I’ve always been fascinated by “Before and After” photos that utilize expression to accentuate the results. The dour or even neutral face prior to makeup application followed by the jubilant and smiling face post-makeup seems to help reinforce the positive benefits of the “after” state. We assume that this helps the consumer make the decision to purchase, but the power of a smile is so much more than a simple sales tool.
Smiling Makes You Look Younger
A team of German researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin concluded that smiling trims a few years off of the average person’s age as perceived by others (Riediger, Voelkle, Ebner, & Lindenberger, 2011). In a review of more than 1,000 facial photographs, 154 study participants consistently estimated the age of the person in the photograph as younger if they were smiling while neutral facial expressions generated the most accurate age-guesses and listen up, ladies: smiling women looked up to 3 years younger than smiling men of the same age!
Smiling actually imparts a host of benefits beyond shaving a few years off what others perceive as your age. Barger and Grandey (2006) discovered that people who smile are regarded as not only more pleasant, but more competent and that this assessment is proportional to the intensity of the smile, while another study identified a 35% decrease in the risk of premature death for what they identify as “cheerful living” (Banks, Nazroo, and Steptoe, 2011) which we can assume includes a lot of smiling.
Smiling Makes You Happier
In his TED Talk entitled “The Hidden Power of Smiling,” Ron Gutman (2011) shares several research studies on smiling that will change your attitude on the most important aspect of your make-up routine. He references a study by Darwin (yes, Charles) known as the “facial feedback response theory” which suggests that smiling actually makes us feel better, which is somewhat opposite of the common assumption that we will smile once we feel good.
Gutman (2011) also mentions a British study that has shown, using scientific evidence like functional MRI (fMRI), that smiling stimulates our brains in the same way that finding $25,000 cash would stimulate our brains! Want to feel like a million bucks every day? Find 40 reasons to smile.
Smiling is Practical!
But seriously, let’s step back from the ivory tower and think practically for a minute. You’re prepping for that all-important job interview. You have the perfect suit, perfect hair and are carefully selecting makeup that looks professional. As you prepare to head into the interview, don’t forget your smile and use it on the receptionist as well as the hiring manager (you’d be surprised how often a manager will ask someone at the front desk what they thought of the candidates – your winning smile just might be the tie-breaker between you and your closest competitor for the job). Getting ready to head to a mixer where you’re hoping to meet Mr. (or Ms.) Right!? Go easy on the perfume or cologne, but go BIG with your Hollywood smile. Remember – we feel better WHEN we smile, so boost your confidence and your general sense of well-being by putting on that smile!
Research studies aside, think about a time when you were happily surprised with a compliment, or an award, or a small gift. How big did you smile, and what did that smile mean? Smiling is our way of communicating how we feel about ourselves to the world.
It is my belief that the spontaneous and impossible-to-suppress smiles that accompany unexpected (positive) events are proof that at that moment, we are very happy with ourselves; I daresay, we love who we are and our smiles radiate this message to the world.
Whether you’re hoping to land that perfect job, meet the right mate, or just make a good impression, I can’t think of a better vibe to put out there than “I’m happy with who I am!”, which in partnership with your favorite foundation, eye color, mascara and lipstick make for a winning combination every time!
After all, with a nod (and a smile) to jazz-great, Louis Armstrong, “When you’re smiling – the whole world smiles with you!” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOH_mioL3TU)
I’d love to hear from you about a time that your smile (or someone else’s) made the difference in your day!
Banks, J., Nazroo, J. and Steptoe, A. (Eds.). (2011). The dynamics of ageing: Evidence from the English
longitudinal study of ageing, 2002 – 2010. The Institute for Fiscal Studies: London. Retrieved from http://www.ifs.org.uk/elsa/report12/elsaW5-1.pdf.
Barger, P. B., & Grandey, A. A. (2006). Service with a smile and encounter satisfaction: Emotional
contagion and appraisal mechanisms. The Academy of Management Journal, 49(6), 1229-1238.
Gutman, R. (2011). The Hidden Power of Smiling. TED: Ideas Worth Sharing. Retrieved from
Kraft, T. L., & Pressman, S. D. (2012). Grin and bear it: The influence of manipulated facial expression on
the stress response. Association for Psychological Science, 23(11), 1372–. doi: 10.1177/0956797612445312
Riediger, M., Voelkle, M.C., Ebner, N.C., & Lindenberger, U. (2011). Beyond ‘happy, angry, or sad?’: Age-
of-poser and age-of-rater effects on multi-dimensional emotion perception. Cognition & Emotion, 25:6, 968-982.