Category: Style

Why do women wear makeup?

Why do women wear makeup? SSSM advocates incorrectly consider the use of cosmetics an arbitrary social construct.

The practice of applying cosmetics is so ubiquitous that its strangeness is underappreciated. What other animals deliberately modify their appearance to enhance their attractiveness? What other animals would actually find such modifications attractive?

In his paper, “Why Cosmetics Work,” Richard Russell proposes that there are evolutionarily determined universal factors of facial attractiveness, and the different practices of applying cosmetics, though quite varied across cultures, all attempt to enhance such factors of facial attractiveness. The practice has been convergent across cultures.

The paper explains that cosmetics are primarily used to exaggerate sex differences. Males actually have perceptibly redder skin than females, likely from higher levels of hemoglobin. Because of this, females have a higher luminance contrast surrounding the eyes and lips. Dark eye makeup and lipstick enhance this luminance contrast. Recall how Snow White’s lips were as red as blood, and her was skin was as white as snow? Her feminine beauty was signaled by an extreme facial luminance contrast.

The paper also mentions that fairer female skin might have come about from natural selection for increased cholecalciferol and calcium production for pregnancy and lactation.

Further questions:

  1. Why wouldn’t men use makeup to decrease facial luminance contrast? Is this a historical accident?
  2. The paper only used Caucasian and East Asian faces. Would subjects from ethnic groups with darker skin corroborate this research?

Hospitals are unaesthetic

An obvious but rarely discussed criticism of the health care sector is that hospitals are completely unaesthetic. The aesthetics of hospitals have mostly been neglected, because they don’t seem as important as the expertise of doctors, nurses, and staff, or medical technology.

A while back, Virginia Postrel wrote an article about how better aesthetics in hospitals can make for happier and healthier patients. Patients actually rate their medical care more highly when they stay in well decorated rooms, but hospitals aren’t competitive, and aren’t particularly responsive to trends in consumer demand.

There seems to be obvious demand for more comfortable environments in hospitals. People want comfort in hotel rooms, so why wouldn’t they want comfort when they’re most vulnerable? Perhaps if medical institutions were freer to experiment, they would compete on more dimensions, including aesthetics.