Dalhousie Journal of Legal Studies


Irena Djukic


Wearing makeup is a common grooming practice both in one’s personal and professional life. Yet, in the workplace, gender-specific grooming policies that enforce women to wear makeup present difficult questions as to what employees may expect from their employer and generally, their work environment. Imposing makeup as a grooming standard and requirement for women has various implications for both employees and employers in the workplace. This article aims to explore whether an employer can require their female employees to wear makeup at work. Several themes are discussed to analyze how makeup is a grooming standard and requirement in the workplace. First, a brief history of makeup demonstrates the long-standing gendered implications of cosmetics. Following this, formal, informal, and voluntary makeup practices are discussed to explain how makeup qualifies as a workplace grooming standard. Specific examples are examined to uncover how employers have implemented grooming policies mandating the use of makeup, followed by an analysis as to how makeup can be an act of resistance. Lastly, legal avenues for employees subject to gender-specific makeup grooming standards and requirements are considered. Through a dialogue format, this article argues that grooming policies requiring women to wear makeup in the workplace is a form of aesthetic labour which perpetuates gender normative behaviour, thereby finding such policies should qualify as a human rights discrimination claim based on the protected grounds of gender identity and expression.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.