It has become one of the most common – and divisive – sights of the morning commute to work; the woman rapt in concentration as she carefully applies her make-up, from foundation to the finishing touches of mascara.
But as some of her fellow passengers seethe in quiet irritation, wondering why she didn’t do all this at home, they might want to take comfort from the fact many commuters find this sort of behaviour equally off-putting.
And it appears that women are even more likely to disapprove of others applying make-up on trains and buses that men.
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New research by Ipsos MORI has found that 42 per cent of women believe it to be socially unacceptable.
And while a third of men had no strong feelings either way, 41 per cent of them disapproved of the practice, with just 22 per cent saying they had no problem with it.
As is so often the case with modern manners – whether it eating on a train or making a phone call in a crowded carriage – it seems it is a case of less is more.
Our advice is that a quick touch-up of mascara or lipstick is acceptable, but best to refrain from more extensive grooming in public, explained Lucy Hume, editorial manager at Debrett’s, the traditional arbiter of etiquette.
Wielding devices such as eyelash curlers on packed- and often juddery – trains is a different matter altogether, said Ms Hume, adding: That is probably down to personal judgment but the health and safety factor, apart from anything else, would be a concern.
Pippa Bailey, senior director of Ipsos Marketing, which commissioned the research as part of a study of attitudes to grooming and cosmetics in the UK, said: It’s fascinating to see how divided we are on the issue of applying make-up in public.
To think that around four in 10 of your fellow public transport passengers are offended by this, with men and women virtually aligned, with 41 per cent of men and 42 cent women finding it unacceptable.
“At a time when manufacturers are innovating to create ever more compact and convenient make-up for use on the go, it appears the attitudes of many Brits still lag behind with the feeling that the application of beauty products is best kept behind closed doors.
The poll also found a gender divide in attitudes to that other contentious aspect of person grooming – beards.
And on this subject women are more forgiving than men.
Overall 65 per cent of women said employers had no right to ban beards as part of uniform codes, compared with only 58 per cent of men.
But on one thing there is almost unanimous agreement. Overall 90 per cent of women and almost 80 per cent of men agreed that women are still under greater pressure than men to look well groomed .
It’s still widely accepted that women are held to higher standards than men and are spending more of their time on personal grooming, said Ms Bailey.
But she added that future attitudes to make-up and grooming may start to cross the gender divide, as male-make up becomes more common.
As traditional gender roles start to become less relevant in modern society, it’s interesting to take a look at how this is affecting our attitudes to personal grooming.
There are signs that younger generations have less rigidly gendered views. Looking to the future, the fact many people say men wearing make-up will be unremarkable could be a sign the gender divide for personal care will start to blur, said Ms Bailey.
Which suggests that commuters will have to grow used to the sight of both men and women applying the war-paint on the 7.39.
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