Make-up increases facial attractiveness. This may impress potential mates, but can also cause potential rivals to underestimate their own competitive potential. Such self-promotional behaviours may function even in the absence of potential mates, becoming signals of intrasexual competitive intent. Here we present data from two studies investigating the effects of digitally applied make-up on perceptions of intrasexual competitive intent, and on female perceivers' self-rated facial and body attractiveness, and self-esteem. In study 1, stimulus attractiveness moderated the impact of make-up: highly attractive women were perceived as more interpersonally aggressive when made-up, while less attractive women were perceived as having more leadership potential when made-up. In study 2, high mate-value participants who viewed made-up (compared to non-made-up) attractive faces subsequently reported lower own facial attractiveness. Low mate value participants and participants who viewed less attractive faces did not adjust their own facial attractiveness in response to make-up; and make-up did not impact ratings of body image or self-esteem. We suggest that self-promotional acts, such as wearing make-up, can signal competitive intent to rivals, independently of direct impacts on the wearers' own attractiveness. Make-up may function in this way primarily between high mate-value women, serving other social functions on less attractive women.