Motivations For Cosmetic Use In The Workplace
: Bridging The Disparity Between Women And The Attributes Of The Ideal Worker 

  • Abbie-Lee Hollister

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Whilst established categories of research have traditionally reflected the interests and experiences of men, there has been an exclusion of issues that are relevant to women’s everyday lived experiences, particularly within the workplace. This thesis aims to address the motivations and influences on women cosmetic use within the workplace and the embodied practices of navigating and constructing appearances in relation to gender. Although there is sufficient literature examining others’ perspectives of cosmetic use, there is little understanding of cosmetic use from the wearer’s perspective, thus the thesis contributes and furthers discussions around cosmetic use by allowing women’s definitions and meaning of cosmetics to be explored. The study of motivating factors for cosmetic use within the workplace is explored through object-elicited interviews with 19 women in senior leadership positions across the technology sector. Through the data analysis, it is found that the motivation for cosmetic use derives from an avoidance of negative attention and the fit with the perception of an ideal female worker. A conceptual framework is developed to illustrate the interdependencies between inner constructs of self and outer appearances in relation to a workplace setting. The key findings of the study propose inter-related facets of the self in the workplace and the traits that are perceived to be realised through cosmetic use. Cosmetic use is then varied through the products (including brands and colours) used, the consideration made to cosmetic application and the heaviness of products applied. Masculine-dominated workplaces appear to generate a complexity in navigating appropriate levels of cosmetic use and are characterised by conflictual feelings of the inter-related facets of the self.
Date of Award31 Jan 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorEshani Beddewela (Main Supervisor) & Ruth Brooks (Co-Supervisor)

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