Corporate makeup: Glitter is often generally banned

A few days ago, Maren Hoffmann from Spiegel, the leading German news magazine, asked me a few questions about Corporate Makeup.
I’m happy about the opportunity to speak about this subject which in 2020 still sparks emotions.
Apart from grooming rules imposed by employers (hotels, for example or businesses in the luxury industries), it’s also about women living their femininity in the corporate context. Women being successful not despite, but because they are women.

Women today don’t have to be either beautiful or intelligent, they may be both!

A lot of companies not only impose a dress code but also have guidelines for makeup. Louise Wittlich explains what corporate makeup looks like and why she’s bored by fundamental debates about makeup.

Spiegel: Please, what exactly is corporate makeup?

Louise Wittlich: It’s about shaping consciously the impression you leave on others. In Germany in particular many women are afraid of giving too much attention to this aspect: a discussion on what looks good at work and what doesn’t, oftentimes slips straight into a debate about sexism. But wearing lipstick doesn’t mean you don’t have a brain!

French women by the way love playing the female card, they don’t have any problem with that. It’s really interesting to see what emotional turmoil some lipstick can cause.

Spiegel: You give classes to employees. Should employers now also dictate the makeup?

Louise Wittlich: I work with clients in the luxury industry: the Hyatt hotels, the fashion house Balenciaga, the jeweler Tiffany. Their staff are their figureheads. Of course, these brands want their employees to fit their respective image.

Spiegel : What does that mean specifically?

Louise Wittlich: In their guidelines they state for example for makeup to look natural – but there’s no definition of what this means. Apart from glitter being banned maybe.

My briefing often only says: it should look subtle and natural and preferably last all day. From there I develop tutorials and show women what this can translate into and how good they can look.

These grooming guides include looks for black, white and Asian women. Their makeup styles obviously adapt to their type but always remain subtle.

Spiegel : But isn’t it nevertheless sexist to tell only women what they may and may not do?

Louise Wittlich: The companies also use grooming guides for men which stipulate for example beard styles and what the hands should look like.

As human beings we’re all receptive for visual impressions. Even if we wanted to, we couldn’t block this. So why don’t we rather consciously shape this impression – men as well as women. This is not unprofessional, quite the opposite.

Spiegel : Are there regional differences?

Louise Wittlich: The main trend in Europe is makeup which doesn’t show as such. A fresh glow, smooth and even skin, almost without looking made up. In Japan things are different. There, makeup almost feels like a garment. Without, women feel naked. More than covering up imperfections it’s about putting a protective layer between you and the world. Women are expected to wear makeup.

Spiegel : There are also jobs with less direct contact…

Louise Wittlich: Currently I teach at a business school. The students wanted to know what’s the best makeup for Zoom or Skype. Because at the moment lots of job interviews are being conducted via video conference. They want to look their best.

Spiegel : So, what are your best tips?

Louise Wittlich: One trick is to place a white sheet of paper in front of you, why not on top of your keyboard for the slight angle. This works as a reflector softening the shadows in your face.

There is no need for doing much with your skin as with the low screen resolution small imperfections won’t show. But do something to open up your eyes – use an eyelash curler, a bit of mascara.

Spiegel : And men?

Louise Wittlich: They often have a problem with too shiny skin. Powder might show, better use transparent mattifying gels which as such are completely invisible but will take the shine down – this works also really well on bald heads.

By Louise Wittlich

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