Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Elliot Jurist

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Latin American Languages and Societies | Latin American Studies | Social Psychology


Acculturation; Beauty; Cosmetics; Latina; Sex Roles; Skin Color


This study sought to explore if and how Latinas use of beauty products (cosmetics) was influenced by their degree of acculturation to U.S. American culture, their phenotype (skin color and facial features) and sex role orientation. While beauty practices are often regarded as trivial, they are important because they reflect women's internalization of societal values and speak to the importance placed on impression management. Although it can be easily observed that people go to great lengths to decorate their exteriors in order to manage others perceptions of them, very few studies look at variables that influence these behaviors. Also, while there is extensive research on women's bodies and their attempts to control it as evidence of the internalization of societal values, there is little information available about women's manipulation of their facial attractiveness. It was speculated that one of the main reasons women engage in such practices is to gain social capital within a society that highly prizes feminine beauty. This study focused on Latinas as a result of the disproportionate emphasis on White women's cosmetics use in the existing literature, as well as this groups' unique social location in this country. Latinas are diverse and must regularly negotiate a double minority status as women of color, while also straddling a line between internalizing a new culture and retaining their culture of origin. Based on previous research among Latinas, it was expected that high U.S. American acculturation, medium skin color and high femininity scores would be related to beauty product use among this sample.

Three original measures, the Beauty Practices Questionnaire (BPQ), the Skin Color Measure, and a Facial Ranking Task, were created specifically for this study and were piloted with a 50-subject sample. The BPQ was found to be reliable, but the Facial Ranking Task and Skin Color measure were not. As a result, measures were edited using participant feedback and a minimally altered version of the BPQ as well as a new measure that combined skin color and facial beauty preferences, the Skin Color and Facial Feature Preferences Measure, were included in the main study. The main study obtained data from 202 adult Latinas currently residing in the United States. Participants completed study measures online, which included the revised original measures and a demographics questionnaire, as well as the Abbreviated Multidimensional Acculturation Scale (AMAS), the Bem Sex Role Inventory -- Short Form (BSRI-SF), and the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI), all of which have been previously validated.

Results: Descriptive statistics, including tests of skewness and kurtosis, indicated that the main study data was normally distributed. Linear regressions were used to test the relationship between participant's acculturation and enculturation and actual beauty product use as well as motivation to use beauty products. Contrary to what was expected, U.S. American acculturation scores were unrelated to beauty product use and to beauty product use motivation. However, native enculturation was significantly positively related with actual beauty product use. One-way ANOVAs were conducted in order to determine whether differences in actual cosmetics use and motivation to use beauty products were related to participant's self-rated skin color. Contrary to what was expected, no significant differences in beauty product use or beauty product use motivation scores were observed between differently skin-colored participant groups. A linear regression was used to test the relationship between acculturation and enculturation and skin color dissatisfaction. Since preliminary analyses found that married status covaried with skin color dissatisfaction, with married women expressing a greater degree of skin color dissatisfaction when compared to single women, married status was controlled for. Results did not support the hypothesis with U.S. American acculturation being unrelated to skin color dissatisfaction. A correlational analysis also failed to support the hypothesis that overall facial feature dissatisfaction scores would be related to U.S. American acculturation. Finally, correlational analyses were conducted in order to test the relationships between femininity and masculinity and beauty product use and motivation to use beauty products. The data did not support the hypothesis and, in fact, opposite relationships than those expected were found; while femininity was unrelated to beauty product use and motivation to use, masculinity was significantly positively correlated with actual beauty product use. Various explanations for non-significant finding are discussed and the relationships between beauty product use and native enculturation and masculinity are also expanded upon.