We often spend a lot of time going out of our way to make ourselves more attractive. Some of us do that by hitting the gym, sometimes to the point where we could call working out our actual hobby. Others do it with makeup, learning techniques to hide blemishes and even completely change our facial features. Still, others do it by wearing clothes that highlight features of their bodies that they like while downplaying the ones that they don’t. Believe it or not, while all of that stuff helps, the things that really make us attractive have almost nothing to do with our physical appearance. Rather, it’s what we do that matters. This isn’t just some platitude I made up, either, this has been proven by science time and time again.
If you follow scientific studies, you’ll know that there are studies coming out every day. What’s more, the science of attractiveness has been studied for a really long time now. We’ve narrowed down some of the biggest findings from those studies to come up with a definitive list of what makes you attractive and what doesn’t. While some of the things that make us attractive come down to genetics and things we can’t really control, the majority of these things fall entirely in our hands. We’re also going to get into a few “rules” of attractiveness that are inherently problematic but that we feed into anyway. Without any further ado, here are fifteen things you need to keep in mind on your journey to attractiveness, according to science..
16. Having Really Hot Friends
This is a really ugly truth, but if your friends are either noticeably more or less attractive than you, your own attractiveness can seem skewed in comparison. If, say, you’re the only conventionally attractive person among your friends, outsiders will see you as much more attractive than you really are. However, this bizarre effect only works if there’s only one super attractive person in the group. If there’s more than one, outsiders are more likely to be critical of the appearances of the group as a whole, which will make you seem much less attractive than you really are. Some people actually choose friends because of this reason. Unfortunately for them, doing this intentionally is indicative of a less than stellar personality, which we know works against even the most attractive person in the world. Dr Nicholas Furl, a psychologist at the Royal Holloway University of London who led the new study, said: “Rightly or wrongly, the way people look has a profound impact on the way others perceive them. We live in a society obsessed with beauty and attractiveness, but how we measure and understand these concepts is still a gray area.”
15. Bad Body Language
You can be the most attractive person in the world and ruin it all if you have body language that puts people off. People who are seen as more attractive often have body language that welcomes people in rather than pushes people away. If you’re looking to seem more open, make sure you’re not crossing your arms too much or shifting your eyes more than normal. Also, know that your smile is one of the most important parts of body language. Smiles, unlike some other expressions, are universal. Try smiling at strangers while you’re out and about, and you’ll find that people can’t help but smile back. If you ever need to win someone over, whether in an interview, on a date, or anywhere else, make sure to smile genuinely, and that can go a long way towards making you seem more credible and open. If you need to seem more powerful, try the “power pose,” which is all about expanding your body.
14. No Sense Of Humor
When you think of what makes a person attractive, the first thing you think of might not be a physical trait you consider attractive. The thing that most people find most attractive in another person is often not a physical trait, it’s their sense of humor. Laughing is fun, and we want to be around people who make us laugh. Studies show that we don’t laugh the most at jokes, we laugh most when we’re talking to our friends and people we like. We’re actually 30 times more likely to laugh at something when we’re with people we laugh, and even then, we’re laughing at statements, not actual jokes. Laughter is just another form of communication, and we often gravitate to people who allow us to be comfortable enough to laugh with them or even at them. People who are seen as too serious are often seen as unattractive or even ugly.
13. Displaying Pride (If You’re A Woman)
It’s really sexist and as a woman, I’m annoyed by this, but women with a lot of pride are often seen as less attractive. Studies have been conducted showing that men are more likely to see women as less attractive if they’re displaying overt pride for whatever reason. Men are a lot more likely to see a woman as attractive if they’re smiling. For women, it’s the opposite: men are seen as more attractive if they’re seen as more prideful rather than happy. Weirdly enough, people who were displaying shame were seen as attractive to both genders, especially with younger adult women. This is actually consistent with evolutionary norms.
12. Too Much Stress
We all live super stressful lives, but sadly, our fast-paced lives are making us ugly. Stress makes us break out and give us wrinkles and eye bags and is just generally terrible for us. This is because the human brain affects all of our organs, which is why we often get sick if we think we’re sick even if we’re not. The skin is no exception: as the biggest and only real visible organ in our bodies, it’ll be the first thing to change under the stress of, well, stress, that we notice. Stress makes our brain send out stress signals, which send our body into overdrive with hormones like cortisol. Cortisol increases oil production in your skin, making you break out. Stress also makes your heart race and messes with your appetite, both of which can have very long term effects on your health. Stress can even make your hair fall out, whether you’re literally pulling it out or if it’s just falling out on its own. Needless to say, stress has a profound effect on our attractiveness.
11. Smelling Too Similar To Another Person
Smell is one of the strongest of our five senses, so it makes sense that we often find our partners by following our noses. We don’t know we’re doing it, but our nose often leads us to people who smell good to us. This is why you might find yourself wrapped up in a partner’s blanket or sweater for no other reason because it smells like them. One famous study had men wear shirts for two days in a row, then asked women to pick out the shirts that smelled most attractive to them. Consistently, the women picked shirts that belonged to men that had different MHC (major histocompatibility complex) compositions from them. An MHC that’s too similar, according to another study, makes it much harder to maintain sexual attraction. We don’t know why this is a thing, but scientists are pretty sure this aversion to people who smell too similar to them is an innate fail-safe to make sure no in-breeding goes on.
10. Lack Of Sleep
One thing that can make you physically uglier is a lack of sleep. This isn’t a perception thing, either, this can be seen with the eyes. One study showed that people are seen as uglier after they lost just a few hours of sleep. Lack of rest makes your face paler, your eyes bloodshot, your eyelids droopy, and your skin more wrinkly. To make matters worse, losing sleep can mess with your mental faculties and make it harder to think and interact with others. Dr. Sundelin of the Karolinska Institute, who conducted the study, added: “These findings suggest that sleep loss can be detected in a face and that people are less inclined to interact with a sleep-deprived individual.” This just goes to show that beauty sleep is real and everyone should partake in it.
9. Being Mean
Ever wonder why the villains of movies are often uglier than the heroes? There’s a whole trope in fiction about how evil makes you ugly, and it seems that science backs this up. There’s a whole conversation about how certain features are coded as ugly, but apart from that, being a nasty person makes you seem uglier to those around you. There’s been extensive research that certain aspects of your personality can make you seem more or less attractive to those around you. Basically, if you want to be seen as a more physically attractive person, you need to go out of your way to be a nice person. This is partially why some people can “grow on you.” An average looking person can seem more attractive than a conventionally attractive person because they’re nicer, and the nicer they are, the more attractive they seem to others.
8. Smelling Generally Bad
While it’s important that your partner doesn’t smell too similar to you, what’s even more important is making sure you don’t smell bad. Everyone has a natural chemical odor, and unfortunately, not everyone’s natural smell smells good. While a lot of this comes down to personal preferences, some body smells naturally smell better than others. If you feel that you’re losing dates because of how you smell even though you have great hygiene, there are things you can do to remedy that. While your natural odor will still be your natural odor, you can change it by doing some simple things. For one, you might want to switch to products that are more natural and gentle in nature so you can minimize sweat without totally stripping your skin of its natural oils. You can also change your diet, which has a huge effect on how you smell. Avoid really pungent food like garlic, or food that’s really hard for your body to digest.
7. Being Lazy
Believe it or not, being lazy can also make you seem ugly to other people. One recent study decided to build on the knowledge that personality traits can inform someone’s attractiveness by monitoring what people thought of others after a few weeks rather than just for one encounter. They included anecdotes about some of the subjects that made them appear lazy. For example, one average looking woman was made to seem lazy, and after the subjects learned that her perceived attractiveness went down a whole rank. On the other hand, a more homely subject was portrayed to be kind and hardworking and over the course of the experiment, their attractiveness rating went up a whole four ranks. This just goes to show that beauty is far more than skin deep.
6. Being Dishonest
People really don’t like liars, and the more you do it, the uglier you seem to those around you. Trust goes a long way towards making you seem like a stand-up person, and when trust is broken, it’s hard to rebuild it. One way to show that you’re trustworthy is by maintaining a healthy level of eye contact. Too much makes you seem creepy, but too little makes you seem shifty. While it’s hard for many people to maintain eye contact regardless of whether they’re being honest or not, it’s something to keep in mind either way. If you have a hard time maintaining a natural level of eye contact, try not to worry about this and focusing on keeping your body language open. This means not covering your mouth when you speak (a telltale sign of dishonesty), not crossing your arms, and keeping your hands apart, but visible.
5. Lack Of Facial Symmetry
One thing that affects attractiveness is, unfortunately, something we can’t prevent: facial symmetry. It’s long been proven that people who have very symmetrical faces are seen as more attractive, regardless of what they actually look like. One study tried to see if facial asymmetry was indicative of a bad childhood or some other form of early stress, and what they found was pretty interesting. Experts analyzed fifteen facial features for symmetry and found that people with more asymmetrical faces are more likely to have experienced deprived childhoods. That being said, experts also found that people with really symmetrical faces are more likely to be seen as selfish, which affects your attractiveness negatively, so take this one with a grain of salt. There is also a legion of people, famous or not, who have asymmetrical faces and are attractive partly because of that. Good examples of extremely attractive people with more asymmetrical faces are Keira Knightley and Natalie Dormer, who have a more asymmetrical smile and is famous for it.
4. “The Golden Rectangle”
The Golden Ratio, aside from being a concept in mathematics, is the idea that the most attractive people have something in common with their measurements that falls within certain parameters. Most commonly, that’s referred to as the Golden Rectangle, which is a term used in art that can be applied to life. The Golden Ratio is 1:1.618, and it was discovered by the Ancient Greeks to determine who is truly beautiful and who’s just average. If you have a face that falls within the Golden Rectangle, chances are you’re a person who’s always getting double takes when people look at you. This can also be applied to bodies and the same number applies. If your waist and hips fall within the Golden Rectangle, mathematics dictate that you have the perfect body. If you don’t, that’s okay, because very few people have faces and bodies that fit this rectangle. It was recently discovered that one of the few celebrities to fit this rectangle in their face is George Clooney, so this should indicate the unattainability of the Golden Rectangle. Still, it’s something to keep in mind.
3. Being Unkind To Babies (If You’re A Man)
One 2014 study found that one major factor in attractiveness is how you do around babies, especially if you’re a man looking to attract women. Women love guys who are good with kids, and while that doesn’t need to be backed up by science, it helps. Nicolas Guéguen, a professor of social and cognitive psychology at the University of South Brittany, found that in a situation where a male volunteer was with a baby he was treating well, women were three times as likely to see him as attractive enough to give out their numbers. Unfortunately, this effect only goes so far: according to the article detailing the study, money talks. “‘The study also doesn’t reflect the real-life trade-offs between financial stability and paternal qualities,’ said David Geary, a professor of psychology at the University of Missouri. For example, Guéguen could have determined how dressing the male volunteer in a suit affected the women’s ratings. ‘Women like nice paternal guys, but there comes a point where he needs to make a certain amount of money,’ he said.”
2. Having Unattractive Children
Check out the above photo of the Sheen family. Knowing that Charlie Sheen (a physically attractive man putting aside his personality) and Emilio Estevez (an attractive man inside and out) are the sons of Martin Sheen actually makes Martin Sheen seem more attractive. This effect has now been proven by science. A biologist at Trnava University in Slovakia conducted a study that found that men who happened to have attractive sons of any age were seen as attractive as well. The men and boys in the photos weren’t actually related at all, so it was all just perception. We can infer that this effect is also extended to women because of the abundance of mother-daughter celebrity pairs that are seen as more attractive on account of the other person in the pairing. The article detailing the study sums it up:
“On average, when a man was placed next to what participants believed was his handsome son, his own perceived attractiveness tended to rise, an effect even more pronounced among the unattractive men. The effect, however, disappeared when the man was identified as the stepfather of the boy, suggesting that the women may have been subconsciously adjusting their assessments based on a perceived genetic connection between the two individuals.”
Attractiveness is often relative, but there are things that allow us to tip the scales in our favor. This is the power of science: we can apply it to our own lives and benefit from it in big and small ways.
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