutes.

    I never would apply makeup at work. Partly because my work restrooms are nasty, but also because morning makeup is just part of my routine.

  65. Berry*

    I wear makeup every day mostly because I really like it, it’s a nice taking 10 minutes to myself in the morning kind of situation.

    We did have one grad school intern (she was 27) who wore a lot of bright makeup – including wildly unnatural lipstick colors like yellow and blue! We’re a casual office but I was a bit surprised that her manager didn’t tell her off on it, though she did get a lot of compliments from people around the office.

  66. ex-pedestrian*

    In a former job, I would spend 5+ minutes putting on makeup at work. I took public transportation or walked to work, so outside of a few months out of the year when the weather was reasonable, putting makeup on before getting to work would result on it sliding down my face by the time I arrived. It never seemed to be an issue, though I also got to work early most days.

    I also generally keep my makeup to concealer, mascara, brow gel, and lip product, so it’s quick and not wildly face-changing (and therefore not a drastic difference if I skip it completely).

  67. HRM*

    I prefer the way I look with makeup and generally wear it to work daily but I don’t wear anything too extreme… just primer, foundation, lipgloss, mascara and eyeliner. Sometimes I skip the eyeliner if I’m in a rush, and sometimes I add eyeshadow if I’m in the mood. There are days where I just don’t feel like wearing makeup at all or I’m just straight up running too late to put it on. Today was one of those days actually – not currently wearing any makeup. My current position is in the manufacturing industry and there are very few women who work at my location. All of the ones who do wear little or no makeup, so I don’t feel pressured.

    My previous job was also in HR but working in a a different industry. The culture there was the opposite – most women wore full faces of makeup (along with lots of jewelry, heels, tights, etc.) and I generally conformed for the year and a half I was there. I can only remember two occasions I went into work without makeup there, the first was about a year into my employment and I remember one of the managers taking me aside to ask if I had been in a domestic violence situation – I was like nope, my eye circles are always this dark I’m just usually wearing a ton of makeup over them!

    It’s nice to be in a place that is much more relaxed about it. I don’t feel as much pressure to get dolled up every single day. I rarely straighten my hair here either. Just blow dry and straighten my bangs quick which saves me 10-15 minutes of doing my whole head. My previous job was also very big on appearances in general – gossiping about who had gained weight, what people were wearing, who was attractive, who was rewearing an outfit they had worn the previous week, etc. and it was pretty toxic for me self esteem wise. I’m so much more happy in a place that doesn’t care what I look like as long as I’m not wearing something inappropriate.

  68. Anonymous Ampersand*

    I’m surprised how many others don’t wear makeup! I thought I was a rarity :)

    1. Angela B.*

      No way! I said this in my comment below, but I’ve always been in the minority wearing makeup every day.

      1. Anon for this*

        It’s interesting that you mention race – a lot of darker-skinned women I know almost always wear concealer and/or foundation to even out their skin tone. People with darker skin tones can be prone to very dark (rather than red) hyperpigmentation that doesn’t fade easily even with a good skin care routine. Having a face that’s almost permanently spotty is a bit different from temporary blemishes here and there, so wearing makeup involves different considerations than for someone whose skin tone tends to be even.

        1. Nina*

          All of this. I’m fortunate to have pretty good skin, but I do have some hyperpigmentation and whenever I get a pimple or a blemish, the mark remains MONTHS after the pimple is gone. It’s a few shades darker than my skin tone, and sunlight exposure doesn’t help. There’s no hiding it. Hence the concealer and foundation.

          Sometimes I can’t be bothered with makeup, but I do like the difference when I’m wearing it.

          1. Anon for this*

            Man, I’m dealing with a few dots of close-to-pitch-black hyperpigmentation from a bad bout of acne I had *a whole freaking decade ago*. And I wear sunscreen religiously to stop it from getting darker. I don’t feel like advertising my skin’s history when I go to work, and it’s the kind of thing that would be obvious on caramel skin, so I don’t have uncomfortable feminist feels about using concealer.

            That said, I get that people unfamiliar with this kind of situation can’t really relate to how we use makeup.

    2. Amber Rose*

      Most of the women I know wear at least a little, so it was a bit surprising to me too. I gave up on even concealer years ago.

    3. Annie Moose*

      Me too!

      Any time a thread about makeup shows up anywhere on the internet, it seems to be full of people going, “Oh, I just throw on some mascara” and then it comes out that what they really mean is “I just wear mascara… after putting on multiple types of concealer and foundation and lipstick, obviously”. So it’s nice to know that there legitimately are some other people out there who no, really, don’t wear makeup.

      1. Windchime*

        Yes, I’ve noticed this, too. “Oh, I don’t wear makeup. I do put on some concealer and mascara and lip gloss, though.” Um. That’s makeup.

    4. FM*

      Yup, no makeup at all for me. But for me, like some other people mentioned, it’s a career path choice/dealbreaker. I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to go into any field that would require makeup from me. (It’s not a coincidence that the only retail job I’ve ever held was at a video game store; I would never get hired at a fashion place that wanted me to look fashionable.)

      It’s limiting, but so is deciding that I don’t want to go into construction work or become a plumber. I can enjoy makeup if someone else does it for me, on a special occasion–I like weird exciting makeup that shows itself off as a thing, like glitter or black lipstick or curlicue metallic eyeliner–but I would be regularly unhappy wearing it every day, so I avoid jobs where I would have to.

      I had a girlfriend who didn’t want to go outside of the house without her makeup on, and I respect that, too. Different strokes for different folks. I also wish that makeup would become more acceptable (though not required!) for me; it’s one of those frustrating gender barriers, that most men aren’t comfortable wearing a floral dress or makeup or glittery ribbons or any other fun fashion stuff that’s associated strongly with femininity.

    5. CheeryO*

      I wear mascara and eyeliner, and I’m definitely in the minority in my office (mostly crunchy-granola types, and some of us do a lot of fieldwork). It’s actually kind of obnoxious because every once in a while someone will say something snarky about people who wear makeup to work, and I’m like, HELLO, look at my eyeballs, this is not natural!

  69. Angela B.*

    I always always wear makeup to work, mostly because that’s just part of my routine that takes me from feeling like Angela at home in sweatpants to Angela at work looking presentable. For me, that means concealer and tinted moisturizer, eyeshadow/liner/mascara, blush, and lipstick, which sounds like a lot but I’m pretty fast since I do it every day and it brings me joy, so totally worth it. Generally I stick to neutral colors except for lippy, that’s my area to play and I will cop to wearing very dark purple/almost black lipstick to work when the outfit warrants… because I work in the kind of office where no one cares. I’m the only person in my office who really bothers with makeup, and likewise, I definitely dress the most business end of business casual among the women–for the men, slacks, collared shirt and tie are pretty much a given, whereas most of the women are more dressed down just because it’s easier to get away with it. And I would also say that even though I wear makeup every day, I’ve never thought that women who don’t wear makeup to work are any less professional or dedicated than me, and I’ve always been outnumbered in offices by non-makeup wearers, no question. You just gotta do you as far as feeling work-ready goes! One awesome lady in my last office would wear navy blue lippy occasionally and it looked fantastic and similarly, no one cared (although they might have if she had a public facing role, which she didn’t). But as others have said, probably best to do you without body glitter for your average office environment.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      This sounds like me minus the blush. :) I have a work “face” and a work wardrobe; when I make certain efforts, I feel more business-y. I recently stepped my makeup routine back up and started wearing clothes from my old much more fashion-conscious job, and it went a long way to making me feel more professional. I’m also in a non-makeup-wearing office.

  70. Chicken*

    I love makeup and find applying it to be a calming and relaxing part of my morning routine, but I also hate the patriarchal double standard that women “need” it to look polished and men don’t. I wish that no one felt obligated to wear makeup, and that no was was judged (even subconsciously) for what they do or do not wear. I’m sad that by wearing makeup I am contributing to that patriarchal double standard, but I enjoy makeup enough that I wear it anyway.

    1. Drama Mama*

      I don’t think that wearing it contributes. I think contributing would be expecting it of others, telling others they need to do it to look more polished or professional etc.
      The double standard/patriarchy issues come in to it when people try to police others. As long as you’re just doing your own thing and not expecting others to conform to your way or “society’s way” then you’re not contributing.

    2. SansaStark*

      I completely agree with all of this and you articulated how I feel so well. I love makeup. I’ll happily watch hours of Youtube tutorials and spend way more $ than I should. But when my 5 year old niece “asked” if she could wear a little lipstick in my wedding, I was paralyzed. It’s fun for me when I want to, but I can’t bear the thought of this little girl thinking that she needed it to be pretty – or that she even needed to be pretty if she didn’t want to! Thank goodness her mom (my sister) reminded me that it’s really just about playing and feeling like she’s part of the crowd of girls getting ready. But I just had to comment once or twice about how none of this is necessary to feel good about yourself. It’s such a complicated issue.

  71. Amadeo*

    I work in web with two dudes who don’t give a rip whether I wear make-up or not. I’m like a few of the other commentors – I only wear it for ‘special occasions’. I might wear some light eye makeup and powder to an interview, but that’s the only time I tend to wear it in a work context.

  72. Annie Moose*

    I work in software development, and while we don’t have a ton of women in the office, we do have a range of “little-to-no makeup” to “more striking”. We dress professionally (unfortunately! ;)), so I think that keeps anyone from getting too crazy with the makeup, but it really is a non-issue. Which I appreciate, because I fall firmly in the “little-to-no makeup” category.

    For me, my problem is two-fold: first, I’m constantly running late, and second, I never learned how to do makeup when I was a kid. So I don’t want to take the time to do makeup in the morning anyway, and I wouldn’t know the first thing about elaborate looks even if I did have the time! If I do wear makeup, it’s just a bit of concealer and foundation for redness or dark circles, but lately I haven’t even been doing that unless I really look haggard. (Besides, I work with a bunch of very laid-back guys would couldn’t tell if a woman was wearing light makeup or not if you held a gun to their head, bless their hearts.)

  73. TheCupcakeCounter*

    I wear makeup every day and it consists of a powder, eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick. I do have some non-traditional colors and am currently wearing a very dark plum shade of lipstick. No one bats an eye. The person sitting next to me is wearing nothing. No one bats an eye. Another coworker wears fake lashes on the daily. No one bats an eye. Colors and amounts are typically adjusted for meetings, interviews, etc…
    Body glitter is probably a no-no across the board with a few exceptions such as working in the beauty or entertainment industries.
    Touch-ups in the bathroom are probably fine but applying a whole face of makeup seems pretty extreme. If you are running late maybe adjust your look for the day to keep the time to a minimum (i.e. foundation and mascara with a heavier lip, skip the liquid liner for a pencil, powder instead of foundation and contouring). I also agree with previous posters that if you do it don’t have it be a daily thing that butts into your productivity.

  74. Dovahkiin*

    I have adult acne and a young-looking face, so if I don’t wear makeup to work, I look like a stray teenager wandered in from the street.

    I wear light make-up (a natural look) in line with what other people wear in my office. My office is in a city and there are a few men who wear light makeup (foundation/bronzer/eyebrow pencil) too. I’m in Fintech, so the intersection of the finance and tech sectors plays out in weird ways – we’re pretty casual for dress (jeans everyday!), but still have some conservative norms (women who don’t wear makeup are, unfortunately, made “invisible” to a lot of stakeholders).

    I’m also a latina lesbian, and while my workplace is pretty cool/modern/down, I do feel some pressure (probably a mix of internalized homophobia and external pressure) to make extra sure that the men in my (majority male) office are comfortable with me. “Butch” is not something the culture here is comfortable with. UGH. I’ve spent my whole life “code-switching” between my personal and professional life and I’ve made my peace with it. I can’t be my full self at work, but so far it’s working out really well for me. My boss (a cool woman) adores me, and advocates for me. I’ve regularly gotten extra large raises (>9%) and promotions since I started, as well as extra career coaching and grooming.

    In my private life, I go for an androgynous/tomboi look and I don’t wear make-up at all unless it’s totally crazy makeup for cosplay or some kind of costume party (and then I go ALL IN).

  75. Amber Rose*

    Oh please don’t wear any kind of glitter at work. The stuff is called the herpes of the art world for a reason. It gets on everything. You’ll never get rid of it. Neither will the coworkers who have to handle your glittering documents.

    Otherwise, wear makeup or not, I don’t care. If you rock a smokey eye, do it. I figure if purple hair and tattoos are OK with me (and they are, and have been with most of my bosses) then it’s kinda hypocritical to complain about a bright blue eyeshadow or vibrant red lipstick. If you want to put it on at work, make sure you’re in the bathroom for less than 10 minutes. An hour in the work bathroom to do your face is unacceptable. So is making a mess that you don’t clean up.

    Personally, I only wear makeup for special events and interviews. And only interviews because it ages me up a bit, I have a baby face. I’m so allergic to most kinds that it’s impractical for me to wear it often. And the first time I found some that I wasn’t allergic to, it turned out I couldn’t handle the remover I bought and my eyes swelled shut for three days.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I have this bridesmaid dress that is covered in glitter as part of its design. I drank too much and ran around hugging people and yelling “glitter herpes!” the one time I wore it. They’re probably still seeing sparkles. I know I am. And it’s been half a year.

        1. Casuan*

          I have an aversion to glitter because once infested it’s impossible to fully eradicate. Not long ago I googled how to clean up glitter & the consensus in the results was no-can-do.

          Mostly, my aversion was when I worked at MajorThemePark. Several years in, I attended a meeting where for some reason someone decided we needed some magic so a character* was sent in to sprinkle her pixie dust all over us.
          At a meeting attended by several professionals. Who were all wearing business attire.
          Casuan was not a happy, as is evidenced by my third-person use. Thankfully in the moment I was too shocked to react negatively, although a few days later I contacted the organiser & suggested they rethink the glitter. He seemed surprised that others had been contacting him with the the same suggestion.

          *as I typed this, I realised that the character’s name kind of rhymes with “Glitter Hell”

    1. kristin*

      I will say as a glitter lover (on my eyes, body glitter I am not such a fan of) there is a huge difference between cosmetic grade glitter and art glitter. Do NOT use craft glitter on or around your eyes, even if you’re not going to work. The possibility of scratching your eye is high.

      1. Amber Rose*

        You’re right, amend my statement to “please don’t wear any kind of *body glitter* at work.” Eye glitter is tiny and doesn’t touch anything so its range of spread is at least limited. I had some body glitter once and it was exactly as contagious as craft glitter.

  76. Anonygrouse*

    I’ve never worn make-up (and my skin is not good — cystic acne scarring). I’ve been lucky, I guess, that everywhere I’ve worked (nonprofits and healthcare) I’ve not been the only woman who didn’t wear make-up and haven’t felt I’ve been at a disadvantage (though of course some people might have been forming opinions that I didn’t notice). I have a fairly androgynous presentation — not sure if that plays a part , either in that no make-up doesn’t stand out on me, or in that any negative opinions would be more about a insufficiently feminine presentation overall rather than no make-up specifically.

    In my current workplace, you would probably stand out if you had super intense makeup that looks like it required a few youtube tutorials to pull off, but I don’t think anyone would necessarily judge someone as unprofessional for it. I also don’t see it as a big deal when people put on/touch up make-up in the bathroom or at their cubicles — as long as doing it isn’t making you chronically late or something, what’s the harm?

  77. Scrumtrillescent*

    I wear mascara and lipstick every day. I wear in a public-facing position representing a city. I’d prefer to not wear any makeup at all and I have had a hard time articulating to myself why it feels necessary to wear mascara and lipstick at a minimum. I also think that it is important for me to wear a couple of pieces of jewelry, to only wear my hair down once or twice a week, and to layer my clothes. I think it’s less about looking “pretty” for me and more about communicating via my appearance that my city is effort-worthy.

    But, by that same logic, I could just wear multiple…anythings…and achieve the same result and that’s not accurate either. “Hello, I am wearing a hat, suspenders, two pairs of socks, a monocle, I love my city and it is important to me.” I’m not sure what the distinction is. I blame society. I wish I felt like my regular face was sufficient.