BBC documentary explores why women wear make-up


Presented by Connie Fisher, documentary analyses psychology behind cosmetics

The BBC has aired a documentary hosted by actress and singer Connie Fisher exploring the reasons why women wear make-up.

The documentary, Connie Fisher on Make-up, focuses on women in Wales and features a series of interviews with consumers and experts on the topic.

Consumers interviewed reveal numerous reasons behind why they reach for cosmetics with factors ranging from enjoying the social element of putting on make-up before a night out to boosting confidence and feeling good on the inside.

Among the experts invited to give their opinions was Dr Lance Workman an evolutionary scientist from the University of South Wales. He put forward a theory that women in less patriarchal societies wear more make-up, whereas those in patriarchal societies are often controlled by men to wear less make-up, adding that countries where women wear a lot of make-up indicate an equal society.

He continued to explain that women “have to show sexiness to show that they are fertile”. He said: “When girls go on a night out and wear a lot of make-up, and show a lot of flesh, they are saying ‘I’ve got eggs, I’m fertile’.” He added: “They don’t know they are saying, it’s not at a conscious level.”

Fisher goes on to interview Dr Yan Wu from Swansea University who researches the power of advertising in the beauty industry. Wu explained that advertisements today are very cleverly designed and often incorporate feminist ideals into selling with the advertisers giving the impression that the consumer made the choice to buy a product and make themselves look better. She said: “If audiences are exposed to the same message again and again, their outlook will be shaped by that message.”

Fisher asked about the impact of make-up in the workplace and whether women who wear cosmetics to work are more successful. Wu replied with a counter-question and said: “Do we judge men on the way they look or on their ability?”. She questioned why women’s faces have become like an extension of the suit, with make-up completing a formal look for women but not men. Wu explained she thinks women should be judged in the workplace on their ability, adding: “If you apply double standards to men and women, you can never achieve real gender equality.”

Beauty journalist Sali Hughes, who writes a regular beauty column for The Guardian, was also interviewed. She spoke about the discrimination women face for openly liking make-up. She said: "As somebody who writes a great deal about beauty, I do care when people assume that I'm probably a little bit stupid because I like lipstick... It's perfectly possible to be engaged with politics and current affairs, I have to be because of my job, I could not be more engaged with those things, but I also like lipstick. I cannot see why women are presumed to only be able to focus on one thing – their appearance."

Finally, Fisher also explored the impact of make-up on well-being and feeling good by going to visit a workshop run by Look Good Feel Better (LGFB). The charity supports those undergoing cancer treatment by helping them explore how make-up can boost self-confidence.

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To watch the documentary, click here.