Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How To Avoid Looking "Fake"

In the post You Can Control How Attractive You Are, I reiterated the point that most unattractive women aren’t genetically unlucky, they just aren’t trying hard enough. Recently, a reader brought up a good question in the comments section of that post: how far can a girl go to fix up herself before she is considered "fake"?

The question is a good one because at first glance, looking fake seems to be what happens when a girl tries too hard. We’ve all seen girls with caked-on makeup, boob jobs, spray tans and shitty hair extensions; and we’re all familiar with the male consensus about them – they look terrible. In fact, you probably don’t even need men to tell you this. So how do you avoid it? How do you strike a balance between “not enough” and the “fake” extreme?

The problem with this question is that it is based on a misunderstanding. It wrongly puts “ugly” on both ends of the effort scale, because it presumes that the girls with boob jobs, thick make-up and cheap hair extensions are putting in a lot of effort. This is decidedly not the case. These girls haven’t put in more effort than the average girl. Layering on make-up, or sitting in a tanning booth longer than necessary – while it does take more time – is rooted more in confusion than concerted effort.

These women are like a chef who is obsessed with a single spice – salt, or garlic, or thyme, or whatever. True, these spices all have their proper place, and can make a meal outstanding when placed on the right dish in the appropriate quantity. But in excess they destroy all dishes. A woman who layers makeup is like a chef who dumps inordinate amounts of garlic in everything he cooks. Neither the make-up girl nor the garlic-chef understands the concept of moderation or balance. The girl ends up looking “fake” and the chef has every other plate returned by unsatisfied customers. Although there is a certain amount of added effort involved in the additional mirror-time, or the extra crushing and dicing of garlic cloves, you don’t need me to tell you that both the make-up-obsessed girl and the garlic-obsessed chef are poor role models.

Sarah Harding

The mistake is a preference for quantity rather than quality. Too much effort does not result in a “fake” appearance, uneducated effort does. The chef who understands balance and complimentary tastes has invested orders of magnitude more effort and time in reaching that expertise than the one who simply saturates everything with salt. And the girl who realizes that her natural complexion only works with certain make-up tones, or knows how to suit her hairstyle and cut of clothes to her face and body shape has likewise invested miles more time and energy in her look than the girl who just cakes on extra make-up, or resorts to a boob job to enhance her chest. If you think that “more effort” means “more make-up” or “more tan,” you are spending your smarts in the wrong place – or rather, you aren’t spending them at all.

Nicola Roberts
If you really want to improve your look, you need to become your own stylist. You need to learn how to make your hair shine, and how to add volume in the right places. You need to study your body shape and try different outfits until you know precisely what cut makes your features pop - or subdues them, if necessary. You need to read books on color, and try every shade until you know which ones are your best. You need to learn everything you can about fitness and dieting so that your time in the gym is efficient and your meals compliment your workouts. You need to push your comfort boundaries with different styles, perhaps looking awkward occasionally just to rule out the possibility that your aversion to a certain style is really based in its inappropriateness for you – and not some childhood prejudice. You need to fix your posture and get serious about sleeping right. You need to watch how much you drink and learn how to care for your skin.

I am not suggesting that every girl should obsess over her appearance, but you see what I mean. This is real effort – not the “extra garlic” approach, which results in the fake look we are all so familiar with. Be smart about your efforts and, generally speaking, the more effort you put in, the more you will improve your look, not compromise it.


  1. I asked this question anonymously...thanks Andrew! :)

  2. So true. Classic trumps caked-on any day. Also, as you get older ( horror, I know, but it WILL happen :p) you have to regularly adjust to make sure you look age appropriate- rather than just "younger"....

  3. Pardon my French, but you know your shit.
    Makeup should enhance a woman's natural beauty, not mask it...and sometimes achieving a beautiful yet natural-seeming look can take a lot of time and effort. Knowing what foundation perfectly matches your skin tone. Recognizing your face and eye shape and applying blush and eyeliner accordingly.

  4. Yup. It's not unlike the try-hard dudes in suits, strutteling around, hair gel, clean shaven, shiny shoes. The 'look' for a woman is to emulate youth, and a man should look like he can rule the roost.

    Also, suits are beta: http://two.cedonulli.com/2012/05/wearing-suits-is-beta/

  5. So where are the rest of Girls Aloud? ;)

  6. Couldn't help but notice both left photos feature red lipstick. Do men usually prefer more natural colors?
    I was out with a guy who actually said that I looked really nice with strong coloured lipstick even though he's "usually not into it". So I concluded he liked me in spite of it, not because of it. Since opinions on it are very varied, is it best for girls to 'safe' with pink/pale lipsticks? Or do some men love red?


    1. It all depends on your personal coloring, your outfut and the tones you are using elsewhere in your makeup. Both of the examples above are English and have lighter skin. The link you posted shows a girl with slightly darker skin, which is probably why it works better on her (she might also look better without it though, hard to say without seeinng an example).

      I really don't know which colors work best with which complexions, so I can't tell you this, but I can tell you that there are do's and don't, and that they aren't difficult to find and learn. Check out the post titled "Your Skin Color Matters" for a book recommendation - it is for clothes but also has info on make-up.

    2. Do trial and error - where different shades and see what sort of response you get from men. I'm a pretty Latin woman, but notice that when I wear a deep pink colored lipstick as opposed to the coral (which is suggested for Latin women) I actually get more of a positive response from men. I actually get compliments. The bright, deeper shades look good on me cuz it gives my face color and this attracts men.

    3. The thing is, no man is going to tell you specifics and give you a full critique (i say critique, not criticism) because women will statistically and understandably incur some kind of bad emotion... whether it be:

      "I did all this for you, and now you're telling me you don't like it? go f yourself" or

      "oh yeah, hot shot? I can say a lot about you too, but I'm holding back."

      "Wtf, let's have a good time. no one's perfect"

      and on and on. It could just be raw, inexplicable negative feelings too.

      In any case, we're relegated to complimenting specifics to get this message across over time, rather than giving a full critique.

      Getting a full critique can definitely be aggravating, even with the best of intentions. And even someone who appreciates one can still find it to get old very quickly in a relationship.

      But one thing to note is that less feedback means less knowledge and awareness. You instead have to find blogs and go research, and do some guesswork, and your own trial and error experiments on people. This is a lot more work and takes a lot longer than getting direct feedback.

      So the more you can control your emotions and offense, the more you can benefit. Additionally, even if it gets annoying, if you have the EQ to stave off offense, then you can also explain to the person that you appreciate it, but nudge that it can still be unpleasant at times. You can agree to letting people know, or giving rules of thumbs, and just managing your own emotions and your partner's emotions, as well as being honest and direct, in order to make it all smooth. That kind of a women (and this applies to men as well) is a real keeper, not only in terms of attractiveness, but also just as a person to be around for the long haul.

  7. For me natural beauty is the best. But I totally agree, that if you want to improve your appearance, you should do it wisely and reasonably.

  8. girls are very cute, but the 2nd pict of each is better, to my mind. natural beauty can mean much for a boy, but the skill of painting eyes can fade in time, sure.

  9. "Too much effort does not result in a “fake” appearance, uneducated effort does."

    Make-up, hair styling, exercise and the 'regular' stuff women do are expected. How do men feel about the 'unnatural' efforts, if they LOOK natural? Say I get fillers in my lips, reduce fat on my thighs and get a boob job. I can afford to have it all done well by top surgeons to the extent that it does not look fake (slightly fuller lips, increase from B to C cup). I am attractive and do not NEED any of this - but it's about maximizing attractiveness for most women, not how little effort you can 'get away with' and still get plenty attention from men.
    Is the knowledge that something is fake a turnoff for men even if it looks natural? Do you think women who do procedures like these may find it worth it, and do you think they should keep quiet about it from men?

    1. There isn't a male consensus about this. Some guys love it and could care less about the fact that it is "fake" while others have these almost spiritual or metaphysical qualms about a woman not being completely "real." I wish I had a better answer for you, but there is just too much variety in male opinion on this one...

    2. do what you need for YOU to like your body and the rest will follow. It's about how you carry yourself. Have seen women who on paper should be gorgeous but they have no carisma because they don't like themselves, while a woman with a lot of carisma can get away with (almost) anything.

    3. Omg the almost spiritual and metaphysical qualms... I like a guy (Sort of) Who is like this and we get in arguments... I only sort of like him I think in part cause of his hippie ways. We are good friends and have serious chemistry but I love makeup (I don't over garlic though), and other elements of artificial beauty... I like aesthetically pleasing, attracting things that stand out and I feel like he does to (im pretty positive he likes me) but it's like I go against what he stands for haha. I can also see him struggle with it in his mind when I look really good ... Lol. And I also wish he would go back to short hair, cleaner cut hair... so I guess we'll never be.

  10. My best compliment ever was last month from a very young and cute Barista at a Starbucks I frequent regularly. She said, " You are the one of the most naturally beautiful woman I've ever seen ". A)I'm not entirely natural. B) I'm aiming for natural. Bingo - objective achieved.

  11. Hi Andrew,

    I'm curious, the thing that mostly puts me off from putting on extra makeup,hair etc all the time is worrying about how different I look between first thing in the morning and after its done? I tend to feel a bit guilty for being fake (I don't look fake after just better)

    Do men generally hold this against you/ strongly lose attraction after seeing you without all the effort?
    I know probably hard to answer, but you often hear 'oh she looks awful without makeup though' from guys about celebrities etc

    I'm curious what your thoughts on that are,

    1. Hey Andrew,
      I would really like to know your thoughts on this, because sometimes I tell my friends they should make more of an effort to wear makeup (in flattering natural colors) and they tell me this same excuse: they don't want people to think they're fake (and also they don't want people to be scared if they are ever seen without makeup!) But I find those potential side effects are worth it for how much better one can look with makeup. Also, what do you think about the movement towards "completely natural beauty" where women are expected to look amazing straight out of the shower? See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2229489/Why-I-detest-bare-faced-chic-As-celebrities-claim-make-charity-LIZ-JONES-hits-back.html

    2. I have a post drafted about this that has unfortunately fell to the bottom of the list due to an influx of new ideas... I need to resurrect it. I will try to get it out in the next couple weeks here.

    3. Anon: I have long hair, so if I know my boyfriend will sleep over I make an extra effort to make sure my hair looks good and make sure I wear it down.
      You can also invest in some mineral powder and natural makeup, if you need some coverup you can brush it over and it won't wreck our skin as much if you sleep with it, as regular foundation would.
      Everybody looks different without makeup, but of course you can work on improving your overall look, for example maintain your skin better if it's likely to get acne/redness etc. You can tan a bit if your skin can take it. If you really feel washed out without makeup, you can look into semi-permanent makeup or have some sort of coloring of your eyelashes/eyebrows/lip line.

    4. Thanks,
      This is a big worry for me and causes me a lot of guilt about looking my best and often holds me back from going all out,
      I have a face that completely transforms with a little makeup,and I know I am generally considered good looking, although truth be told despite clear skin I look an absolute horror without! With boyfriends in the past I've always slept in it (looking into semi-permenant makeup, though I'm a bit scared and it's very expensive for my budget)

      Can't wait for this post

  12. Oh, Mr.Kevyn Aucoin, so glad you shared your immense knowledge. I especially value the people that expose poly-poly-valent knowledge, this is clearly the touch of an expert :)

  13. Hey, I normally don't wear make-up but when I do I like it to be noticed, I don't understand why people wear nude lipstick, why not wear none at all. If I wear lipstick I like it to be bright red and put on eye make-up too. Actually not quite sure what my point was...

    1. I like to perfect the 'no make up' make up look. For me that involves prepping my face with moisturiser, primer, BB cream (when not wearing foundation), bronzer, contour shading, highlighter, natural eyeshadow, eyeliner, eye brow powder, natural-ish lipstick, mascara, natural-looking blusher plus 20-30 mins on my hair. Still amazing that some men can't tell when I am actually wearing make-up. :/

    2. Exactly, it's like a better looking, more radiant version of yourself

    3. I guess it's because I'm scared that if I put on foundation that some one will notice it because I have used the wrong shade and it justs looks wrong and not natural, I guess it depends on the person because I would have to agree that for some women it does look natural and stunning at the same time but sometimes it doesnt make the lady look any better at all.

    4. Daisy, a woman that does not know how to use make-up on her face, even naturally, in "nude" mode, to enhance her best traits, express bits of her personality this way and help men see easier an eternity through her long-lashed eyes, it's similar to a woman that's totally ignorant in the fellatio art: she does not know how to be gallivant with her own life. I hope truly that at least you shine in the second one :)

    5. Daisy, a nude lipstick works by evening out the natural lip color (esp if one has those dark-ish lines around the edges of their lips). Also the "nudeness" balances out stark or dramatic eye makeup looks - a regular lip wih uneven tone and dark edges would just look unflattering next to a wonderfully shaded smokey eye.

  14. I also do the no makeup look on a daily basis: BB cream, light brown eyeshadow, eyebrows (same colour as the original, just making it look a bit sharper) and a little gloss. I normally dont put any bronzer, etc. then if I really want to look like no makeup, I do brown mascara, otherwise black. Only the black is noticeable. Men can't tell.. actually, women can't tell,either. Which I love. For evenings, that's a different story, smoky eyes for the win anytime! And the whole "eyes or lips" rule is complete and utter bollocks. Can do both, and still look nice.

  15. What do guys think about push-up/padded bras? Are they disappointed when they take them off and find the girl's boobs are smaller than they thought? If a girl with small boobs can improve her figure with a padded bra should she wear one anyway despite it being potentially disappointing later?

    1. I wondered that too. My boobs are a UK 36D but I still feel super small so I wear a padded bra sometimes. I have actually really disliked my breasts ever since I was 14, when a boy at school grabbed my boobs out of the blue and said "Nice ass, shame about your small breasts". It was really eurrgh and the male teacher didn't even tell the guy off.

    2. A guy should be able to look at the rest of your physique and have a good idea whether or not your cleavage is all natural. Unless you won the genetic lottery, if you're slender with a huge rack, you're padding your boobs either from the inside or the outside. Besides, there are also leg men and ass men (and others with even stranger preferences) who won't care about your boob size.

    3. UK 36D is a large size in my view. I am a UK 34D and sometimes I wish I could shrink mine.

  16. A friend sent me this link because I have had a very confusing day today. I've been chatted up by at least 15 men today, I have left my house without a trace of make up because I was in a rush to leave the house. I'm not a heavy make up person anyway, usually just use mascara, nude lip gloss, maybe some eye liner and usually get chatted up by 1 man per day sometimes none. Today I looked like death when I left the house because I was so late for my appointment it was if the make of the species collectively decided they would pounce on me. Anyhow I was really thinking about it, needing it to make sense and my friend sent me this page so thanks for allowing me make more sense of today.

  17. Can you write a blog about hair color? Its something that us girls are always trying to get right but men don't seem to care. What do you think when you see a brunette and would you think of me differently if I was blonde or had rihanna red hair? Do men look at us like we're fake?

  18. I get noticed and asked out both with make-up on and with my hair up and without make-up with my hair down, sometimes even with the hair up and no make-up as long as I'm dressed nicely, even though I still get looks with combat pants on, a vest top, hair up with no-make up, but I'm not that bothered about getting a boyfriend/ husband anyway.

  19. @Anonymous Aug 8
    You have no problem attracting men, obviously, because you are stunning. You aren't interesting in having a partner..so why are you reading this blog and so compelled to post a comment??!!

  20. I'd like an opinion on this photo.

    I'm in my twenties myself but recently had a conversation with a friend in her forties who feels "very old" and feels like wearing less makeup. I showed her this photo of Sofia Vergara who's in her forties and still looks great and feminine. She, and others, said that this was "party makeup" and too much. Although I think maybe a little bit less on the eyes is better for the day, I don't think it looks overdone.

    Do men consider this "fake" or "too much"?


  21. Andrew-I like your posts on makeup and have a question about eyeliners. I was just debating this with a makeup artist, and figured I'd ask. Do you consider eyeliner that is too thick unattractive??

    I use a thin application because of work and even in social settings it feels more conservative/professional, which I like. On the other hand, makeup artists seem to recommend the dramatic, lady gaga-esque look, and they recommend very think lines, which kind of make me cringe. I've done a combination of eye makeup in different settings and comments from women are generally that I have beautiful eyes or that my makeup is done well. Men, don't seem to care or at least their feedback has never been eye-specific in the sense that they'll say I look great, smell great, and their comments though consistently positive aren't specific.

  22. Aww, this is so well said :)

    Although I never would have thought it before, but I can now see how the toned down look on the example pictures looks better.

    Been fit and healthy in body weight can improve a women's appearance, so can healthy foods, enough sleep, emotional well-being and enough water.

    You put it so well.

    What a life saver.

  23. Its the dark lipstick. Guys hate it.

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