By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
This belongs in the category of not necessarily fair, and not necessarily logical, but generally true: Cosmetics are important to how women are perceived, and wearing makeup on one’s face does convey a better impression. That difference in perception goes to credibility, and for that reason, most female witnesses and attorneys cannot afford to just skip the cosmetics. Based on the social science, the makeup has two main functions bearing on perception: One, it makes the skin tone more uniform, and two, it creates greater distinctions between the features, in effect outlining the major landmarks of eyes, lips, and cheek bones.
Now, as a male writer, I can’t fully appreciate the social pressure, and can only imagine how it would feel to know that, based on society’s view, my face is just not enough, and needs some enhancement in order to be viewed in public. I suppose that could be looking at it the wrong way, though. Makeup could be seen as just a way to add creative diversity to human appearance, and women can get away with it, but at this point men -- at least those who aren’t members of Duran Duran or the New York Dolls -- really can’t. Only in practice, for women it isn’t so much an opportunity to use makeup, as a penalty for not using makeup. According to the social science, both men and women will evaluate women negatively for not using cosmetics. So being credible in a courtroom context most likely requires awareness of and adaptation to that social convention. But it is not so simple. New research (Mileva, Jones, Russell & Little, 2016) indicates that men and women react differently to makeup. Practical experience also adds that how makeup is worn matters as well, and a natural look and “a little goes a long way” is probably the best advice for the courtroom.