Women leaders are judged more on appearances than men. Research shows that women are judged on many more appearance factors than men. Their dress, body image, hair and makeup simply count for more when they’re being considered for leadership roles.

But here’s a surprising study about makeup: In terms of how attractive, competent, trustworthy, and likable people judge a woman to be, the more makeup the better. As if lipstick makes a difference when it comes to leading people.

This was the result of a study done by Nancy L. Etcoff and her team at Harvard Medical School and published in December 2011. Subjects were asked to rate images of three women, each of them made up in four different ways, ranging from no makeup to dramatic makeup. Not surprisingly, when judging a woman’s attractiveness, the more makeup the better.

But more startling were that judgments about a woman’s competence, likability and trustworthiness were also deeply affected by cosmetic choices. The more the better, if she wants to be judged competent and likable.

In fact, the only image that didn’t score in the highest makeup category was when she is judged on trustworthiness, which scored for the 3rd most makeup. I guess it’s hard to get high trustworthiness ratings if you look too glamorous.

Whether you agree with this or think that people can be too superficial when it comes to judging women on leadership potential, you might want to take this under consideration when preparing for a job interview.

I have always believed in good grooming and putting one’s best foot (or face!) forward. So this study surprises me on different levels. Makeup can be overdone, no question. There’s a line between being groomed for appropriate work situations, and being heavily made-up. I think some personal discretion is needed. More isn’t always better.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you. You can contact me here or on LinkedIn.