The cost of looking natural: Why the no-makeup movement may fail to discourage cosmetic use

Rosanna K. Smith, Elham Yazdani, Pengyuan Wang, Saber Soleymani, Lan Anh N. Ton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Consumers seek naturalness across many domains, including physical appearance. It seems that the desire for natural beauty would discourage artificial appearance-enhancement consumption, such as cosmetic use. However, across an analysis of the “no-makeup movement” on Twitter and Nielsen cosmetic sales (Study 1a), an image analysis of #nomakeup selfies using machine learning approaches (Study 1b), and three experiments (Studies 2–4), we find that calls to look natural can be associated with increased artificial beauty practices. Drawing from attribution theory, we theorize that calls to look natural maintain the value of attractiveness while adding the consumer concern that others will discount their attractiveness if overt effort is present. Thus, rather than investing less effort, consumers may engage in a self-presentational strategy wherein they construct an appearance of naturalness to signal low effort to others, thereby augmenting their attractiveness. This work contributes to attribution and self-presentation theory and offers practical implications for naturalness consumption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)324-337
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Academy of Marketing Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Attribution
  • Beauty
  • Effort
  • Image analysis
  • Multimethod
  • Naturalness
  • Social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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