15 Women Talk About How They’re Treated With And Without Makeup On

What it means to wear or not wear makeup has meant a lot of different things over the last few decades. For a while, you had to wear makeup if you were a woman. Then, eschewing makeup was a feminist act. Soon after that, embracing make up FOR YOURSELF became the empowering thing to do. At this point, few people would entirely agree on why they wear makeup, why they don’t, and how they feel about expectations to do either. We’re confused.

This thread on Quora might boil the whole issue down, however, with the simple question, “How do you get treated when wearing makeup vs. when you’re not?”

How you’re treated for doing something makes a big difference in how you might feel about doing it. The people who answered, who were most women, had complicated feelings about being treated better when they wore a full face. While it might not be a “requirement” in society anymore, most people said they got a lot more positive attention when they conformed. And some said they don’t care who likes or doesn’t like it: they do.

Read through for some illuminating personal perspectives on how people feel about their faces. It might make you reconsider how you treat people, too.

1. Ash Sab

Almost NOONE approaches me. If I’m with a group of friends, those are the only people I’ll converse/dance and have a laugh with. Noone outside the group will talk to me. When they do, this is what is usually said.

  1. “You look a bit intimidating. I was scared to approach you.”
  2. “Wow, you’re nicer than I thought. You seemed like a bitch.”
  3. Where are you from? You look exotic / your accent is strange.”
  4. “Insert compliment about how I look”

I’ve heard these phrases on repeat for YEARS


  1. Blatant staring (from both males/females)
  2. Whispering amongst groups (males/females)
  3. More staring
  4. Sometimes smiling (from both male/female)
  5. Most times just staring
  6. Oh and young people AVOID me. (I’m 23 so that’s people my around the 18-25 age group.)

Okay, so I am not denying that I don’t like receiving compliments but I do struggle a lot with people not taking time to get to know me before they make assumptions based on how I’m looking at that particular time.

And get this, the amount of times I’ve been approached for escorting offers is uncountable. I’ve been stopped from going to an apartment party by the receptionist because “working girls aren’t allowed before 10PM.” I MEAN….WHAT? And by no means am I saying there’s anything with that profession. Im just telling you my experiences.

2. Emily F. Marsico

This is me when I’m wearing makeup.

Men approach me constantly, I get constant messages in my inbox when I post a decent photo and I randomly get stopped on the street.

Strange men will try to make sexual advances, even in work environments. I’ve had men with girlfriends and fiances try to talk to me.

Update: It is hard to tell if someone has feelings for you or if they are just simply physically attracted to you. This makes dating very difficult.

Women can be awfully snarky and even dismiss you as friends.

I once was harassed by a jealous female roomate who would walk past my room at night when I was sleeping and call me a swear word I stood up to her and she actually punched me in the face. Girl be crazy.

Without make up I am noticed as average. I blend in with society and actually do not recieve as much negative attention.

Females are friendlier and they appear to me as friends, wanting to hang out.

Males regard me as a friend not some weird sex toy.

I find value in wearing makeup and not wearing makeup. The whole point is to not value on your looks and more on your achievement and personality. With makeup the only thing some people notice is your looks and that is sad.

3. Shannon Niernberger

I rarely leave the house without at least eyebrows and a swipe of mascara, so my answer will be based on that.

When I am wearing full/club makeup, complete with dark eyeshadow, eyeliner, and lipstick I notice that people are very, very nice to me. Men approach me more – even with my husband by my side. Women are generally very nice as well: they compliment my makeup and are friendly. Often times I feel as if I’m being stared at or watched. I’m more easily accepted into groups of friends and made to feel welcome. When I wear full makeup, the compliments are endless; it’s almost as if I can say nothing wrong. I assure you, I’m an awkward person, and I can say awkward things – people jump in to save the conversation when that happens.

When I am wearing my daily makeup, which consists of lighter eyeshadow with no eyeliner and chapstick opposed to lipstick, people are still very nice to me. I don’t get approached as much- especially if I’m out at night- but I still get compliments and looks; just nothing compared to my full/club makeup. Honestly, I think women give me more attention when I wear my daily makeup.

Finally, when I am wearing my version of “no makeup” which is barely filling in my brows to make them visible, and a swipe of mascara, I feel like an average person. I am approached way less and garner next to no looks. It sounds like a negative thing but for an introvert like me, it’s so peaceful to not have to respond to random conversation. I still get a few compliments, but they’re more about my personality than anything else.

Of course, all of this is just my perception. I feel like I look the best when I have makeup on, but I’m at peace with myself all ways.

4. Dawn Batsford

I get treated HUGELY differently. And it pisses me off.

Before I rant, let me say, the top picture I took two weeks ago and sent to my boyfriend precisely because it is extremely rare for me to get ‘dressed up’. The second picture is my normal day-to-day look. It’s not that I don’t like getting dressed up, I just utterly resent how differently I am treated.

When I am normal Dawn, I don’t turn heads, I am invisible. Fine by me. I am an introvert. I work from home and don’t see many people, and going into busy places makes me anxious. Being invisible suits me down to the ground. On the rare occasions I get dressed up and go out to meet a friend or whatever…well, attention embarrasses me. I’m not on FB, Instagram, Twitter, any of that stuff, only Quora: I don’t seek attention, I don’t like it. I’m not saying that’s the only reason people use those sites, but there is certainly a lot of posturing that goes on on them, and that’s really not me. I write my books with pen and paper and still keep real photo albums. I guess I’m old fashioned.

My world is a small one and I love it that way. To suddenly get attention is uncomfortable, especially when it is unwanted looks-based attention. Staring or leering or grabbing etc etc, which is what it almost always is, makes me want to run back to what I call my Darkened Room. And it’s frustrating as hell that I can’t make myself look and feel pretty – just because it’s nice to sometimes – without suddenly being a target for this sort of thing.

And it’s all so fucking artificial. I was in Currys last week and there was a girl in there who had, to even a hasty observer, dolled herself up in every fake way possible. That’s not a dig, just a fact. False eyelashes, full make up, bleached hair etc etc. There were three guys working there who were so blatantly staring, gawping, and talking about her (they reminded me of the guys in The 40 Year Old Virgin 🙂 and I was standing a few paces away. I’d literally just moved house (I think we’d had the keys for a few hours) so I was there in dungarees, looking a mess from hauling furniture about. I just realised, as I stood there that a) they either didn’t notice or care that this was not actually what that woman looked like b) they thought it was okay to openly perv over her, even at work c)if I’d been dressed up, they would have been doing the same to me.

Because the attention is for the LOOK. Not the REALITY.

I met my boyfriend when we were both chefs in a kitchen. If you’ve ever worked in a kitchen you’ll know it’s pretty much the grossest environment you can be in. Sweaty, mucky, hot. Chefs whites designed to fit someone the shape of Spongebob Squarepants. The fact that my BF and I met and fell in love in such a place filled me with confidence, because if someone can fancy the pants of you when you look your worst, that’s a very good thing.

I know it’s just human nature. People are attracted to a pretty face. It just makes me fucking sigh to see that a woman’s choices seem to be invisibility or being leered at. To be ignored or hit on. I was a customer in Currys and those guys didn’t even see me. It’s just how the world works unfortunately. I am hugely thankful to have my boyfriend, and my Darkened Room.

5. Sunny Nguyen

I don’t really wear makeup (it means no foundation, even no sunscreen and nothing on my eyes) but I do wear lipsticks everyday.

But to me, with vs. without lipstick already makes a huge difference.

Someday, I feel like my lips are so dry, and I decided to “take a day off” for them, going to the office without putting anything on my lips. And I would end up somewhere like this:

on my eyes) but I do wear lipsticks everyday.

But to me, with vs. without lipstick already makes a huge difference.

Someday, I feel like my lips are so dry, and I decided to “take a day off” for them, going to the office without putting anything on my lips. And I would end up somewhere like this:

And this is how the reaction of:

  • People in general: Are you sick? Is there anyone or anything makes you sad? Is everything okay with you? Do you need a half day off?
  • “My girls”: Phuong, you look terrible! Go put your lipstick on, right away!!! I don’t want to work with your face like this! Or do you forget your lipstick, you can use mine.

On 99.9% of my working days, I always put on my Red or Pink or Orange or sometimes Purple lipsticks.

And this is how the reaction of:

  • People in general when I say “Hi” to them: You look so refresh and energetic! It feels so nice to see you every morning. Or you look sexy today (on the day I put a Red lipsticks)
  • “My girls”: Act as if there were nothing happen (because lipstick is a must in a daily routine – no argue here – hahaha)

6. Karina

I get a lot of stares from males and females, yet I hardly ever get approached when out in public whether it be the club, bar, or social setting. I’m been known to be the one that makes the move in the past. I know I get treated different when I have makeup. Many can be judgemental, having preconceived ideas about me, thinking I’m stuck up or bitchy. People can be really rude when they see me all dolled up and nosy as well. Asking what I do for work or if I have my lips done or any cosmetic surgery to my face, people aren’t the nicest, most likely from intimidation I like to think, so I pay them no mind. And then they get to know me and realize I’m very much the opposite. I won’t lie, I do have more confidence when I have makeup on. I love makeup though it’s fun and I’m learning to love my face without it too, makeup is simply my art and time to relax.

I get treated different without it. I look much younger than my age some people think I’m 15/16 so this causing a number of individuals to not take me serious whether it be in the business field or in public. I also suffer from acne scars so that affects my confidence so I much prefer to have foundation on. I’ve been asked before if I’m sick or that I look tired lol. I’m also approached more when I have no or little makeup on. Maybe I look less intimidating. Ultimately I don’t feel like I look that different without it vs with it, it’s simply a fun art/pastime and you shouldn’t depend on it we’re all beautiful!

7. Cierra Irene

With makeup, I definitely get more male attention. Men are nicer to me; they hold the door, buy me drinks, and give me compliments.

Men also tend to stare at me and attempt to strike up a conversation more often. I get complimented on my makeup whenever I go to the mall.

Women beg me to teach them how I do my eyebrows. People who have seen me without makeup tell me that my face looks completely different with it.

This is how I look in the summertime. You can see all my freckles and my uneven skin tone. Most of the time, it’s too hot to wear makeup. I’m a manager at a retail store and don’t wear makeup to work.

As a result, a lot of customers don’t take me seriously and think I’m just a kid. I’m 21 but look 16 without makeup. Men aren’t as chivalrous and tend to look past me. Women find me more approachable and friendly.

Overall, I don’t mind going out without makeup. I just personally believe I look better with it and like to wear it whenever I can. (:

8. Kiang Nguyen

To be more exact, I get treated differently only when wearing heavy makeup. I have a pretty…how to put this…childish face, in Western standard. Most Asian women look younger than their real ages and I’m not an exception. In fact, I even look younger than my age in Asian standard. Plus, I’m a really small girl (153cm, 43kg… yep *crying a river*).

So when I wear heavy makeup – heavy enough that people don’t think I’m a 16-year-old girl, and sometimes with revealing clothes, I can make a few heads turn on the street. People, okay, some guys, might come to ask for my phone number, which means they see me as a woman. I might even be able to buy alcohol from the stores or the bar without being asked for my ID.

Other times when I don’t wear makeup, or when I wear everyday makeup (eye brows, eyeliners, blush and lipsticks), usually no one really notices me. Maybe they think, “Hell, who is this child”. No phone number requests. No turning heads. I guess it’s also because I’m a bit too small for European standards (I live in Helsinki). Sometimes it’s annoying when I hit the bar and don’t want to have 5 kilograms of makeup stuffs on my face. The security keeps stopping me.

9. Emma Liang

I’m writing this as a young woman in STEM and I still can’t believe how superficial it gets when it comes to how my male counterparts in college perceive women in make up and when they are not.

Contrary to popular belief, wearing makeup to my (STEM) classes sometimes make the guys think that I’m incapable of the work I’m assigned to. When I get dressed up for the new school year, I realize that guys in STEM, specifically the engineering/CS guys will less likely to speak to me, let alone having me in their discussion group. As I talk to more girls in STEM, it seems like they have encountered a similar issue, and we are all frustrated that it’s 2019 and guys will judge us and what we can do based on how we look.

I still remember this one time in freshman year when I went to my cs class and I was overwhelmed by something at home(it will be another story), so I decided to go make up free. Imagine an Asian girl with a big ol’ glasses and a messy ponytail and a wrinkled school shirt walking to class, yep, you get the stereotypes. This one guy that sat next to me, who never really talked to me in my “good days”, surprisingly decided to speak to me… Hmmm, and when I dressed up the next day, he ignored me and didn’t even bother to say hi.

If you are waiting for the plot twist, then I gotta say people in liberal arts, like my humanity classes, some also treat me differently when I dress up and when I don’t. As you may be able to tell, I can’t switch my nerdy-looking self and fancy-looking self back and forth in a day when my classes are one after another with just a 10-minute break. Let’s say I just finished my math class and went to an English class. This one guy in the front row had an empty spot next to him, and he would tell me that it’s taken. No biggie, right? Just find another seat. No one took that seat and it was unoccupied for the whole time. When I took care of myself and looked ready to go out at the next lecture session for the same class, I sat at the same spot again, except this time the guy didn’t say anything. He didn’t say it’s occupied or whatever. (It’s not even intentional because it’s the last spot in the front row and I didn’t know it’s the same guy until I sat down. )

Either way, I hope people don’t judge a book by its cover and treat everyone equally, with makeup or not. We’re more than how we look.

10. Hannah Elizabeth

I’m naturally blonde and have blonde eyebrows and eyelashes. The one most profound response I usually get is- “woah, where’d your eyelashes go?”

If anyone out there reading this has blonde eye lashes, y’all know the struggle. They’re nearly invisible!

If I’m not donning mascara, I’m usually asked if I’m feeling okay, if I’m sick, or tired.

If I am wearing mascara, people generally think I’m not wearing any makeup and think my eyelashes are naturally black. You gotta be fucking with me if you think my eyelashes are naturally ‘very black’ (as the shade of mascara I use is worded). However if I actually put on some eyeshadow or lipstick, I’m usual met with “”what’s the special occasion?” Or compliments on a face that’s made up rather than bare.

I think it’s important to mention that I have very little interest and skill in the realm of makeup, which is generally where my lack of makeup that I wear comes from.

Who knew that eyelashes had such an effect on my appearance! My only makeup is mascara, and without mascara, my eyelids seem to appear bald.