23 Times Women Were Told They Must Wear Makeup For The Job
Of all the things that a boss can ask of their employees—to do your work well and on time, to stick to the company rules, and to always be professional—one of the oddest moments is when they ask you to wear makeup at work. You know, to “look more professional,” even if you’re doing an amazing job as it is. These situations are awkward at best and can impact the future of your career at worst.
Fashion Life has collected a list of stories of employees sharing how their bosses and managers tried to force them to wear makeup while on the job. Have a read through them below and be sure to let us know what you thought of them, dear Pandas. Got any similar stories to share with everyone? You can go into detail about them in the comments.
I like wearing makeup and playing around with color at home and for some occasions. I do not wear makeup at work, because wearing it all day makes my skin break out. A manager at my first job told me I would look prettier with makeup and it was required in the employee handbook so I told him when my male colleagues hit my sales numbers and he showed me that section of the handbook I would do so. Spoiler: it wasn’t in there and I continued to have the highest sales in my district while *gasp* barefaced.
I told my employer this at a retail job I worked at in college!!! I have extremely sensitive skin too; makeup makes me break out in an aggressively itchy rash. My boss/the owner told me I had to wear makeup so I found some brands online I thought my skin would theoretically be able to handle and said, “Ok, if you buy this stuff for me, I’ll gladly wear it!” I think the total for mascara, lipstick, eyeshadow, and blush came out to something like $300. She didn’t bring it up again.
The beauty industry is absolutely massive. It grew from 483 billion dollars in 2020 to a whopping 511 billion dollars in 2021. And the growth isn’t likely to stop any time soon. The industry is set to exceed 716 billion dollars in worth by 2025 and 784.6 billion dollars in 2027.
Meanwhile, the worth of the natural cosmetics industry is set to increase to 54.4 billion dollars by 2027, as more and more consumers opt for natural and organic products. Though, to be fair, whether or not the products themselves are actually 'natural' or 'organic' is up for debate. Some companies use these labels as a marketing trick to make their products more sought after. Meanwhile, others do their best to provide exactly what's on the label based on existing regulations. It's up to the individual customer to determine whether they're actually buying what they think they are.
Lol. One of my first jobs required me to wear makeup. But the thing is, they can't really prove you aren't wearing it. So the conversation went something like this...
"Lil-Maece, you have to wear makeup for this job."
"I am wearing makeup."
"Oh, umm, right, yes of course, carry on."
I once lost a job because I don't wear makeup. It was a job at a garden centre. Basically they were super sexist and only hired women to work cash. They wanted us to look hot and be flirty. Which is ridiculous. I refuse to dress up to haul around bags of dirt. I worked there for a few weeks but then slowly my hours were given to other girls/women (I was 18 at the time). And so I had to find other work. F**king bulls**t society.
Earlier, I had a chat about beauty trends with historian Dr. Jane Nicholas from St. Jerome’s University at the University of Waterloo. She told Fashion Life that the beauty industry grows and changes all the time.
For instance, the desire to look more natural is a popular trend that comes and goes. In the future, it’ll be replaced by something else and, eventually, things will come full circle and natural beauty will be the trendy thing again.
Had one higher-up mention in a meeting that she expected to see all female employees looking more “done up” meaning makeup, nails, jewelry. I had worn makeup to work every day for 10 years. The next day I didn’t, and neither did about 80% of the women I worked with. Some other bosses talked her out if it but I’ve worn makeup to work a handful of times in the 5 years since then.
Oo yes- I have been specifically asked to wear makeup in front of my male and female coworkers when I was wearing very little, they suggested eyeshadow and blush etc... this was at a bowling alley no one gave a [damn] if I had makeup on! And one of my male coworkers did stand up for me and say that’s bulls**t- she’s beautiful as is! He got fired really fast after that, and then I did too lol.
"The move toward ‘naturalness’ comes and goes and you can trace it throughout the last century or so," Dr. Nicholas said.
"Perhaps though we shouldn’t confuse looking natural with actual naturalness. Skincare, for example, focuses on perfect skin that is poreless, hairless, and filtered to give a youthful, creamy glow, but still looks like real skin. The thing is real skin has blemishes, pores, and imperfections. The new natural is an image of natural that few, if any of us, can actually live up to," the historian explained to Fashion Life.
Worked as a teller once upon a time. Coworker had very difficult skin and struggled with keeping her face clear, no matter what she used. When she was in a big breakout, she really just had to not use makeup so it would clear up and heal. Boss told her that she had to wear makeup then. I mean she had to put layers and layers to cover it up, and it would just make it worse. I think she had to end up taking it to HR but it was humiliating for her to have the struggle, much less be called out on it like that.
I used to be a cashier at a cafe where a manager once said to me that I should start wearing makeup to work. I told him I had all the supplies in my purse, and that I would be happy to apply a full face of makeup in the break room right that moment if he was willing to pay me while I did it. He declined my offer and never made another comment about my appearance.
"Being on-screen helps with the ability to control lighting and use filters. A silly photo or one that looks unposed and spontaneous adds a sense of charming realness and briefly interrupts the highly curated images to help make them relatable," she said that there are ways to make the photos that we upload to social media seem more natural and, possibly, more relatable for our friends, fans, and followers.
I work as a hostess and usually put on a decent amount of makeup due to my own insecurities. One shift I knew wasn't going to be busy since it was a wednesday lunch shift, I decided hell i'm too tired to care and only put on concealer and mascara. I showed up to work with people asking me if I was okay, I looked ill. When I said know I just put on less makeup, my manager SENT ME HOME to DO MY MAKEUP APROPRIATELY. i was so mad yall
I showed up with the darkest, strongest makeup out of spite.
They liked it...
Worked at a former place that required makeup, so the women at work submitted an expense report for Mac, one of the most expensive makeup companies out there. The employee manual was revised shortly thereafter as "must appear clean and managed: facial hair trimmed, skin kept clean and healthy."
I had a boss once who I think was telling me I should wear makeup, he kept saying I should look at the other women in the office and see what they wore when I asked what he meant by ' looking more professional'. I was the only woman on my team, and generally more dressed up than the men on it. And I can't wear makeup and do my job. If I'm wearing it that's all I think about. I hate having anything on my face, even water.
I work in an field that is predominately dudes. I’d abide by the dress code, which really just asked us to wear logo’d shirts. I had one admin ask me once to start tucking in my shirt. I told him that the day he gets this other coworker to tuck in his shirt, so would I. That dude is a 6ft.+ former football player that all around had a tough guy vibe—or at least would’ve been very vocal. Never heard about it again.
A few short years later, another manager, this one my direct boss, said that people would take me more professionally if I wore makeup to work. I’m the only woman in my occupation at that time, at that place. I don’t wear it because I just don’t want to. The few times I have during the pandemic, I’ve managed to get it in my eyes and cloud up my contacts and yeah. So, nope. I told that boss that he didn’t make that request of literally any of my other colleagues in my field (makeup is needed for a different department, based on what they specifically do, for both men and women) and that if they don’t need it to be considered professional, neither do I.
My friend was the principal at a catholic elementary school, and whoever the [hell] her boss was told her the same thing. She was crushing it on her performance review, doing amazing things with the school, winning awards and [stuff], and then they tried to tell her she needed to wear makeup so she would look professional. That was their one criticism of her and her work. My friend hates makeup; she's never worn it. Plus her skin is really sensitive, so I suspect she'd have a problem doing so. She's also naturally very pretty. Like beautiful. She doesn't need it. But somehow being beautiful and really, really good at her job wasn't enough. Couldn't she make herself just a scosh hotter? Then maybe she could finally be taken seriously, I guess.
She basically told them, "Yeah, I'm not doing that."
I left a certain coffee company (for a multitude of reasons) but one was that my long due, hard earned promotion was “delayed” because I, too, didn’t dress “professionally.” Sorry I’m not waking up at 3 am so I can put mascara on and get covered in sticky syrup for 8 hours on basically minimum wage.
Now I’m in a much better paying office job that doesn’t really care what I do, as long as I DRESS professionally. And that’s what I do. :)
I had a boss say something about it would be better if I had make up on. I was just like no it wouldn’t and laughed. It just dawned on me now 20 years later he was probably serious! Still laughing.
When I was 16 in my first job (I worked in a clothes store in the UK called Next) I was screamed at by the female store manager for not wearing make up because it was unprofessional and I looked tired. Which wouldn’t do for customers obviously. This was no where in the handbook for staff and I had been off sick the day before so applying make up was the last thing in my mind. Getting though the shift was. It was awful and done on the shop floor.
The irony of it all was I worked there just over a year and I NEVER once saw her wearing make up.
I don't wear makeup because I can't. Almost all products make me break out in hives. I had a similar issue with an old fashioned Good ol' boy type boss (older dude who literally only hired BLONDES until he took on a younger partner who showed him that this is a good way to get sued) who told me that 'anything less than fully made up was unprofessional.. and just downright not pretty." (He also made comments later in the day about that why I didn't have a husband yet and had to go out and work.. I was 22)
I told the younger partner what he said and he just shook his head and said, "I'll talk to him." Apparently he went to the good ol' boy and said, "Look.. you can either have her looking like she's got poison ivy on her face, which I would think would be far more off putting than no makeup.. or you can ignore the fact that she's not made up to *your* standards. This isn't a hygiene issue and we've got no legal leg to stand on.. and quite a few that could get knocked out under us if you push this and she decides you've gone too far." He left me alone after that, and was a bit chagrined when the 2 other office ladies decided they didn't want to be 1000% made up every day, either.
If she gives you a hard time tell her you have sensitive skin and even the so-called 'hypoallergenic' products give you rashes and epic breakouts. If she wants to give you a hard time after THAT, thinking that you'll look like you've got poison ivy on your face.. she doesn't give a darn about your well being and I would run, not walk. If that position is available in another company, I'd go there.. but not without double checking their dress code prior to accepting an offer.
My first job was when I was 18. I had just got my CNA license and started working in a medical office. My boss pulled me aside one day and said he had been getting negative comments from patients about me. I asked what had been said and he told me they thought I looked too young to be working there. He told me that I needed to put on some mascara or other makeup when I come to work.
I was young and didn’t really think I could say no, so I started to spend my meager paycheck on makeup because I was worried I would get fired.
Just wanted to say I have had this happen before in a much lower profession (childcare). The director told me I looked like I was hung over and when I asked for clarification because I definitely hadn't been drinking the night before, she said I needed to wear make up from then on out to look prettier for the families... I told her I was allergic to all makeup just to make her feel awkward.
Needless to say I refused to wear makeup because I hate it as well, my job was never in jeopardy because it was literally not listed anywhere in the employee handbook that make up was required. So I would check your employee handbook and see if makeup is listed as a requirement for women and if not, your boss has no ground to stand on.
And yes, I agree, it is nuts that some people still feel they can tell women they HAVE to wear makeup. To each their own, but it shouldn't be a requirement.
I worked in the office of a storage place, where my clientele was quite often homeless and addicted people. Yet I was expected to plaster on some makeup every day to present that corporate image. I did mascara and chap stick only and got away with that. I still resent it. I hope that they someday must grapple with the HR conundrum of do they or do they not tell a man who likes wearing makeup that he cannot.
I have the same aversion to make up. Can't stand it on my face or eyes. Can't even stand perfume. I usually say I'm allergic. Just because I became tired of having to explain myself.
I was told the same when i worked at TUI a travel company. I can't wear most make up because of a serious skin allergy. I couldn't believe what i was hearing. Sorry we still have to deal with all this [stuff] in 2021
I’ve had this happen to me before. I put on eyeliner and cherry chapstick and it stopped. Minimum effort (but still annoying) and the problem went away. It sucks that she said something, but if you like the job and the money, it’s easier than fighting the system.