Cosmetics alter social perceptions, and prior work suggests that cosmetic use may aid female intrasexual competition, making women appear more dominant to other women but more prestigious to other men. It is unclear whether these findings reflect general improvements in perceptions of traits related to women's dominance or if they are specific to mating contexts only. Here, across two ethnicities, we examined effects of cosmetics used for a social night out on perceptions of women's leadership ability, a trait that denotes competence/high status outside of mating contexts. Participants of African and Caucasian ethnicity judged faces for leadership ability where half of the trials differed in ethnicity (own- vs. other-ethnicity face pairs) and the subtlety of the color manipulation (50% vs. 100%). Regardless of the participant's sex or ethnicity, makeup used for a social night out had a negative effect on perceptions of women's leadership ability. Our findings suggest that, in prior work, women are afforded traits related to dominance, as makeup enhances perceptions of traits that are important for successful female mating competition but not other components of social dominance such as leadership.
Keywords: adornment; cosmetics; dominance; facial coloration; intrasexual competition.