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Women Revealed The Worst Things People Have Said About Their Appearance At Work, And The Stories Have My Blood Boiling

Women Revealed The Worst Things People Have Said About Their Appearance At Work, And The Stories Have My Blood Boiling

Recently, BuzzFeed featured a story about a woman who was seemingly denied a job because she went makeup-free during her interview.

@_melissaweaver via TikTok / Via tiktok.com

The now-viral video spurred outrage and opened the floodgates for women in the BuzzFeed Community to share their stories of experiencing the double standard in the workplace— being judged, not based on merit, but on lack of makeup, hairstyles, body size, and age lines.

Woman in business attire standing in an office setting

Here are their personal stories:

1."I’m an emergency medicine doctor. My job is to provide care in life-and-death situations. We see a lot of non-emergency stuff, too, though, but my main focus is on the people dying. When I stopped wearing makeup, patients would leave anonymous feedback that I appeared 'tired,' 'angry,' and 'I wasn’t as nice.' However, nothing changed; my language, verbiage, and bedside manner are the same as [they've] been for 10 years. I just finally have gotten to an age where I don't care for makeup."

A medical professional in scrubs and a patterned scrub cap looks thoughtfully towards the camera

2."I am a woman in tech here. Once I started gaining a little weight and stopped doing Botox, my performance was highly criticized and scrutinized."

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—Anonymous

3."I worked for a major sports network, and we had an event in New Orleans the year after Katrina. I supervised four stages set up both inside and outside the Superdome. It was September, and I was running up and down many flights of stairs. My manager came into town right before the event, and I took him around all my setups. I had all the right answers to his questions and solutions to things he didn't even know about. The event went great."

"The next week, when I saw him, I asked for feedback. He said the event was awesome, and he said, 'Well, you could have fixed your hair better.' It was September in New Orleans, and I had naturally curly hair. That was his only feedback for me."

—Anonymous

4."In a college class in preparation for beginning a professional internship, the professor stated that we needed to have our hair blown out and makeup. He went on to state that curly hair was unprofessional and wild. I approached the professor to state that I didn't really wear makeup and that I couldn’t have my hair straightened. He took me to the dean, where they both inspected my face and said my skin was pretty enough for no makeup but to have my curls straightened."

"Also, during the internship, the manager of customer service said I could be offered a job, but customers wanted to see a face made up, a necklace, and beautiful hair. I ended up partnering with my husband to open our own business to avoid the bias and pressure. It would seem that for women, what matters most is appearance and not ability, expertise, or intelligence in many workplaces."

—Anonymous

5."When I was hostessing at a fairly upscale restaurant, I had a patron say, 'Thank you for wearing makeup. If I have to look at your face, at least look nice.'"

—Anonymous

6."I was told to at least wear eyeliner and mascara so that the male customers would respect me as a supervisor."

Woman in office setting, surprised expression, wearing a blazer over a top

7."I was diagnosed with PCOS a few years ago, and subsequently have experienced the weight gain symptom. Each year, I gained weight, and my interviews went worse. I work in healthcare and was told my schooling and certifications weren't enough to prove that I cared about people’s health since I 'obviously didn’t care about my own.'"

—Anonymous

8."I wear dresses and heels, but because I don't blow dry my hair or do my makeup on a regular basis, people often tell me I look sick. I've worked in HR, and I can't wait for someone to tell me my face isn't professional enough. After losing nearly 90 lbs., I've been told at work that it's my duty as a woman to wear at least mascara and a little lipstick. I've also been told at work that I NEED to show my body. These were both comments from women. It's funny how no one mentioned makeup or showing my figure when I was fat."

—Anonymous

9."One time, I caught pink eye from my daughter, so I couldn't wear eye makeup to work. You would think I hadn't slept in three days from the number of coworkers (all men) who felt compelled to come up and tell me how tired I looked! Like damn, have you never seen a makeup-less woman in your life? It's incredibly dehumanizing to feel like your natural state of being is so disgusting to others that they can't stop themselves from commenting on it."

Employee in uniform looks concerned while holding cleaning equipment

10."I work in HR and usually help out in interviews. During one interview for an entry-level role, we were having a hard time filling it, so we had a young woman come in for an interview. While her interviewing skills weren't knocking your socks off, she was qualified; it was an entry-level role, and she would probably do the job well. The hiring manager who was interviewing the young woman with me decided to pass on the applicant. I asked why (thinking she'd cite that the applicant seemed a bit green in some of her answers), and she responded that she didn't think it was professional that the woman interviewed without a bra on and was worried she would show up to work and interact with customers without one on either."

"I was flabbergasted and didn't know how to respond. In reality, this job wasn't really customer-facing, but what do you say about that? I just responded and said objectively that I think we should only take her answers and résumé into consideration when it comes to assessing her interview, to which the hiring manager scored her answers low and passed on her anyway."

—Anonymous

11."'Executive presence' is the term I’ve heard used as in 'we’re looking for someone with more executive presence.'"

—violetbaudelairegt

12."My male manager told me I needed to 'smile more.' That when I was thinking, I 'looked constipated.' I quit shortly after."

Woman in professional attire sitting in an office, looking concerned. Office equipment is visible in the background

—Anonymous

Peacock

13."This happens to Black women often, and as a 'light-skinned' Black woman, I totally acknowledge that I have an unfair advantage over darker-skinned women! But this totally happens to me. I normally wear my shoulder-length hair blown out with a light curl to it. My colleagues often describe me as 'assertive!' After deciding that I wanted to give my hair a break and wear box braids in a neat ponytail, I suddenly started being described as 'aggressive!' Another administrator even went so far as to refer to me as one of the 'homegirls!' Nothing about my work ethic or passion for advocacy changed, just my hairstyle did."

—cripsyzombie84

14."In the late '90s/early 2000s, I was a recruiter (headhunter type). I had a particularly stressful week; my grandmother was in the hospital, I was working 60+ hours a week, and I had a lot going on. Keep in mind I was certified (CPC), and always met my quota for the top performer. So I came into the office without makeup; I was told to 'fix myself' and to NEVER come into the office again without full makeup. I never did, but wow, was that eye-opening!"

—Anonymous

15."I had a conversation once with my direct lead. Everything was going well, and then he said, 'Everyone needs to take ownership. It doesn't matter what your level is, how much experience you have, or how pretty you are,' gesturing in my direction. I'm almost 40. I hadn't *really* thought about my face in years, but at that moment, I realized that a man who outranked me insinuated that I would use my face to get out of work."

—Anonymous

16."While working in a local government jurisdiction (not corporate, mind you, but public service) as a director/department head, I was told in one of my performance evaluations that I should wear makeup so people would take me more seriously."

Screenshot from "The Devil Wears Prada"

17."I was let go from a front desk position at a hair salon because I did not wear 'enough' makeup after two shifts. I had on BB cream and full eye makeup. I was told I did not look put together enough."

—Anonymous

18."When working as the head of special events and catering, I asked my direct supervisor what I could do to improve my job performance. His answer: Wear more rouge and lipstick. And he was not kidding."

—Anonymous

19."I was once denied a position because the firm felt I would be a 'distraction' to the men."

—Anonymous

20."This is much worse as we age. If we are trying to get jobs that reflect our background and skillset as we move into senior manager and director territory, but the haggardness and wrinkles are setting in good riddance, say most of the men in charge. It's life or death, and it's devastating. Cosmetic surgery feels inevitable instead of a choice."

—Anonymous

21."I have experienced the flip side. I have been hired for jobs just because of my appearance. No bother looking at my credentials or experience, it was very obvious, they did not bother hiding the fact either."

—Anonymous

22."I am very fair-skinned and have been told I have a 'peaches and cream' complexion. I do not wear makeup, I have a nice haircut, and always dress well. Despite this, my boss once told me I should 'wear a little makeup, it will make you feel good.' Huh?"

—Anonymous

23."I have experienced both sides. Either I am trying too much, or I'm not serious about my work. I worked in a corporate office and became stressed, gained weight, and was having some health issues. Once I gained weight and wore less makeup, there was a huge difference in how I got treated by upper management, specifically male coworkers. My all-female team didn't care about appearances as much as the males did in the office."

—Anonymous

And finally...

24."I get more respect or positive feedback on a presentation when I wear the corporate mask. I don't wear makeup daily. I can do the full mask, including false eyelashes, but I hate the feel of it on my skin. Post-presentation surveys are higher with the mask."

—Anonymous

If you've ever personally experienced something like this, we'd love to hear from you. Please share your story in the comments below.

Responses have been edited for length/clarity.