Eyeliner & Competence: An Open Thread

So a few weeks ago there was this survey: more makeup makes you look more competent. Or so they say. This seems like exactly the kind of thing we should explore here… hence today’s open thread.

So here are some of the pictures they showed to test subjects. And I thought I’d share my thoughts (I typed these specifically for the first row, but really they sort of apply across the board).
– Picture 1: Aww, is she a college student on summer break? (Which is really interesting, because while we’ve talked about young women feeling unprofessional if they’re not wearing makeup, it isn’t a bias I generally think I have.)
– Picture 2: Meh. No opinion. She doesn’t look very friendly.
– Picture 3: Ok, if I were this chick, this is probably the amount of makeup that I’d be comfortable wearing on a daily basis, at least at the beginning of the day. That said, does it affect how I feel to look at her as a potential colleague? I suppose it does, but it comes back to me — she and I both feel comfortable putting the same amount of work into our makeup and outfits, so we must have similar/same outlooks on life. Great!
– Picture 4: This is the “glamorous” look. Maybe I’ve been hanging out with fashion bloggers too long, but she doesn’t look particularly glamorous to me. She looks kind of like the villainous boss in a movie. Is it because of the makeup? Because of the darker brows and lighter hair? The expression? This is also interesting, because according to the study, “women in glamorous makeup were found to be less trustworthy.”

The thing that I kept thinking while looking at the pictures, though is this:  expressions are huge.  I’ve worked with a lot of young newbies starting their first job, and thinking back to that first meeting, whatever impression I had of them was formed not through abstract things (like their makeup, or even their clothes) but rather their expressions.  If someone comes into your office, plops down and gives you the dead stare seen in each of the 12 pictures:  you curse the hiring department.  Whereas, if she’s eagerly listening to what you’re assigning, and maybe even suggesting other avenues for research or development — it doesn’t matter if she’s wearing buckets of makeup or not, you think, WOW, it’s gonna be great to work with her.

So let’s take it back to the realm of photographs.  Would you want to work with her based ONLY on her picture?  Honestly, I wouldn’t want to work with any of the women in this photo — they all look humorless, tired, and a bit wary.  I’ve advised this for corporate photos, and I’ll advise it again here:  your resume and your achievements are usually posted alongside your photo, so the main thing your photo needs to convey is friendliness.  Forget “smize-ing” (as Tyra would say) or trying to give some smoldering look of sheer intelligence… just look like someone trustworthy, responsive, and friendly — the kind of person you’d want at the other end of a phone line if you’ve got a problem.

I’m not saying that makeup doesn’t matter — but I think it speaks to judgment calls you make.  The woman in the third row — her first picture makes her look tired, weary, as if she is so overworked and overstressed that it is all she can do to get a shower in and show up at the office on time.  Her fourth picture (with the heavy lipstick) makes her look high maintenance, even vain, to me, because I know how much work maintaining that dark perfect lip must take. Women wearing the completely wrong color of lipstick similarly get dinged — they look like they haven’t done a self-assessment in a while.

I don’t know (um, obviously): readers, what do you think?  What do you think about the women in the photographs? And do you think those thoughts translate to makeup… or that the bigger thing you’re evaluating in the photos is the expression?  Do you take anything away from the study re: how much makeup to wear for the office?


  1. Re: how much makeup is appropriate for work, I don’t think this is the least bit groundbreaking. My office is generally a 2 or a 3 on that scale (3 eyes and 2 lip for me, personally), which I think is in line with the survey results. My own rule has always been to look polished but that no one should notice my makeup on its own – just that my face looks nice.

    The trustworthiness thing is interesting. Maybe it’s because once you cross the line into being overtly “groomed,” the implied high-maintenance routine also sends the signal that the woman cares mostly about herself, and therefore whatever is coming out of her mouth must have an ulterior motive that benefits her as well?

    • Oh, and on facial expressions – obviously the women in the photos had no choice about how to pose, but totally agree that maintaining a dull expression will win you no points with your colleagues. I’m curious if they had tried a more approachable expression in each of the photos, if it would have affected the results — that power red pout wouldn’t look nearly so close to a sneer if they’d allowed the subjects to smile.

      • B. Williams :

        I assume they’re each trying to have the same expression in each photo, so we’re judging based on makeup only.

        I usually work in places where #2 or #3 are the mkade-up norm, but a significant portion of the women don’t wear makeup at all. Very few #4s.

  2. Interesting. I had never given this serious thought before. I am always at #2 or 3–I never go without any makeup but even for formal occasions never do intense eyes + dark lip either.

    In my perfect world, no makeup decision would count against anyone, and I agree that other factors are more important. That said, I will say that my first reaction when working with a woman who wears no makeup is “good for her.” Sometimes these women have gone on to impress me accordingly, i.e. like they’re just too brilliant and liberated to bother with makeup like I do, and sometimes not. But for the former, I always wonder if they think I’m a bit shallow for wearing it! Most women I work with seem to wear light makeup. I will say that I can’t think of anyone I have met in a professional context who wore #4 style whose work has impressed me. That said, very few people fall into that category. This is not a field known for its glamour.

    • what is your field, if you don’t mind elaborating a bit?

      • I’m an academic in a specialization that is very, very male-dominated. I’ve been at two major research universities–in different parts of the country–and did a briefer stint in industry as well.

        It’s a small world I’m in, so that’s all I should say! :) I know there are other readers here with a similar background.

  3. Threadjack!

    OK ladies, finally my turn to ask for some sartorial advice.

    I have finally landed a job interview in my desired city, which is a very short flight (on a very small plane) away from my current city. The interview is late this Friday afternoon. I will be working until early afternoon, going to catch the flight, and then going straight from the plane terminal to the interview (i.e. with hand luggage and all).

    It is not unusual for me to go to Big City on a Friday afternoon due to various commitments I have there on a regular basis, and I regularly bring a carry-on bag to work with me on Fridays. I will have to leave a bit earlier than usual, but I can handle that. What is problematic, however, is interview attire. My office is business casual at the best of times, and I only ever wear a full suit for big transaction closings. On Fridays, everyone wears jeans. My current office is very small and everyone will notice and wonder what is going on if I either (a) don’t dress casually on Friday, or (b) get changed into a formal suit in the middle of the afternoon. So I am wondering what to do about this. My current best bet is probably to wear my suit bottom (I am thinking either black pant suit or grey skirt suit) to work with a casual top and hopefully avoid notice that way, but put my suit jacket on just before I leave the office and hide it with my coat. I’d prefer not to do a full change in the (tiny) plane terminal since by the time I have to get on the flight I’d rather be mentally preparing myself for the interview rather than worrying about whether I tucked in my shirt properly. What would you ladies do? Any tips?

    • Are you driving in your own car to the airport? If so, you could leave the jacket hanging in the car, and put it on before you head to the airport.

      You can also leave nicer shoes in the car, and wear something like flats or loafers, which will make your look a bit more casual.

      • No car and no driving to airport….when I say it is a tiny plane terminal, I really, really mean it. I’ll be leaving my car at home that day and walking from the office to the plane terminal (can’t even call it an airport).

    • I think your suggestion should work (casual top over suit bottoms, hide the suit coat with your regular jacket) might work. Otherwise you may just need to bite the bullet and change in the terminal. The way you describe your office, everyone will know that you are going to an interview if you wear a suit.

      Also consider whether you will want to change your top at the end of the day–I would want to be fresh for the interview and wouldn’t want to have on a top that I had been wearing all day (plus on the plane). So your idea might work even better if you pair the suit bottoms with a very casual top that you plan to change, as no one would think t-shirt or casual knit=interview.

      Finally, consider whether people would guess anyway if you wear your suit bottoms with a suit-appropriate (but casual) top. I happen to be very observant of my colleague’s suits and notice when they wear suit bottoms with something else. Depending on other circumstances I might guess that they were headed to an interview if they didn’t pair the suit bottoms with the jacket for “casual” Friday, but were otherwise wearing a top they might wear with the full suit. This is probably not a concern if you work mostly with males, as they tend to be less observant. I just wanted to raise the point in case discretion is very important to you (it is common in this economy to not want current employer to know you are seeking other positions).

    • Equity's Darling :

      Your suggestion sounds fine- good luck with the interview!

    • could you change on arrival in big city’s airport?

    • Seattleite :

      Lie and tell everyone you’re going to a funeral?

    • Thanks everyone for your input! I actually really liked the funeral idea, but was stressing about this so much (probably excessively) that I’ve solved the problem by booking an earlier flight. Yes, I’ll have to leave the office 20 minutes earlier, but really, if I’m going to be leaving early anyway, an extra 20 minutes is not going to bother anyone and will give me the time to change tops/tidy myself up after I get off the plane.

      One less thing to worry about – now on to the firm due diligence!

      • I think you are on the right track as well. Another thought to diffuse notice at the office would be to wear some more casual flats in the office and switch to your interview heels after you leave. That could help take some of the notice off of the formal skirt/pants.

      • You can also wear a cami under your casual top to work with your dress pants and flats. Just bring a change of shoes, a blazer, and a fancier top to change into. Wearing the cami means you can switch shirts in a washroom or dark corner of the office (anywhere, really) easily enough before you leave the office and just put your coat on over top of it without anyone noticing. When you get to the city, change into the nicer shoes and put on the blazer.

  4. Anonymous :

    In my office, and every office I’ve ever worked in, a small amount of makeup (photo 2 or 3) is always better than none at all. It makes you look more polished and put together, and less like you just woke up or are visiting from college career day. When you’re very young, makeup helps you look a bit older. When you’re older, makeup just helps you look a bit better.

    There are exceptions, of course. If you work in public relations or marketing or are otherwise meeting & greeting and selling all day long, then makeup and your appearance in general are that much more important. If you work in a lab or a highly technical environment, then probably not as much. And so on and so forth.

    I’m sure people will complain that this is sexist and holds women back and all that, but there it is. It’s not a fair world.

  5. I think it’s all so connected, you can’t separate it. For instance, if you feel better with make up on, you will project a better outward presence, and in turn that will allow you to be perceived in a better light.

    I know several women who simply do not wear make up, and the only ones I would say could benefit from it are the ones who don’t make it seem like a considered, purposeful decision (their hair is also not neat, their clothes rumpled or badly fitted, etc.). Which, I guess, goes to Kat’s original point about it being a judgment on the person’s judgment, not so much on the person. I know one professional woman in her early 50s who always wears very simple, classic clothes, doesn’t dye her hair but never has a strand out of place, and wears no makeup whatsoever (she does have fantastic skin), and she projects confidence and competence like nobody’s business.

    As for the too much make up thing, I think it depends on context a lot. In a conservative field like law or finance, you may not want to look like it took an hour for you to get your hair and make up done, because that’s an hour you could have been working and that’s just how everybody thinks even if that’s an hour you took away from sleeping or watching tv.

    Personally, I don’t mind a strong lipstick or whatever, but I am not a fan of the “too much makeup” look in general because it too often seems insecure to me. I think it’s much more attractive to spend your time trying to make sure you look great with as little make up as possible. In general, I think the problem with too much makeup is that it always looks like too much. Not everyone is expert enough to pull of a dramatic face (even people who work at Sephora — see, the often cakey makeup, streaky blush, etc.)!

    • Diana Barry :

      I agree 100%. I tend to wear no makeup or lipstick only (my city is very much hardworking puritan and not so much high-maintenance). The rest of my outfit is always neat, however.

      I do wear more makeup for (1) photos and (2) networking events.

      • Me too re Diana Barry. Thanks for the reminder Kat – I left the house barefaced this morning because furnace broke down and we were in a wee turmoil Just put on my Cover Girls “Lipslick”, which I love except that the case is mis-designed so some product always finds its way to the outside.

    • Research, Not Law :

      Completely agree. Professionalism has more dimensions than cosmetics.

      Plus, if we’re talking daily look, it does not take long to realize a coworker’s strengths and weaknesses. A pretty face isn’t going to cover for poor work or attitude. And I’ve worked with people who looked pretty shabby – but they were excellent at their job. So long as they aren’t frontline staff, I don’t care.

      But like Diana said, I always take special care in my appearance at conferences, etc, where you are more likely to be judged at first glance. In my field, #2 is the target, as any more make-up can give the impression that you aren’t serious. The effect of a male-dominated field, I suppose.

      Also, I love this “I think it’s much more attractive to spend your time trying to make sure you look great with as little make up as possible.” Such good advice.

    • coldweatherchic :

      AIMS: “As for the too much make up thing, I think it depends on context a lot. In a conservative field like law or finance, you may not want to look like it took an hour for you to get your hair and make up done, because that’s an hour you could have been working and that’s just how everybody thinks even if that’s an hour you took away from sleeping or watching tv.”

      This, exactly. I’m in academics/medical field and generally my read in most settings I’ve worked is that too much makeup/too overly polished a look is distracting and can detract from perceptions* of competence. (*not actual competence, except insofar as perceptions affect working relationships and interpersonal effectiveness).

      For me to feel most comfortable and professional in the settings where I work, I skip foundation, just moisturize well, use a bit of blush, mineral powder, mascara (sometimes neutral eyeliner) and a nude lipstick or gloss. Maybe 3 minutes, tops. Now if only I could get my hair looking well-behaved in under half an hour….

  6. I think for me the make-up/no make-up debate is part of the overall presentation. If I saw the women from pictures 1 or 2 and they were otherwise neatly groomed and smartly dressed, I probably wouldn’t think too much of it.
    But if any of those women had hair that was messy/unwashed hair and were wearing wrinkled or unflattering clothes, no amount of make-up IMHO would help said women look presentable.
    Personally, I feel someone who looks as though they haven’t put any effort in their appearance is telling me they don’t give a d*mn. That would make me then wonder what else they don’t give a d*mn about (as in “I didn’t spend any time on my appearance this morning because this hearing/presentation/meeting just isn’t important enough to me”).

    • Anonymous :

      Wow — I am surprised to hear how harshly someone is judged simply for opting not to wear makeup. How about this interpretation for a woman without makeup — I would rather spend my time on attending to the quality, rather than appearance, of my performance? The effort I don’t put into how I look instead goes into what I do. Just a thought.

      • I think you misinterpreted her comment. Her judgments were based on people who didn’t wear makeup but also had messy/unwashed hair and wrinkled/unflattering clothes. Not “simply opting not to wear makeup.” She states quite clearly that someone who wears no makeup, but is otherwise neatly groomed/dressed, is not an issue in her opinion.

        The importance of general good grooming is hard to argue with, I would think.

      • I think in many workplaces, looking appropriately polished IS considered part of the “quality” of your performance — signalling that you are organized and prepared enough to both pull together an intelligent presentation AND take the time to look polished to give it.

        I’m not judging this either way, but I think framing it as a pure appearance vs. pure substance issue tends to oversimplify.

      • I was trying to make the point that make-up is part of the bigger picture of overall presentableness (is that actually a word?). No one’s saying you have to a be a complete glamazon, wear a pound of makeup, and wear the most up-to-date fashions. How fashionable/glamorous/girly you want to be is up to you. However, I don’t think the concept of being at a minimum clean/neat/groomed is up for debate.

      • Discussions about appearance and how we present ourselves are all about judgement. We present ourselves in certain ways because we know that we will be “judged” for it. If you don’t like it, don’t visit blogs with the word “fashion” prominently displayed in the descriptor.

        Goodness, this “Oh my god, someone might judge someone!!” stuff is ridiculous. So someone “judges” you? Big deal.

  7. momentsofabsurdity :

    I tend not to wear makeup on a regular basis to work.

    Part of that is because I’m lucky (I’m only 24, so have no real lines as of yet, have mostly clear skin, with the occasional zit once in a while, I’m not white so rarely look “washed out”, I have naturally long and full eyelashes and prominent lips, etc) and part of it is because I’m lazy. Even for a “night out” the most I typically do is eyeliner, concealer and shadow. I don’t think I’m delusional about how I look – I think I have a pretty healthy and accurate image of myself. There are things I’d change, of course, but overall I think I’m an attractive person. I think wearing well fitting clothes and generally looking “clean” helps with that, regardless of makeup.

    While I do think that with the hours I’m working, I need to start doing some concealer for the office, I also think that my face without makeup looks just fine and not particularly “unprofessional.” I can see how some women might feel they need to, and even how it might make me appear more professional – but it feels so foreign to me to wear a lot of makeup and I think I touch my face too much.

    • none here :

      oh good, there are at least two of us! I posted basically the same thing below :) I also chalk some of the not wearing makeup up to being lazy (seriously, I would much rather sleep an extra ten minutes) but also, just not seeing the point – it just doesn’t seem natural. Or, I guess, not being natural IS the point but it just doesn’t resonate with me.

    • I’m lucky too :-) 30, so even if mistaken for younger, I’m still old enough to be competent. No lines, beige skin, dark lashes and brows, friendly face. I wear make-up when I want to or have something special (Networking, meeting new/important people etc.), usually two days a week or so. When I’m just at my desk or meeting with my team only, I don’t feel the need. Unless I did not sleep well or its that time of the month. I do always wear earrings and clear nailvarnish.

      I can perfectly apply a superglam look by the way, as I’ve done stage performances.

    • Equity's Darling :

      Yup, I’m 24 also, and I’m now working at a national law firm, and I rarely wear much makeup.

      I’m mixed, so I rarely look washed out (unless I’m actually really sick), and I also have long curly dark lashes….So my work makeup is umm..either nothing, or a shadow and a swipe of mascara. I also definitely always have ironed or steamed clothes for work, and my hair is always neat..so really, I think I look fine also.

      My mom practically never wears makeup either, so perhaps that’s another factor.

    • I also do not wear makeup. I’m a younger attorney (30ish). My hair is always groomed, my clothes are well tailored and current. I am in shape and run regularly to stay that way. I am currently spending oodles on face products so my skin in good shape now and for years to come. I think I present myself professionally and affably and I’ve seen no indication anyone else doesn’t see me that way based on my lack of makeup.

    • I never really wore makeup, beyond a bit of eyeliner or mascara, until I was well into my 30s. After that, well, I think I needed. You just start looking a little less defined, maybe that’s the word, as you get older. I now use a very light foundation (Neutrogena Skinlights, something like that), eyeliner, mascara, a bit of powder, and lipstick that comes off in the car on the way to work. Sometimes eyeshadow, but not daily.

    • Alanna of Trebond :

      I’m glad for this comment — I too am 24 and non-white and rarely, if ever, wear makeup (to work, to school, even on nights out).

      • Another non white who can still skip foundation ( I’m 37). I moisturise and then add loose powder. I do wear a bit of blush (can go without, but I think it’s pretty) and lippie though.

        I think also that dark skinned people can get away with more or less makeup than say #2 or #3 levels of makeup in the pic. See the lady in the centre as a prime example. Even in the maximum makeup look, she looks fine and not high maintenance.

    • I am pale pale pale, and I wear makeup 1-2x per week to work. I don’t wear it on my OR days — though my patients see me pre and post-op, I am often wearing a surgical cap and don’t feel like it’s necessary to my professional presentation.

      On the other hand, I often wear makeup on clinic days. I have relatively clear skin, so I don’t wear a lot of foundation, just eye shadow, liner and mascara and then a tinted lip balm. I’m just north of 30, but I’ve spent enough time obsessing over my pores at night to think that I don’t have (many) wrinkles yet, and that my skin tone is relatively even. I’m sure that with how pale I am, I do look washed out sometimes, but I live with it.

    • I am 33 and don’t wear make-up – because I don’t think I need it and I don’t like having all that stuff on my face. I have good skin (olive in summer white in winter) and brown hair. I wear very nice dresses or skirts to work and look “put together”. Honestly, it has never occurred to me whether or not my co-workers notice that I don’t wear make up.

      It is a shame more women don’t feel more comfortable in their own skin.

  8. I like the third image. She looks put together – but her makeup is not distracting.

  9. none here :

    I don’t wear any makeup about 99%* of the time. I work in a relatively small federal relations office in DC. I’m 24, so my skin is fine but I suppose I should be concerned about looking too young? I don’t know. My mom never wears more than a little blush and lipstick to work (or ever – I’m trying to imagine her with eye makeup and failing), so i grew a.) thinking that was normal and b.) without much guidance in the makeup department, and I’ve never really taken the time to learn or to spend extra time getting ready in the morning. I’m definitely on par style-wise with colleagues and similar-level, similar-age legislative assistants at other groups we work with, and never feel weird about wearing makeup when I’m in a meeting or at a hearing, but maybe I’ll pay more attention this week.

    * the 1% would be coverup on a zit, or the time we did a marketing video and I didn’t want to look washed out.

    • I think this is really interesting–that is, the “Mom never really taught me” thing. My mom WILL NOT leave the house without her “face”, as it were, which for her is foundation, blush, eyeliner, a little eyeshadow, mascara, lipstick, and lip liner. (Writing that out, I feel like it sounds like a lot, but I don’t think she looks overdone–saying this as a 22-year0ld who doesn’t wear makeup.) But for some reason, she never taught me how to do that stuff, so I have no friggin’ idea how to do these things, but I also don’t happen to have much desire to know. I have ambivalent feelings about the fact she never showed me. Anyway, I thought I was the only one with a mom who never did!

  10. I try not to judge women by their makeup, but I admit I do it. I’ve worked with women who don’t wear makeup, and I usually don’t have a problem with it because it goes with their no-nonsense manner. I, personally, find photo #3 to be too much makeup to wear to work tastefully.

    • I wear what I think is minimal make-up. Blush, eye liner (sometimes) and mascara. I don’t curl my eyelashes before putting on mascara and I don’t reapply thoughout the day.

      I think I could do without them all except blush. Its not that I’m pale, I just think I look grey and sickly without blush.

      I’m mid-30’s.

      • Didn’t mean to reply to you, just meant to be a general reply.

        I don’t ever think make-up affects competence, though. I would never think that a woman not wearing make-up was not competent. In fact, I would probably think she was smarter/less focused on material nonsense and looks and more focused on important things.

      • As I get older (and especially in the winter) its amazing the difference that blush makes! That, and a little mascara are my two truly can’t live without products if I want to look awake, pulled together, and not sickly.

    • I don’t wear makeup on a daily basis, but if I’m in trial, I wear a full face (foundation and all of it).

      I fully admit judging women lawyers who don’t wear makeup in front of a jury. There’s no excuse for that. And for pete’s sake, wear ironed suits/tops, non-scuffed shoes, and good jewelry.

  11. SAlit-a-gator :

    I think #3 looks the most put together. I’m struggling however to decide what’s worse for an office environment: no make-up (#1) or too much make-up (#4). I usually wear foundation, blush, eyeliner and a nude lipgloss. I’ll sometimes skip the lipgloss and eyeliner, but the foundation and blush are key to looking put-together for me. I once skipped the blush and was told I look very “pale” and then promptly asked by my secretary if I was pregnant. I’ve never skipped blush since.

    • This is one of the main reasons I refuse to wear makeup! I went through a phase in my early 20s where I wore makeup to work every day (nothing crazy, just a little foundation, blush, mascara, light lipstick), but if I overslept or plain just didn’t feel like going through the routine one morning, I’d get asked all day long if I was feeling well. I found it offensive to have to essentially say, “I feel just fine, this is just what my face looks like.”

      I’m now in my early 30s and I never wear makeup, and I simply don’t see it as that big of a deal, despite the efforts of silly “studies” like this one. I have decent skin (which only breaks out when I’m wearing makeup), no wrinkles (yet, I’m lucky!), and I am always well dressed and appropriately put together at work. I feel confident and capable without wearing makeup, and quite frankly, I think if I were to try to wear makeup just because I feel like I should, I would project the exact opposite of that; because it would be so unnatural to me, part of my mind would be focused on my face rather than what I’m doing (I’m sure it doesn’t help that I’m miserable at managing to keep lipstick where it belongs).

      And for the record, I’m a trial attorney who has never worn makeup during any portion of any of my trials, and not a single judge, co-worker, opposing counsel, client, or juror has ever mentioned the fact that I personally don’t feel comfortable putting foreign stuff on my face every morning.

  12. Anonamouse :

    Has anyone in Big/MedLaw ever taken time off (I’m thinking about a year) to care for a child and successfully returned to the practice of law? My H and I are talking babies, and, as my current job has little to no flexibility, and I’ve been looking for about 6 months without success, we’re talking alternative paths. I have always wished that there were a way to stay at home with a child for the first year. My firm offers about 6 weeks paid maternity leave and FMLA up to 12 weeks. I’m wondering if I were to keep up connections and continue to do some pro bono for that year, do you think I could ever come back?

    Right now I work at a mid-size NYC firm, earning close to market as a 6th-7th year. I would be quite happy to return to a job that paid less and was less prestigious – I just don’t want to stop practicing entirely. Any stories from women with experience in this area would be much appreciated – I understand no one can advise me on my ability to land another job, I’m just wondering if a year’s absence would kill my career entirely.

    • Lionheart :

      I’ve taken off 5 months, returned to my same firm and it’s been just fine. I don’t think I could have gone out for a whole year. They would have filled the position and then when I wanted back in (to a small firm) they would have probably told me they’d call when they had an opening.

      As a newish mom, I have really found that working four day weeks and being a mom is a good balance. I am very lucky, my firm has allowed me to work four days a week since I’ve returned from maternity leave. I’m not sure I would be as happy if I were home with baby 7 days a week.

      Also remember the legal market is really crappy right now and not likely to rebound in a year or two. If you walk away from the job it might be extra hard to return in this market.

      Good luck, this is not an east decision!


    • I think if you went to a top 10 law school and had top grades that will get you a long way. I took 4 months off with each of my kids and had no problems whatsoever re-integrating, but that was a short enough time to go back to the same firm. Also, when I wanted to switch to part time (and thus had to switch firms), I found that having fancy credentials on paper really opened a lot of doors.

      • Anonamouse :

        @ meme, that is a good point – I did not go to a top 10 school and didn’t have top grades.

        • I’m not saying it won’t work without the fancy credentials, and I don’t mean to be discouraging. I was just suggesting those things can give you an extra boost when trying to re-enter the workplace. All of these child care/work arrangements are really difficult to navigate and we all have to make the best choices for us based on our own priorities and resources. I personally think 1 year out is not going to prevent you from ever returning in any case (a few years ago my small firm hired a woman in just that situation). Best of luck to you!

          • For my sake, I hope not. I’m in the process of returning to work after what has ended up being a year off after the birth of kid No. 2. The position I had before the baby was a one-year position (so there was a “natural” ending), my baby was due shortly after that ending, and I decided to take an extended maternity break. My hope was to head to a smaller firm or government position, and also the job was ending in January, not at the end of summer (a more natural transition time for me, a junior lawyer). I started casually looking and applying in the early summer, originally hoping I’d line something up for the fall. It took longer, but I’ve been pretty picky, and now it looks like I’ll be heading into government as I’d hoped.

            I think that if you can swing it financially, a year off might be worth doing, although there is always the risk about returning/getting a new job, especially in this market. The good news is that people I’ve interviewed with (public and private) have not given this gap on my resume more than one question (“So, what have you been doing since X?” “I had a baby and have been taking an extended maternity leave.” “Oh, how nice.”) which has been a pleasant surprise. On the other hand, no one has been paying me, so at times I wonder if they were just happy that was one less maternity leave they’d need to shell out for. Also, it has become clear that it really is all about who you know, so consider your network(s) when you think about these kinds of changes. All my leads and offers during this job search process came out of contacts and networking.

            FWIW, I’ve also know many people in BigLaw and government who have taken 6 months without being compensated beyond the 12-18 weeks given (or in the case of govt, whatever sick time you’ve accrued), and gone back sans problems, though this was more pre-recession.

    • I am contemplating resigning from my firm and hanging out a shingle (but not with the idea to be FT working for myself, just keeping my one big client) now that I am pregnant with #3…

      Many firms in biglaw will do an unpaid leave for the 3-6 month period, and I knew a few women who had twins and took a year off. It can’t hurt to ask. But don’t ask about it until closer to the time – I had the impression from your post that you are just TTC and not pregnant yet.

      • Anonamouse :

        I should add that my firm has a rep for being hostile to working moms, meaning that I doubt they’d approve any longer than the FMLA leave and that I’d likely be forced to quit (or be fired for lack of “committment”) a few months after returning to work. They’re very big on “face time” here, whether or not they are busy.

        And, L, you are totally right – I’m just TTC now, and not pregnant.

    • I knew someone who left Big Law (V&E, I believe) to be a SAHM for about 10 years. She went back to work at a large, regional law firm and has been there for about 5 years now. So it can be done. Caveat that she got her current job before 2008, so it was a different job market…

    • Baby weight :

      I’ve heard horror stories. I even know of one woman who was an *equity partner* at my firm, took 5ish years off to take care of children/family issues, and was unable to come back to the firm because she didn’t have a book of business. Just be careful. Keep looking and good luck!

    • Somehow at my (granted, Canadian) biglaw firm, one year maternity leaves are standard, and it works out just fine! Obviously ymmv- but it definitely is possible in terms of keeping your career going. Lawyers on maternity leave here still attend client function etc. while on their mat leave. Whether it is possible in terms of how your firm will react is a different story. Of course, I think the minimum legal mat leave in Canada is 3 months to begin with.

    • I think a year’s absence is tough to come back from other than as a new job search – and (understanding this is completely discriminatory) I suspect might raise concerns about whether you might not be a long-term employee (that is, are you likely to leave “NewJob” in a year or two to take another year off for child number 2). And I think it’s easy to underestimate the effort of finding and doing pro-bono work with an infant and no organized child care support – being home with baby is hard work and it is not easy to take time to do other things, let alone things you have to be organized and focused about. You need to do what is right for you and your family, but from the career perspective I think it would be easier to negotiate a combination of the longest possible maternity leave and a ramp-up schedule to gradually increase hours than to leave and reenter the market.

      • Anonamouse :

        “I think it would be easier to negotiate a combination of the longest possible maternity leave and a ramp-up schedule to gradually increase hours than to leave and reenter the market.”

        @ michelle, I agree completely, but this is just not an option where I work. Reduced hours are not an option, and neither is a maternity leave more than 12 weeks. As I have been looking for another job for 6 months (and found nothing yet), I’m starting to question the wisdom of putting off a baby while I get this other new job and stay long enought to get maternity leave, as I’m just a few weks shy of 32.

        • This is probably going to sound totally bananas, but if you want to try to have a kid: try to have a kid. Who knows how long it will take? Once you’re pregnant, you can evaluate your situation — maybe you’ll have a new job by then, maybe you and your hubby/partner will have socked enough away for you to take a year off with less worry, maybe maybe maybe. I am an UBER-planner*, but it’s now taking my husband and I much longer to conceive #2 than it did #1. I should have known this would happen and now that it has, I’d totally go back and start trying earlier — plans be dam*ed.

          I say this because I don’t want you to think I’m unsympathetic to your situation, but because you can only have so much control over life’s happenings. If you get pregnant and are still at your current job, you’ll either (a) go back in 12 weeks, or (b) quit for X months or X years.

          *Sorry for the ELLEN-caps.

    • Mpls Lawyermom :

      I second the recommendation to try to take 6 mo off (unpaid for the non-FMLA time) and know that you might come back part-time. Several women at my (large regional) firm have done this, and while the firm is not thrilled about it, they approve the leave, so the job is there for them when they come back. Many of the same women at my firm have gone to 80% or 60% time for a while when they come back – though they don’t say that up front, of course, and again, the firm is not thrilled but isn’t going to say no. Then you have the job, can see how it’s working, and keep looking if desired. From personal and friends’ experience, people are often surprised whether they like or don’t like being a stay-at-home-parent (and it sounds like that’s not your dream at this point anyway), so this would preserve your ability to try it and then make choices. Just my$0.02.

      • I’m currently taking 6 months off after the birth of my 3rd child, unpaid of course [US] from my government law job. My employer told me that the reason they were willing to do this [I had to ask for it] was that I have a special skill that would be hard to replace. I was terrified to ask, and was shocked at how easy it was to get!

        • And, having done this before, I can promise you that my employer is getting a much better employee at 6 months than they would have at 3, right after FMLA finished. I emphasized this to my employer i.e. I love this job and want to come back at 100% quality, which isn’t possible at 3 months.

    • Sort of besides, but I would recommend that anyone concerned with the whole work after the baby issue take a look at the weekend thread – one commenter (Sorry, don’t remember the name) described her circumstances with trying to balance it all with both parents working a lot and a near-newborn, and it sounded pretty rough.

      I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work after the babe or anything at all like that – just that I think that a lot of couples, particularly those with demanding jobs, probably need to work out how they’re going to deal with the added needs, and that that thread gave a good example of the problems when those aren’t really worked out.

  13. depends on where you work :

    I’m a young attorney and I wear makeup everyday. Mostly just a bit of liner on my top lids with mascara and some sort of foundation to smooth out my skin tone. I do put on blush, but it always seems to disappear quickly, and generally wear tinted chapstick instead of lipstick (I have perpetually chapped lips). I think makeup is necessary in certain fields, such as law, to look “put together.” If I see someone without makeup, my first thought is not, oh, I bet they spent extra time working with that time they saved not putting on makeup. Instead, I think they look kind of sloppy, even if they are otherwise well dressed, it looks like they “missed a spot.”

    That said, my sister is a doctor and never wears makeup and usually has her hair pulled back. I think this works in her situation, though, because her field (ER) is more hands on. I don’t want an ER doc, or a surgeon, for that matter who is dolled up, I want one that looks prepared to get their hands dirty and do what needs to be done.

    Law is frequently a game of confidence and negotiation. What credibility do you have with the Judge or opposing counsel? Do you look like you’ve got your sh*t together and know what you’re talking about? Or do you look like its the first time you’ve been let out of a dark research hole?

    • Exactly. Just because you don’t wear makeup doesn’t make me think you spend more time working than me. I firmly believe choosing not to wear makeup is as just as much a sartorial choice as choosing to wear a pound of it on your face – and you should do whatever makes you feel confident and capable at work while acknowledging that people may judge you for it. I get up earlier in the morning to do my hair and put on my makeup. If I didn’t style my hair or wear makeup daily, I wouldn’t spend that extra thirty minutes in the office getting a jump start (nor should anyone assume I did!) I’d be sleeping.

      To that extent, I also find your comment on different fields particularly accurate. 3 may look ok in a law office, but would look – at least to my mind – distinctly out of place on an ER doctor.

    • Research, Not Law :

      Absolutely agree.

    • I agree with the sense of “you missed a spot.” I don’t assume that someone with a bare face was working harder because I know how little time it does take to put it on in my own experience. My own routine is skin-focused due to acne scars: Philosophy tinted moisturizer, Bare Minerals (Warmth + Mineral Veil, I’m usually too lazy to use the base color too) which takes about 1.5 minutes max, and then I often do my eyes and gloss in the bathroom after I get to work, to be honest. If I’m feeling SO lazy or time-crunched that I can’t even do that, I skip the contacts in favor of glasses (mine are funky and make my face feel more “dressed”), and open my heart to being judged by others.

  14. Not a makeup wearer, except for a little bit of eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick when I’m going to a job interview or a party or the opera or something. I wear glasses, and that small amount seems to help my eyes “pop” and look brighter. I’m a second-career attorney in private practice, turning 40 soon. My skin isn’t as bright as it used to be, and my hair isn’t as brown as it used to be, but I just really, really don’t dig wearing makeup or coloring my hair.

    In the city where I work, the clients seem to like to see their lawyer wearing a suit rather than dressing too casually, so I put a suit on when I see clients. But more importantly, I show them respect and professionalism by giving them a quick turnaround on high-quality work at a reasonable price. I get repeat work from clients based on my performance, not based on whether I put on mascara that morning.

    All that said, I think I’m lucky in that I don’t have too many perceived flaws that I feel I have to conceal, like old blemishes and so on. I know my sister is much more self-conscious and it helps her confidence when she’s put on concealer and other makeup.

  15. I don’t care for this “if you don’t wear make-up you clearly don’t care about your work” logic, not least because it seems infinitely expandable – if you don’t have a large wardrobe/get botox/dye your hair/wear-exactly-what-is-fashionable-this-year/adhere-perfectly-to-aesthetic-norms then clearly you don’t care about your appearance, which means that you don’t care about anything else either. If there’s one piece of corporate culture that I dislike, it’s the idea that all aspects of your life have a very obvious, simple relationship to your feelings about your work.

    On another level, there are lesbian or queer women who choose not to wear make-up because that’s not how we perform gender – for example, I have a very nice, very extensive collection of shoes but none of them are heels because I don’t wear heels; I am a total clotheshorse but never wear skirts…and I don’t wear make-up.

    For those of you who are either straight or femme lesbians and who can’t understand why it’s such a big deal: try imagining that you had to cut your hair as short as a man’s, wear no make-up, never wear heels, never wear skirts or dresses – and that whenever you told anyone that you only felt like yourself when you could dress in a feminine manner, you were told that you were being silly and that your wishes about your appearance were secondary to your duty as a worker. It’s a great privilege in this society to have “how I want to perform my gender” match up with “how society thinks I should behave” and not everyone has it.

    • I agree with all of this–but I don’t think anyone on this thread has taken the position to which you’re objecting. Perhaps you’re responding to the survey results mentioned in the post? Or Kat’s comment about Picture #1?

    • This! Thanks for posting!

      I’ve never really worn make-up and I think most women look 1000 times more beautiful without it. I’m straight, but I have no desire to perform my gender by beating my hair into submission with heat and chemicals, covering my face with a bunch of products, and wearing shoes that throw my back out of alignment. I occasionally wear makeup because it’s fun, but to do that every day . . . I don’t know how or why most women put themselves through it.

      • How or why: it takes me less than 10 minutes to do my makeup (that’s under-eye concealer, powder foundation, eye shadow, mascara, and lip gloss), and I feel and look much better with it. < 10 minutes is a pretty small time investment for the psychological benefits I get.

    • Mpls Lawyermom :

      Nicely put.

  16. I try to wear some concealer under my eyes (I’ve had dark circles since I was born, I think) and a little bit of eyeliner. Come winter, I’m thinking I need to throw on some blush or foundation as well – I can get very pale, and I have a yellow undertone, so yellow+pale makes me look sickly.

    My trainer at the gym, however, always has full, but not super intense makeup one – mostly like picture #3, although more emphasis on eyes and less on lip. I just don’t know how she gets it to stay in place while working at a gym for multiple hours, but more power to her for doing it.

  17. Eh, I think that study was done by Proctor & Gamble, so I’m not putting a lot of stock in it. I like to wear make up because I have acne scars and I feel better/more professional if I look polished, which to me means mascara, tinted moisturizer, some mineral make up, blush, and occasionally shadow. I have had to take makeup off at the office because my skin was mysteriously dry and flaking off and I figured no make up>snake skin on my face. I don’t see clients ever and rarely see coworkers, so it wasn’t a big deal to me.

    • yeah, the original NY Times article specified that Proctor & Gamble sponsored the study, so I rolled my eyes and filed it in the mental recycling bin.

      Personally, I don’t like to wear a lot of makeup. Never have, doubt I ever will. For work, I put on eyeliner, mascara, blush, and powder, over sunscreen. I’ll add some lipstick if I’m feeling fancy, but mostly content myself with Burt’s Bees Pomegranate, which was a touch of color to it. It’s just not something I, personally, care to spend a lot of time on.

      • Just because a study was funded by a particular entity doesn’t mean its results are tainted. The Times articles specified that P&E did not have anything to do with the study’s design or execution. I think it’s really silly to dismiss something because an entity with an interest provided funding for the independent research.

        • AnonInfinity :

          I totally agree. A quick read through the comments of this blog on any day will show that it does matter how people present themselves.

        • Seriously? If the results were the opposite there would be no point for P&G to go to the trouble of finalizing and publishing the study – it would be a waste of money.

      • How long do you all spend on makeup prior to work? I do what I consider a ‘work face’ which includes eye liner, shadow, mascara, cover-up on any spots, face powder, and blush in 5-7 minutes. Lipstick optional, but tinted chapstick usually gets added in the car. I wouldn’t consider this ‘a lot of time’ and is usually done while eating toast/drinking coffee.

        • AnonInfinity :

          I spend about the same amount of time. It did take me probably 12 minutes before I got my routine down, but now it’s definitely less than 10 minutes.

        • foundation, eyeliner, chapstick, lipstick, maybe blush. ~ 7-8 minutes.
          (hair is another story!)

        • Same. Less than 10 minutes for under-eye concealer, powder foundation, maybe some blush, eye shadow, mascara, and lip gloss. Usually drinking tea and/or eating my breakfast at the same time.

        • 5-10 minutes for hair/makeup (though I don’t do much to my hair) on most days (tinted moisturizer + concealer where needed, benefit benetint blush, shadow & mascara, liner on days where I care more [2-3/wk]), in lieu of lipstick I have discovered smashbox 0-gloss which is idiotproof & can be applied without a mirror, mid walk to subway. I usually do this while I watch/listen to the morning news & drink coffee.

          What’s funny is when I was younger I would sometimes want to spend oodles of time getting ready for special occasions (b/c I thought it was glamorous to do so) and no matter how much toner I used or how much eye shadow I blended, I always ran out of stuff to do about 25 min. into the process.

        • Always a NYer :

          I can do my makeup in 15 minutes. Light foundation, undereye concealer, powder, blush, eyeshadows, brows, eyeliner, mascara, lipstick. My hair is easy, 3 minutes at most.

        • Cats Ahoy! :

          5-7 mins for me, too, and the same routine only minus the blush and plus foundation. I look and feel better when I have makeup on, and I put it on every day that I leave the house.

  18. I aim for something like picture #2 most days and #3 on days when I’m feeling ambitious. I take good care of my skin, but it’s pale and easily irritated, and every little imperfection stands out. Luckily, finding the right products for *me* have made putting on makeup a really quick, easy process that I don’t have to think about too much, unless I want to.

  19. Threadjack, apologies! I’d like to buy my teenage daughter a cashmere pull-over sweater for Christmas: solid color or perhaps stripes, v-neck, long sleeves. I want to spend under $200, and the closer I can get to $100, the better. That said, I’d like the quality to be good; not just some paper-thin thing that will pill and quickly look like heck. I know this kind of sweater is a holiday staple – has anyone seen particularly good ones at a good price?

    • momentsofabsurdity :

      I have one from Lands End Canvas (not going to link for fear of moderation hell, so it’s at canvas(dot)landsend(dot)com Item # 39248-7XP2 called Women’s Cashmere Sweater)

      It fits very well, is about $120, does not pill (well int he 2-3 months I’ve had it) and on the plus side, if it does Lands’ End will give you a full refund as their stuff is guaranteed period.

      • momentsofabsurdity :

        Oops, just realize the one I suggested is not v-neck. Sorry about that! I don’t know that there is a v-neck equivalent at LE Canvas but you could check!

      • I have this sweater! I got it last year for Christmas, and it holds up. It doesn’t pill (or hardly). Its soft, close cut (but not tight) and the sleeves are decent length (I have long arms, so I pay attention). It’s not v-neck, which I usually prefer, but I don’t have an issue with this as a crew neck.

        Lands End (not canvas) has more cashmere options you might check out – including a nice ruffled cashmere scarf that I really want, but can’t justify.

    • none here :

      Don’t get it from J Crew. They tend to have a lot of options and nice colors, but I’ve gotten them there in the past only to have them become totally shapeless by the next winter :( Curious to hear other ideas too…

    • Uniqlo. They have a store in NYC, not sure if you can order online. But great quality, and under $100 (esp. during sale promotions).

      Also big fan of Lord & Taylor cashmere, quality wise.

      • Ditto the L&T cashmere. My mom got be some as a holiday gift two years ago. I wasn’t a big fan of the fit of the plain v-necks (torso was boxy on me, and I don’t wear tons of v-necks generally), but I got a shawl collar sweater that I wear all the time, and it’s held up well.

      • Yes, L&T! (For Canadians- The Bay is now carrying L&T Cashmere- often on sale)

      • Agree – Lord and Taylor has some good quality house brand cashmere that has held up well for me over the years. They aren’t as trendy as JCrew would be, but they have good basic shapes in a few colors. And they usually go on sale right before the holidays.

      • Completely agree about Uniqlo! I have a cashmere sweater from them that I bought over 4 years ago and it still looks great! Color is bright, no pilling, so much better than more expensive sweaters that I’ve bought.

    • Oh, and totally forgot but TODAY ONLY all cashmere sweaters are 40% off at Brooks Brothers. I have not had any problems with quality there. They have a cable v neck sweater that comes to just under $200 (from $328) with the sale.

    • I usually have better luck with cashmere from bluefly.com than I have with sweaters from J Crew or BR or the like.. Bluefly usually has decent quality (not thin, no immediate pilling) basic Hayden or Autumn Cashmere sweaters for about $100-$150, and I’ve picked up basic crewneck sweaters for as little as $90-$100. Just checked it out, looks like they are having a sale today.

    • SoCal Gator :

      Nordstrom has a great cashmere sweter by Only Mine in a rainbow of colors. The v-neck is only $79. I have the red and we bought it in three colors for our 26 year old daughter. They are from the same department as Halogen so the sweaters have a younger cut. It also comes in a cardigan (which I wish I could get for myself but have spent too much already — hint hint Santa)


      • SoCal Gator :

        Sweater…. sorry for the typo.

      • I also got one from Nordstrom a year or two ago. Black cashmere v-neck for $60. It’s certainly worth looking there. Mine still looks great now.

  20. Always a NYer :

    I always go to work with a full face of makeup on. I’m 23 and feel more comfortable wearing makeup. I have eyeliner in every purse and in my car because I feel strange without it on. That being said, I think my makeup is tastefully done and I don’t look like I’m going to a fashion show or the Met Gala.

    I use foundation and concealer to even out my skin from acne and then use powder to set it and blush so that I don’t look washed out (the joys of being a pale brunette). I usually have three different neutral eyeshadows blended together with eyeliner and mascara. I then finish with a plum or pink lipstick, depending on what I’m wearing.

    That may sound very high maintenance but I can do all that in fifteen minutes. It helps that I shower at night and my hair is naturally straight so I never have an issue with it. It just gets pulled away from my face and clipped back.

    Also, because I choose to wear a lot makeup doesn’t mean I judge those who choose to wear none poorly. I’m not a ditz because I love makeup and shoes, therefore I feel it’s safe to assume you’re not a lazy slob just because you don’t like makeup and wear sensible shoes (all of that is meant to be tongue in cheek, not sure if it will come across that way online).

    • Makeup Junkie :

      I’ve never managed to master the 3-color eye. I can do 2+ highlighter (and liner, always) but never 3. I need to watch some more YouTube videos.

      • Always a NYer :

        It’s not as difficult as it sounds. I sweep my base shade on my lid, then use a darker shadow in the crease, and a mid color on the outer corner. Then I use a highlighting shadow under my brows and quickly blend them all together to get rid of any harsh lines. I probably have *cough*25*cough* makeup brushes just for my eyes and it took a while to find the perfect ones for each step. I love makeup, as I’m guessing you do, so I’ve never found it to be a chore applying it. That and I just feel more put together when I wear it.

        • Oh, tell which are your favorite brushes! I was just shopping last night for a replacement flat eye liner brush bc my Laura Mercier brush has been driving me bananas for about a year now (the bristles separate into two lines no matter what I do! so aggravating!!). Any recommendations?

          • Always a NYer :

            My current favorite is the Sonia Kashuk Synthetic Precision Eyeliner Brush (the one with the black curved handle). It’s $10 and so much better than the Bobbi Brown Eye Liner Brush which was $25. I find the SK brush better because it is flat rather than curved.

            Most of my brushes are Sonia Kashuk or MAC. I do have a few from NARS, Chanel, and Laura Mercier. (I could go on and on about makeup brushes but I’ll stop here, unless you ask).

      • Girlfriend, NYer is right! It seriously is a snap. I do it differently than she does, though:

        * Base shade on lid / brow bone.

        * Mid-tone in crease / feather out to brow bone.

        * Dark tone on the outer corner, smudge toward center of eye.

        * Highlight color inner corner to center eye.

        Get a Pop Beauty Eye Class palette (they come in blue eyes, green eyes, and brown eyes, I think). It comes with instructions on various ways to do your eyes.

        • Here’s the Pop Beauty Green Eyes palette.

    • We have the exact same makeup routine, and it also takes me about 10-15 minutes — and I’m relieved after all the other comments to find someone so on the same page! I’m 28 and an attorney at a “biglaw” firm. I’m a pale brunette, and my blue eyes are by far my best feature. I do light foundation and powder every day, with a little bronzer and blush, because I have sensitive skin that is never perfect and look sickly without color. I always have eyeliner and mascara – just one coat of mascara, and usually brown eyeliner, though sometimes to make my eyes pop I’ll do a navy or deep green (a very small amount so it isn’t overly apparent — I love the Lancome liners). I do the same three-tiered eyeshadow as you — usually with bronzes or a subdued purple palette. I work crazy hours, and I actually think that makeup gives me a bit of boost compared to some of my male colleagues — everyone knows I work long hours, but I always look put together and can ‘cheat’ with a little bit of concealer and illuminator, compared to others who just look exhausted. My outfits are pretty classic – I love fitted sheath dresses, a knee length wrap dress on more casual days, skirt suits, or a A-line skirt with a nice blouse. And I REALLY love a high heel — I have a rack of classic pumps, usually 3-4 and a half inches (I’m 5’4″), from Rachel Roy / Barbara Bui / BCBG. I don’t wear platforms or crazy colors — I think my shoes are usually quite classic and tasteful, and I’ve never found it hard to walk in heels. I could not and would not give up those shoes. But while I love that a lot of women in my firm also have a penchant for dressed up heels, I definitely don’t think my colleagues who go for more sensible choices care less about their jobs!

  21. Andrea Mercado :

    There are very few women over the age of 45 who can get away without makeup. At my 25th law school reunion I thought that those without looked tired and worn out. I feel the same way about grey hair, which I know is controversial. Most people as they age need more color around their face to make up for the diminished glow of youth. Make up also promotes a polished look which I consider synonymous with professional. It shouldn’t be extreme in color or quantity.

    • Anonymous :

      I feel the exact opposite way about grey hair! I think women who dye their hair in their 50s and 60s look SO MUCH OLDER than women who can manage an all over grey. I guess the amount of wrinkles is surprising with colored hair. While the all grey makes me look at their skin and say, wow, she’s doing great (since grey hair is generally reserved for the very old in America).

      I think a lot of older women also wear makeup that is just to harsh on them as well. You still have to match make-up to your skin town. And if your skin tone means you have pink lips and peachy blush, it doesn’t matter how old you are.

  22. If your makeup is color coordinated to your hair, skin and eye coloring (color analysis is a must!), than the amount is not the issue. If it doesn’t look like you’re wearing foundation, but you are, and your makeup colors (eye shadows, blush, lipstick, eye liner, etc.) relate to your own personal coloring, than you won’t “look” like you’re wearing makeup at all, but you will look polished, I guarantee. Looking polished is what one should strive for. Side note: black eye liner and black mascara is NOT for everyone. On some it can look too harsh. Soften your look with other colors so no one will notice the makeup but they will notice YOU.

  23. Makeup Junkie :

    I’m probably a #3 in the range of photos on a daily basis. It takes me ~10 minutes to apply it all.

    I don’t judge women who don’t wear makeup; I’m a bit envious of the money and drawer space they probably save! But in all honesty, it’s better that women skip makeup rather than apply it poorly or wear unflattering colors.

    I’m the only woman on my trial prep team that wears makeup. The holiday party is coming up and I’m eager to see if the other women on my trial prep team wear any makeup or not for the party.

  24. I always wear tinted moisturiser, and then simple eyeliner, eyeshadow and blush. About the same amount as picture 3 but no lipstick.

    I find ‘lipstick’ etc wears off unevenly, leaves marks on cups – and seems to require the most maintenance – so you either have to do it at your desk or have extra bathroom breaks, both of which I think others notice and hold against you. I do have lip lacquers that last all day (and possibly all week if put to the test), but I find them drying and don’t think visually it makes a huge difference plus the gloss that goes with them still requires maintenence.

    For me it strikes the right balance between being ‘Professional’ and being a woman.

  25. Anonymous :

    I really shouldn’t wear make-up. My skin breaks out horribly if I wear makeup two or three days in a row. (Doesn’t matter what kind — my skin needs to breathe!) So I wear it only occasionally.

    I think I look more professional without it than I do with huge zits and red splotches all over my face.

  26. I’m surprised how many posters wear no makeup at all or only a tiny bit. I’m equally surprised by the number who say #2 is most appropriate. Could this be regional and the responses tied to big northern cities or the sunny west coast? Because in the south, unless you’re a tomboy, you’re wearing #3 on a casual day and #4 for an important day and #5 to go out. I know women who routinely wear what would be #6 – full on glitz, beauty pageant ready makeup – every day to the office.

    • Whoa. Just because it happens, though, would you consider “#5” or “#6″ tasteful, good judgment, or professional? (I’m in the admittedly casual northwest, and would not.)

      I had a former co-worker who always looked like a drag queen. Clothing, makeup, 4-6” heels, the whole thing. She had gastric bypass like 10 years before, and it improved her self-image so significantly that she just wanted to show off her fabulous self all the time. She was a great co-worker, but everyone knew her as “that woman that looks like a drag queen.”

    • I agree. I think some people are leaving out things that are considered makeup when they say they don’t wear makeup. Tinted SPF moisturizer is makeup, too. I would say 80% of professional women that I encounter wear at least something – a little lip tint or a little powder, or something on the eyes. Or perhaps those who wear makeup felt less of a need to comment on this post.

      I routinely aim for #3. It takes 12 minutes max, and I look way better that way. Pretty minimal investment to feel confident. I spend way more time on this blog!

    • I think this is more personal than regional. I’m in Dallas and I think #3 on the top and bottom rows look like tarts with that unnatural lipstick slathered on. #4 reminds me of the time the Laura Mercier woman did a “natural” look for me that was so trashy I was humiliated on the rest of my errands. Even after wiping some of it off on a blanket in my car, people in work clothes and presumably on their lunch hours looked at me like I’d just stumbled out of bed after an, ahem, “night shift.” Or perhaps a morning shift as a clown at a child’s birthday party.

      Girls (and yes, I do mean girls and not women) who work in marketing or PR might wear this, or #5 or #6, but not people in actual professional jobs. If I saw someone wearing either of those to work, I’d assume she was only there for the male partners’ entertainment.

      • My apologies–to clarify, I certainly didn’t mean to say that anyone who works in marketing or PR is a “girl.” I meant that the younger, entry-level ones are the ones who will think #5 or #6 looks good, and in general behave much more like girls than women.

      • Agree… I’m in Dallas, and I think they all look fine. Would I wear #4 to work? No. But I’m somewhere between #2-3 on a daily basis (#3 in the eyes, #2 in the lips). A number of women at my old firm usually were between #3-4.

    • That’s not everywhere in the south, though. You can find lots of variation from place to place, or between one group of people and another.

  27. There are other reasons for not wanting to wear makeup other than lazy/don’t care. Personally, I have long been against the idea that women have to apply stuff to their skin/face made of chemicals, costing a ripoff, marketed strongly, etc. It’s very conformist, gendered, time-consuming, and altogether annoying. I am a lawyer. Didn’t wear any in first several jobs (mostly gov’t); started age 33 when working corporate, felt needed to. Used to it, but don’t like it at all, the time it takes, the gunky feel, the maintenance/cost. Even with mineral-based there are still health questions about micronized substances. This stuff is largely not good for us, ladies. But, agree with those who say it makes a difference image-wise and is expected. So, I keep it to a professional minimum. But, please respect those who have their reasons not do when you see them bare-faced- in many ways they are more sensible and strong than the rest of us.

    • Agreed.

    • I love this site for all the varied opinions that it represents.

      Your comments about the negative health implications of makeup are interesting. Seems like it’s akin to many discussions about the food we eat – and of course there is a whole spectrum of choice out there and enough research (good and bad) to support almost any decision. Some people are vegan, some avoid dairy, some avoid gluten, some people eat everything. Some people think the joy of eating X is worth the risk of Y (or don’t really believe there is a risk), and other people don’t. There’s no doubt that cosmetics, lotions, creams, etc. are mostly chemical based, but I’d still choose sunscreen over a sunburn. Others may feel differently.

      Your categorization of women who wear makeup as less sensible and weaker than those who go without seems unfair, though. I agree, not wearing makeup is not a sign of laziness or apathy. By the same token, wearing it does not have to be a sign of weakness or silliness.

    • Totally agree with you. And I am cheered by the number of professional women in the comments who wear minimal makeup or none.

  28. just to add… I look forward to weekends and telecommute days so much just to not have to apply/take off makeup:)

  29. #1 and #2 look way better than #3 and #4 to me. For the last few years, I’ve been focusing more on taking good care of my skin using high-quality skin care products, drinking more water, eating better, etc., so that I can use less makeup. I hated the idea of putting chemicals on my face and was dissatisfied with the “natural” makeup options. I think I also had been watching a lot of French movies and decided I really like the natural, healthy look and just wanted to feel more satisfied with how I actually look.

  30. I think the basic guideline is- look your best and always be appropriate. That will land most professionals in the 3 or 4 category of make-up. I’ll agree #4 doesn’t look like she’s glamming it up to me.

  31. Sharon TN :

    Personally, I think there are few women (young or mature) who can truly look their best without *some* make-up. I wear light make-up: no foundation, dark shadow, thin eyeliner on top lids only and a neutral lipstick.

    When I see younger woman in our offices wearing no make-up, I don’t think that they are so focused on performance that they can’t be concerned with taking the time to put on make-up, what I think is that they don’t care about their appearance. And, to be honest when you are starting out, it will be your appearance that catches a higher-up’s attention then, it will be your performance that will keep you being noticed.

    A bit of make-up helps young women look more polished. For the mature woman, a little make-up (even if the make-up is just a bit of lipstick) prevents a mature woman from looking tired and washed out IMHO.

    BTW, why is it being “high maintenance” if co-workers can see that a woman cares about how she looks at work? And, how is being concerned about how you look evidence of being *less* competent (performance wise) than women who eschew all make-up? I don’t feel that one or the other is “right” or “better”. To wear make-up or not is just one of many choices women are entitled to make for themselves these days.

  32. StaffingStarr :

    I get a spectrum of feelings from the women in the photographs… I immediately correlate the amount of make-up they have on with their age, life experience, confidence level, and a little about how they embrace their “womanhood”; with each factor increasing as more make-up is added. As it relates to hiring, I’d highly consider the women in Pictures 2 and 3. The Picture 4 women look “bitchy, high-maintenance, back-stabbing” – I’d recommend them to my clients for management roles, but not for my own staff.

    To wear make-up or not to wear make-up? That has been a hot topic lately… A few of my friends “rebel” against wearing any type of make-up because they feel it doesn’t reflect who they really are, and/or they don’t want the obligation of having to wear it every day. These women also feel the exact same way about the hairstyles they chose. They don’t consider a made-up face and styled hair a true reflection of who they are everyday and it’s too much to maintain. For these women, it’s a clean face and a pony-tail or some other type of low-maintenance hair-do, for work and even for play.

    I, on the other hand, wear some form of make-up on a daily basis to work, and if I’m “going out” it’s definitely time to play with color… In my profession, it’s important to coach candidates on presenting their best image during an interview and in the workplace. Adding subtle and natural make-up touches truly enhances natural beauty, especially as women get older. For a daily office look, anything starting at Picture #2 progressing towards Picture #3 would be fine, depending on your work culture/environment. The looks in Picture #4 should be reserved for special events, i.e. the company Christmas Party, or worn by “industry” women, i.e. MAC m/u artists…