Both men and women (wrongly) believe women wearing makeup are more interested in casual sex

A new study suggests that women’s makeup is perceived as a signal of greater interest in casual sex. But the research found evidence that this was actually a “false signal.”

The study, which was published in Personality and Individual Differences, examined the relationship between women’s makeup use and sociosexuality.

People with an unrestricted sociosexual orientation are more comfortable with casual sex with different partners. Those with a restricted sociosexual orientation, on the other hand, prefer to have sex with a partner in a long-term, serious relationship.

In an initial study, 182 people viewed photographs of 69 young adult women of European descent with varying levels of makeup. The more makeup the women were wearing, the more they were perceived as being attractive and sexually unrestricted by both male and female participants.

The researchers then surveyed the 69 women regarding their actual use of makeup and their sociosexual orientation. They found no association between the women’s sociosexual orientation and time spent on makeup or money spent on makeup.

In other words, the women’s self-reported sociosexuality was unrelated to their makeup habits.

“This indicates that makeup is perceived to be a signal of greater unrestricted sociosexuality in women. Our findings, however, also show that this association is not a valid cue of women’s sociosexuality, as we found no systematic connection between women’s cosmetic use and their actual sociosexuality,” the authors of the study explained.

The researchers also found that men perceived women with more makeup as more attractive, which in turn was associated with them falsely perceiving the women as more unrestricted in their sociosexuality.

“This finding suggests that there may be some sort of wishful thinking effect among men in which attractive women are falsely, but optimistically, perceived as more willing to engage in casual sex,” the researchers noted.

“Our evidence suggests that makeup is perceived to signal sociosexuality but does not actually signal sociosexuality, likely because makeup makes the face more attractive, which is incorrectly associated with sociosexuality.”

The study, “Evidence that makeup is a false signal of sociosexuality“, was authored by Carlota Batres, Richard Russell, Jeffry A. Simpson, Lorne Campbell, Alison M. Hansen, and Lee Cronk.