Why do we wear make-up?

Open navigator

1. Face painting

More than £1.3bn was spent on make-up in the UK in 2014. So why do so many of us buy into the idea of painting our faces?

Despite being the trademark of iconic women throughout the ages, from Ancient Egypt to 20th Century Hollywood, it only became mainstream for ordinary women relatively recently.

Take a browse through some of the main influences on modern-day make-up and find out how to create some iconic styles.

2. Get the look

Lisa Eldridge explains how two iconic looks from the past were created and the impact they had on every woman.

Beauty is undoubtedly big business. It’s also one of the few areas that have been dubbed 'recession proof', with sales continuing even when the economy is poor. These 'lipstick economics' see many women turn to throw-away beauty products – buying small, inexpensive items such as lipstick and nail polish to make themselves feel good even when they’re tightening their finances.

3. The story of make-up

The make-up industry is one of the biggest in the world, touching millions of lives. But just how much have the iconic styles of the past influenced the looks of today?

4. Make-up by numbers

The UK make up industry is worth around £17 billion and employs over 1 million people, making it one of the biggest industries in the world.


The UK make-up industry is worth around £17bn and employs over one million people, and it doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

Specialist Make up Services, Superdrug, Escentual

5. What influences us to wear make-up?

There are many different reasons people choose to wear make-up. Which one affects you the most?


Millions are spent advertising make-up each year, targeting women of all ages. By 2017 it is predicted we will spend £10bn on beauty and personal care products.

You selected

The marketing influence

Using older women such as Helen Mirren in advertising has helped make the over-50s the fastest growing demographic in the UK, out-buying younger women.


During the 1920s it became acceptable to wear make-up, but this has developed into a feeling of expectation for some women in modern times.

You selected

Feeling like we should

75% of women say they use make-up for themselves, only 3% say it’s because they feel obligated. However this drastically increases to over 30% in younger girls.


Make-up has become a way of creating a persona, expressing individuality and a way to develop confidence and positive emotions.

You selected

Changing the way we feel

44% of women had negative feelings when make-up less. Women say one of the biggest reasons they continue to use cosmetics is to feel better about themselves.