Beauty, Effort, and Misrepresentation: How Beauty Work Affects Judgments of Moral Character and Consumer Preferences

Adriana Samper, Linyun W. Yang, Michelle E. Daniels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Women engage in a variety of beauty practices, or "beauty work," to enhance their physical appearance, such as applying cosmetics, tanning, or exercising. Although the rewards of physical attractiveness are well documented, perceptions of both the women who engage in efforts to enhance their appearance and the high-effort beauty products marketed to them are not well understood. Across seven studies, we demonstrate that consumers judge women who engage in certain types of extensive beauty work as possessing poorer moral character. These judgments occur only for effortful beauty work perceived as transformative (significantly altering appearance) and transient (lasting a relatively short time), such that they emerge within cosmetics and tanning, yet not skincare or exercise. This effect is mediated by the perception that putting high effort into one's appearance signals a willingness to misrepresent one's true self, and translates into lower purchase intentions for higher-effort cosmetics. We identify several boundary conditions, including the attractiveness of the woman performing the beauty work and whether the effort is attributed to external norms or causes. In examining how beauty work elicits moral judgments, we also shed light on why effortful cosmetic use is viewed negatively, yet effortful products continue to be commercially successful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberucx116
Pages (from-to)126-147
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • aesthetics
  • beauty
  • beauty work
  • cosmetics
  • effort
  • innate self
  • moral judgments
  • true self

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


Dive into the research topics of 'Beauty, Effort, and Misrepresentation: How Beauty Work Affects Judgments of Moral Character and Consumer Preferences'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this