For this week's Urban cover story on how to apply make-up in the age of online dating and the all-important profile picture, we decided to road-test the looks by signing up for Tinder.
The popular dating and hook-up app matches users if they are both in a certain vicinity, age range and if both "like" each other by swiping right.
They can then start chatting via the app if matched as compatible.
I had never tried Tinder before, although I had heard quite a bit about it.
What I learnt is that everything becomes extremely instinctual - you take about a second, or even less, to swipe left or right.
No overanalysing or finding out if that person has a nice personality.
You make a decision to swipe right based simply on a picture and maybe a short self-description.
This means the profile picture is hugely important in making a good first impression.
You literally have only a split second to look appealing and make the connection you are presumably searching for.
I spent two weekday evenings - an hour each - on Tinder, scrolling and swiping left (aka no thank you) to screen out hundreds of proposed candidates.
Here are some common categories the photos could be classified into, and reasons why I immediately turned them down.
First, some pictures are confusing in that they have more than one person in them. Why anyone would want his potential date to guess who he is from a group photo seems shady to me.
Other photos are no clearer because faces are obscured.
Someone was even wearing a T-shirt that said "I love my wife".
What kind of message is he trying to send across?
Unflattering photos also do not help.
Some guys present extreme close-ups - which I think is a challenging look for anyone who is not a professional model - or blurry or fuzzy photos.
Cluttered backgrounds do not help either.
Some photos can come across as pompous too.
Bare chests, obvious selfie shots with the phone in full view, gym photos and exaggerated posing (again, not recommended for amateurs) all seem a bit arrogant, or shallow in their approach.
I posted a pre-makeover picture taken by my colleague Gladys for the first Tinder trial.
No make-up and regular work clothes made it a fairly normal, if boring, picture.
Out of the 40 swipes right I made, I got matched with only one person.
Post-makeover, however, things changed.
I used two improved images that included professional make-up, hair and better lighting. And wow, did those images make a big difference.
Even though I swiped right on fewer people this time - 27 within the hour - I got matched with six guys within the hour, and two more after I ended my session.
Roughly speaking, my success rate was almost 10 times that without the makeover.
Originally, I wondered if too much make-up was akin to false advertising.
But, in the end, I realise it gives you a fighting chance in this split-second beauty showdown.
I even started chatting with one person and had a nice, normal conversation.
We have a tentative coffee date next month.
This article was first published on February 6, 2015.
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