The Beauty Experiment

About the Survey

When I began writing my memoir and exploring the connections between inner and outer beauty I often wondered: “am I alone in feeling and thinking as I do? ”  My 44-question survey was designed to help me find out.  I posted it online from June 30, 2010 to to January 4, 2011, along with a shorter survey for men. 470 women and 112 men responded anonymously. Many of my questions and answers are featured throughout the book.

For those interested in methodology, The Beauty Experiment Survey and the Men’s Survey were hosted by a secure third party site– SurveyGizmo. This service prevents tampering by outside parties, prevents tinkering by inside parties once data collection begins, and provides all graphical analysis. My  survey was designed to gauge a cultural temperature, provoke thoughts, and generate discussion. It does not meet the stringent demographic or sample size requirements of anthropologic or sociologic assays and should therefore be considered a set of starting points, not a set of proofs.

Below are all the questions and results from the Women’s survey with the results from the Men’s survey worked in alongside to provide a male counterpoint. In the book decimals have been rounded to the nearest whole number.

 (Note: All survey data is copyrighted property and may only be excerpted with adequate citation.)


1.  Have you ever been bothered by how much or how often you criticize your appearance?

Sometimes       60.6%

Often               28.9%

Never              8.1%

Other               2.3%

2. How would you rate yourself as a “beauty role model”  for a young girl?

Excellent          15.6%

Pretty good     46.4%

In the middle   24.6%

Pretty bad       8.5%

Terrible           2.6%

Other               2.4%


3. Please select how important hair removal is to you on each body part.

Very important Important Less important Don’t remove
Face 38.1% 26.8% 12.4% 22.7%
Arms 4.7% 3.6% 10.7% 80.9%
Armpits 48.9% 33.3% 12.2% 5.6%
Lower legs 37.5% 44.6% 13.4% 4.5%
Upper legs 13.9% 20.1% 34.6% 31.4%
Bikini area 20.9% 37.1% 26.9% 15.1%
Full pubic area 6.6% 10.7% 21% 61.7%

4. (Women)If you have sexual relations with men, do you think your desirability would be jeopardized by having more body hair than your partner?

Yes, quite a bit                        37.3%

Yes, a little                              20.3%

Not really                                27.1%

No, not at all                           6.8%

Skip question                          6.2%

Other                                       2.3%

(Men) Is a woman’s sexual desirability jeopardized when she has more body hair than you do?

Yes, quite a bit                        52.3%

Yes, a little                              18.9%

Not really                                15.3%

No, not at all                           5.4%

Other                                       7.2%

5. How much would I have to pay you to shave your head tomorrow?

Zero                                                       6.4%

Under $500                                           6%

$500-$1000                                         6.4%

$1,000-$5,000                                     10.9%

$5,000-10,000                                     17.3%

10,000 and above                                31.8%

I wouldn’t do it for any amount         21.3%

6. Do you currently do anything to alter your appearance—no matter how small– that causes pain or you worry is physically harmful?

Yes      37.7%

No       62.3%

7. How often do you wear makeup now?

Never              6.8 %

Occasionally   36.6%

Regularly         34.7%

Everyday        18.9 %

Other                    3%

8. Please complete the following sentence. My Most essential cosmetic makes me look…

  Healthier or conceals a problem          24.7%

More alert or intelligent                              3.5%

Less tired                                                       20.3%

More professional and competent           11.2%

More sexually attractive                              4.2%

Younger                                                            8 %

Prettier or more feminine                           31.2%

9. Can you name more than one ingredient on your most essential cosmetic?

Yes                                                                    20.7 %

No                                                                     36.1 %

I can’t even name one                                 43.1%

10. Which cosmetic would you be happiest to throw in the trash and never have to wear again?

Foundation                  25.4%

Lipstick or liner          12.1%

Concealer                    11.4%

Mascara                      10.3 %

Blush                             8.2%

Eyeshadow or liner     5.1%

Other                           9.8%

None                           17.7%

11. During which of the following activities do you think about how you look to others?


 High percentages                 

public leisure                64.8%

grooming                      64.2%

job/school                    47.1%

middle percentages

errands                        39.4%

sex                               38.6%

eating                           20.9%

commute                     20.3%

low percentages

private leisure             17.9%

none of the above        3.4%


High percentages

grooming                     64.9%

public leisure time       55%

middle percentages

job/school                    41.4%

errands                          27.9%

sex                                   25.2%

commute                         21.6%

low percentages

private leisure                18%

eating                           12.6%

none of the above        10.8

12. Do you ever feel a mismatch between how you look and who you are?


Yes                       20%

Sometimes        36.5%

I used to               5.1%

No                       38.4%


Yes                        9.9%

Sometimes         39.6%

I used to               3.6%

No                        46.8%

13. In what state do you think your current or most recent relationship partner finds you sexiest? (Women’s survey)

Home/casual look        38%

Totally au natural       23.2%

Dressed for work        19.4%

Decked out                  19.4%

In what state do you find your current

or most recent relationship partner

sexiest? (Men’s survey)

Home/casual look        39.8%

Dressed for work           22.5%

Decked out                  19.8%

Totally au natural       18%

14. Imagine you are standing at a social function, chatting with a friend near the door. Please rank the following people according to how much they distract you from your conversation.


1. Handsome male stranger

2. Handsome familiar male

3. Beautiful female stranger

4. Beautiful familiar female


1. Beautiful familiar female

2. Beautiful female stranger

3. Handsome familiar male

4. Handsome male stranger

15 Did you feel beautiful as a teenager?

Sometimes       53.1%

Never                25.6%

Usually                19%

Always               2.3%

16. What, if anything, has ever caused your definition of “sexually attractive” to change, shift or expand?


Age                     52.6%

Relationship    43.1%

Person                39.9%

My looks            19.5%

Other               15%

No change       7.5%


Age                       46.4%

Person                 39.1%

Relationship      30%

My looks             7.3%

Other               10%

No change       14.5%

17. Politicians, TV personalities, high–level executives and other prominent individuals–men and women alike–spend considerable money on their clothes. However, the women often invest additional time and money on makeup, elaborate hairstyles and jewelry, and often wear high heels. How comfortable do you feel about this difference in standards of grooming for men and women in the public sphere?

Very uncomfortable                 33%

A little uncomfortable             25.7%

Conflicted                                   14.7%

Mostly comfortable                   11.1%

Very comfortable                        9.8%

Other                                              5.7%

18. Do you feel that women’s sexuality is an integral part of their power in the workplace or political arena?


Always             6.6%

Usually           20.4%

Sometimes      43.6%

Not usually     16.6%

Never                 5.5%

Other               7.2%


Always             4.2%

Usually           28.2%

Sometimes      45.1%

Not Usually    14.1%

Never                 2.8%

Other               5.6%

19. Have you ever felt bested by another woman because she had a better “beauty package” than you–good looks, beautiful clothes, perfect home, alluring demeanor–even when you were not competing for a sexual partner?

Yes      71.9%

No       26%

Other   6%

20. Has beauty ever changed your life?

(These were text responses)

21. Which of the following do you rely on most often to bring more beauty into your life?Please choose a maximum of three.

Loved ones or humanity in general      71.6%

The natural  physical world                    65.2%

The arts                                                        44.1%

Home and things I own                          37.5%

The universal or divine                            18.1%

Work and the problems I solve              17.9%

Other                                                              4.7%

22. How would you rate your sensitivity to the sensory beauties: how things look, sound, feel, taste or smell?


Very high        26%

High                43.5%

Average           25.6%

Low                 2.3%

Other               2.5%


Very high        26.1%

High                36%

Average           32.4%

Low                 2.7%

Other               2.4%

23. It might be said that a woman’s face, figure and wardrobe are her most important art project. How do you feel about this statement?

 I agree                             3.6%

I agree somewhat        44.3%

I don’t agree                  44.8%

Other                                7.2%

24. Did you play dress up as a child?

  Yes                   79.9%

No                      20.1%

 25.How many items of clothing (including shoes, hats, and underwear) do you acquire in a year? “New” means new to you, so vintage, thrift, clothes-swap, self-made and hand-me-down items DO count.

  0-3                   2.1%

3-10                 16.7%

10-20               37.4%

20-50               32.9%

50-100             8.8%

100-200           1.5%

over 200          .6%

 26. Of all the clothes you own, which is your favorite garment and why?

(These were text responses)

27. How old are you?

Under 19         4.7%

20-29               29%

30-39               39.4%

40-49               12.6%

50-59               6.2%

60-69               7.5%

28. Which of the following are pressing concerns of yours right now?


General physical or mental health          71.9%

Money                                                            66.1%

Job or School                                              59.5%

Maintenance of household                     39.9%

Caretaking of dependents                       35.2%

Community participation                        22.8%

Women’s health issues                            17.7%

Other illness or condition                       9.2%


Money                                                            61%

Job or School                                            59.5%

General physical or mental health      57.7%

Caretaking of dependents                        36%

Maintenance of household                  30.6%

Community participation                     18.9%

Men’s health issues                               10.8%

Other illness or condition                   8.1%

29.Which of the following periods in your life caused the greatest or most difficult shift in your identity, including how you thought about your appearance?

 Transition into adulthood                   27.7%

Becoming a parent                                   20%

Other                                                         13.2%

A personal or spiritual crisis              12.6%

I haven’t felt a shift like this               10.7%

Entering the workforce                           7.7%

Getting married                                        3.8%

Having a parent die                                    3%

Leaving the workforce                             1.3%

30. Do you think you spend more money on your appearance (buying clothes, shoes or makeup, getting salon or cosmetic treatments)  when you feel anxious, sad or frustrated in other realms of your life?

No       53.7%

Yes      46.3%

31. Do you think you do more beauty “work” (exercising, dieting, plucking your chin, hemming all your pants, shopping for something hard to find online, organizing your closets) when you feel anxious, sad, or frustrated in other realms of your life?      

 No       60.4%

Yes      39.6%

32. How often do you feel suckered or pushed into buying something you later don’t like or need?

 Often                               3.2%

Occasionally               29.2%

Rarely                             53.4%

Never                               13.6%

33. Which activities do you do most often with other women friends? Mark up to three.

 Share meals or drinks                                         82.7%

Catch up on the phone, email or text              73.8%

Go out                                                                          33%

Go shopping or get pampered                               25.6%

Play sport or other physical activity                    18.8%

Club or organization membership                      14.3%

Creative projects                                                      10.2%

Domestic work or childcare                                   9.6%

Other                                                                            4.6%

34. Have you ever felt that your real life doesn’t match up with your own internal picture of success?

Always                                                                 6%

Often                                                               24.3%

Sometimes                                                      42.2%

Never                                                                20.9%

I used to feel this way but got over it          6.6%

 35. Do you believe in “happily ever after”?

Yes                                                                    58.4%

No                                                                     41.6%

36. Have you ever been in a monogomous, unmarried relationship where you sometimes felt you were waiting around for your partner to “be ready”, “figure him/herself out” or “clean up his/her act” so you could start a life together?

Yes                  40.9%

No                   55.9%

Other               3.2%

 37. How do you feel about princess, Barbie, Bratz and other girly-girl products? (Other examples might be kiddie spa parties, make-your-own makeup kits and princess makeovers for preschoolers at Disneyworld.)

I don’t like these products      35.6%

I have my reservations            39%

It’s probably harmless          17.1%

Other opinion                         4.3%

I love this stuff                       4.1%

Please rate your financial independence.


Completely dependent           8.5%

Mostly dependent                  14.9%

Half and half                           18.9%

Mostly independent               29.1%

Completely independent        28.5%


Completely dependent           1.8%

Mostly dependent                  7.2%

Half and half                           10.8%

Mostly independent               31.5%

Completely independent        48.6%

38.What is your household’s income range? Dependents, please use the income of whoever pays your bills, whether or not you live with them.


 Under 50,000                              24.3%

$50,000-100,000                       29.8%

$100,000-250,000                    28.1%

$250,000-$500,000                   7.4%

$500,000 and above                   1.9%

I’d prefer not to answer              8.5%


Under 50,000                             19.8%

$50,000-100,000                     32.4%

$100,000-250,000                   33.3%

$250,000-$500,000                  6.3%

$500,000 and above                   2.7%

I’d prefer not to answer               5.4%

9. How often do you feel guilty about something you’ve bought, either because it’s frivolous, too expensive, not quite in line with your values (or your partner’s values) or not worth what you paid?

Often                               7.2%

Occasionally               39.8%

Rarely                           48.4%

Never                           4.5%

40. Overall, which best characterizes how you feel?

I don’t feel materially wealthy, but I do feel rich in other ways.                    53%

I feel materially wealthy and rich in other ways, too.                                    37.9%

I feel materially wealthy but not rich in other ways.                                        4.5%

I don’t feel materially wealthy, nor do I feel rich in other ways                   4.7%

41. Do you, personally, give money regularly to a cause, institution, political group or other organization that promotes your values and beliefs?


Yes      66.6%

No       33.4%


Yes      60%

No       41%

42. Of the following issues, which do you feel you have some personal experience with—experience that might cause you to reach out and help others facing similar challenges?

Getting educated or providing schools                                   58.7%

Women’s health                                                                              54%

Academic, intellectual, political, religious freedoms           38.7%

Discrimination, any kind                                                            29.4%

Domestic or sexual violence                                                        18.7%

Workplace fairness and safety                                                  16.8%

Ensuring safe and adequate food and water                           12.1%

Finding housing                                                                             11.3%

None                                                                                                   8.1%

Investing capital in a business, farm, or service                      7 %

Other                                                                                                    6.8%