I've Been Single for 8 Years—and I Blame My Makeup

Hi, I’m Beth and I’ve been online dating since my 18th birthday (just a casual eight years of my life, is all). I’ve probably swiped through the entire city of Chicago and about half of New York at this point. And all I really have to show for it is a few dozen matches that went absolutely nowhere and one kind of amazing story about hooking up with a CIA agent…who only disclosed their identity after dumping me.

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What does all this have to do with makeup? I’ll tell you: I’m not excessively picky. All I ask for is a sense of humor. I’m not super exclusive—I’m open to dating men and women. What I am is an ardent lover of makeup, and it shows. My profiles are filled with photos of me sporting glitzed-out highlighter on my cheekbones, vibrant red lipstick, meticulously blended watercolor eyes, and neon graphic eyeliner.

To me, this makes perfect sense because makeup is basically my everything—the basis for my job, what I do for stress relief, how I communicate my mood and feelings. But lately, I’ve started suspecting it doesn’t make perfect sense to others, that maybe my beauty looks could come across as a little intimidating? Or something? There was only one way to find out.

The experiment

Over the course of a recent night, I changed all my profile pics from makeup-heavy selfies to no-makeup makeup (or actually no makeup) shots. The next day, I was a little surprised and pretty deflated to find quadruple the number of Likes I usually get. Why did it take deleting all my favorite photos of myself for romantic prospects to pay attention to me? Had I found a disheartening solution to getting more matches: giving up a part of myself?

I reached out to Erika Kaplan at Three Day Rule, a matchmaking and dating coach service. She wasn’t that shocked by the results of my experiment. “On apps, most people are looking for someone who’s genuine,” she said. “And some don’t see makeup as an expression of self and art and fashion. Instead, they see it as a way to cover up, signifying that someone’s trying to hide themselves.”

Essentially, countless swipers out there have been conditioned to think of makeup as a mask, something akin to catfishing, arguably the thing people on dating apps are most afraid of (other than, you know, accidentally matching with their cousin). And by swipers, I don’t mean just men—I generally get the same radio silence from women when my pics are full of makeup. Which is frustrating because when we’re not chatting on an app with romantic intentions, women constantly compliment my makeup.

“While some people may see you with a full face of makeup and think you look amazing as a friend, they may assume you’re fake or disingenuous when viewing you as a potential partner,” explained relationship therapist Jennifer Silvershein Teplin, the second expert I called to help me untangle all this.

And, I mean, fine. I too am afraid of being duped in the confusing and complicated world of online dating. And I wouldn’t want to meet up IRL with someone who looks completely different than their profile pictures. But…given that there’s minimal space for nuance on dating apps, how am I supposed to show my personality in a way that’s true to me but that won’t scare people away? Kaplan’s advice: Upload photos that tell a story, like shots of me doing things I love and being my happiest self. “By giving someone a peek into your life, they feel like they really see who they’re talking to, which makes you look more trustworthy.”

How I ultimately changed my profiles

The thing is, wearing makeup is me doing what I love, and I’m not willing to abandon this big part of myself just to get more matches. So I chose to take this advice but interpret it in a creative way. You won’t find any next-to-nothing-on-my-face photos in my profiles these days. But you will see a mix of beauty looks, including some pared-down ones (simple eyes, glossy lips) plus shots from the many makeup-related events I get to attend as part of my job.

These get across the idea that this is both what I do for a living and my greatest joy. I’ve added some non-makeup-specific pics too, like one of an all-pink outfit I wore in Miami on a friends’ weekend that made me feel hot, a headshot taken in my very cool office, and a selfie (of course) of me at Fashion Week.

This new set of images fully encompasses who I am, hopefully without implying that I’m trying to hide anything with makeup. And so far, it’s working. I’ve had more first dates in the past few weeks than I’ve had in the past few years. Just don’t expect me to show up wearing anything less than a shimmery lid and some smudgy liner.

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