Research has shown that attractive people can earn up to 14 percent more money annually than their less attractive peers. While some of this is based on appearance alone, attraction also relies on the way you carry yourself, how you treat people, and the kind of people to associate with.
Here are a few ways to be more attractive, according to science.
1. Wear red (or don’t).
For many animals, red is an important color. Humans certainly fall into this category, according to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.
Through a series of seven experiments, researchers showed that women found men more attractive when those men stood against a red background and in red clothing. Interestingly, the color didn’t influence the men’s perception of women or of other men, although a separate 2008 study showed that men also prefer a splash of red (potentially due to social factors).
That doesn’t mean that you need to throw away all of your blue shirts, but if you’ve got a hot date, a red button-down might give you a subconscious edge.
2. Arch your back (or work on your dad bod).
Body shape plays a role in attraction, and while genetic factors certainly play a role, you’ve got some control.
For starters, the “dad bod” appeals to many women, and it actually seems to directly result from fatherhood according to a study in the American Journal of Men’s Health. Researchers found that new fathers typically picked up around three extra pounds of body fat, probably because it’s hard to hit the gym and eat healthy when you’re battling sleep deprivation (hooray, newborns!).
With that said, guys, feel free to maintain a higher level of physical fitness; women are less obsessed with body mass than men when evaluating potential partners, so as long as you’re healthy, you do you.
Women, you might want to arch your backs. Sounds weird, but there’s actually an interesting explanation for this one: A study from the University of Texas showed that men strongly prefer curvy backsides, potentially because a “45.5 degree curve from back to buttocks [allowed] ancestral women to better support, provide for, and carry out multiple pregnancies.”
3. Stick with a group.
People are more likely to be perceived as attractive when they’re part of a group. That’s commonly known as the “cheerleader effect,” for obvious (if slightly sexist) reasons.
Why? Well, humans tend to process faces in groups, so we form an average of all the faces we see. One study from the University of California at San Diego asked participants to rate the attractiveness of people in solo pictures, versus pictures of the same person in a group of people. Participants gave higher ratings to both men and women when looking at groups of people.
If you’re surrounded by attractive people, you will look more attractive. (That’s why we always hang out with our army of Brad Pitt clones.) Of course, this method won’t work all the time, because you’re eventually going to want to have some alone time with potential dates.
Still, if you’re hoping to take a great picture or impress some people you’ll never see again, groups are the way to go.
4. Consider your facial hair carefully.
Although some women may prefer a bearded man, the majority do not, according to a study in the Oxford Journal of Behavioral Ecology.
Researchers found that most women didn’t find men with beards to be more attractive, although they did assume that the bearded guys had a higher social status than their non-bearded brethren.
However, another study published in Behavioral Ecology found that women’s facial hair preferences varied depending on their age. Postmenopausal women gave “higher scores for all degrees of facial hair, including full beards, than premenopausal and pregnant women.”
That doesn’t mean you should shave it all off; that second study found that women at “high fertility phases” gave higher scores to men with heavy stubble.
If you decide to keep your facial hair, keep it maintained. Nobody likes a neck beard (and shaving a neckline is pretty easy, once you get the hang of it).
5. Stop smiling (or smile a lot).
Don’t go all goth, but don’t smile, either. A study from the University of British Columbia showed that happy guys finish last.
Participants rated photos of men who were visibly displaying emotion; guys who seemed happy ranked behind men who showed visible pride (somewhat expectedly) and shame (somewhat unexpectedly). Granted, the study was intended to assess “gut reactions on…attraction,” so happiness might be a more endearing trait in a long-term partner.
In contrast, men found happy women more attractive. There’s probably a host of sociological reasons for this strange phenomenon, but the takeaway is clear: If you’re a man, you’d better start practicing your serious face.
6. Don’t overdo the perfume or cologne.
Body spray, colognes, and perfumes all have the power to make a person more (or less) alluring. Take a look at our video below to get a better understanding of how cologne interacts with your natural scent.
7. Consider wearing sunglasses.
Vanessa Brown, lecturer at Nottingham Trent University, designed a study to determine why sunglasses look so awesome. Granted, she put it in more scientific terms, but at the end of the day, she was researching why a pair of Ray-Bans can turn a dork into Brad Pitt.
In any case, she found a few possible explanations. Sunglasses obscure the eyes (duh), which Brown believes creates an air of mystery around the wearer.
“The eyes are such a tremendous source of information—and vulnerability—for the human being,” she told The Cut. If you’re trying to get romantic, it always pays to cultivate a sense of mystery.
Sunglasses also improve facial symmetry by obscuring any slight anomalies around your eyes. For instance, you might notice that one of your eyes sits higher on your face, or one pupil might be slightly larger than the other; that’s perfectly normal and natural, but people generally prefer symmetrical faces when choosing mates.
Finally, celebrities and models frequently wear sunglasses, so Brown believes that there’s probably some social factors at play. Never doubt the power of advertising when it comes to shaping our cultural ideas of what is (and isn’t) attractive.
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