Is too much makeup on a first date catfishing?

Image: Mark J. Sebastian

Fact Box

  • Urban Dictionary defines ‘catfishing’ as “the phenomenon of internet predators that fabricate online identities and entire social circles to trick people into emotional/romantic relationships.”
  • The history of makeup can be traced back to the early Egyptians, but it wasn’t until around the 1920s that wearing makeup became the ‘norm’ for most women.
  • In a Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology study exploring what men and women find attractive, it was revealed that “men and women both preferred the images of the models wearing 40% less makeup.”
  • The term ‘catfish makeup’ refers to a social media trend where users conduct “a jaw dropping, absolutely amazing and impressive makeup job” to drastically alter their appearance.

Maha (Yes)

There's a thin line (and many cosmetic products) between women looking great on a first date and becoming a catfish. The dramatic difference heavy makeup can make easily fits the definition of 'catfishing.' And here's why. 

Around 64% of singles spend more time getting to know one another before meeting for the first time. But on first dates, women tend to use makeup to create an identity that helps them feel or seem more confident. 

This can backfire as 63% of men believe women wear makeup to trick them. A study also revealed heavy makeup leads to the assumption that a woman is open to casual sex. The same research indicates makeup can influence men's perception of a woman's ability to think, act, and feel emotions. 

Another study by the Free University of Brussels tested this premise on both genders, revealing heavy makeup can dehumanize women. Therefore, there can be a significant gap between the perceptions a prospective partner has and the reality facing them on a first date. 

It doesn't help that heavy makeup makes most women unrecognizable. In fact, even facial recognition devices may fail to recognize a woman's made-up features. 

Beauty bloggers seem to be equally supportive of the notion of heavy makeup being a form of catfishing. Otherwise, why would they use the term 'catfish makeup' for different tutorials featuring complete transformations? 

So, before their next first date, women should consider wearing light makeup that accentuates their features instead of hiding them. And there's always the option to skip it altogether, especially since their prospective partner may see them barefaced as the relationship progresses.  

Maria (No)

Internet influencers gave the cosmetics industry a rich makeover, and the beauty market in the US continues showing upward movement. Consequently, it's hardly surprising to see people wear substantial makeup these days. For some, makeup enables expression via artistic or personal reflection. Suspending expectations of people's appearances allows us to tolerate free expression. And by sporting makeup, some people feel they actually get to show their authentic selves. 

Nevertheless, it's normal to feel pressured for a first date. Especially common amongst women, prepping pretty for dates is something society has expected of women for a long time. Ninety-one percent of women would rather cancel the date than arrive bare-faced, and women openly admit that makeup often feels like an obligation. It's so expected, women even write articles on attending first dates makeup-free.

The booming cosmetics industry isn't alone in altering our perceptions of beauty. Social media continues to blend the contouring lines between virtual and relatable beauty. With popular apps like Facetune, polished online personas were gradually normalized in society. Everyone looks different from their profile picture now, lessening the stigma of full-faced makeup. If excess makeup in real life were considered catfishing, then perfected and selected social media profiles would be viewed as a transgression of higher offense.

Ultimately, two people go on a date with one another, not the faces they greet, made-up or not. On the other hand, some assert that physical attraction isn't important or develops gradually. Regardless, both parties will be focused foremost on chemistry--not appearances--during a first date to see if the match is a good fit. After all, makeup can't disguise chemistry, and therefore its heavy use isn't catfishing.

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