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Masks and attractiveness, in brief

Do masks make you more attractive ?


 

After years, many people around the world have removed masks from their lives.

France, for example, only requires people to wear masks in hospitals or public transports.


While this is good news for most people, some are reluctant to let go of their face coverage. Many claim that masks make you look better and that people are often disappointed when your face is revealed.

But do masks actually make you more attractive ? Or is it just a matter of confidence ?

According to a study by the University of Cardiff, medical face masks are effective for much more than preventing the spread of a virus…


The strange association between masks and attractiveness was first hinted at in Japan, where masks were common long before the pandemic. In 2016, Miyazaki and Kawabata conducted an experiment to test their hypothesis. They took pictures of men wearing masks, men covering the lowest part of their faces with books or cards and men without coverings. They then showed the different photographs to selected participants.


According to their results, not only were men wearing masks perceived as less attractive than men without masks but they were also considered less attractive than people who had a book covering their faces. The researchers therefore concluded that sanitary masks were associated with diseases and unhealthiness which is why women perceived them as less attractive than others.


In 2022, long after the Covid pandemic had hit the world, a similar experiment was replicated at Cardiff University. For their study, the researchers used 43 female participants between the ages of 18 and 24. They then showed them 4 pictures of the same men covering the lowest part of his face in different ways : one with a notebook, one with a cloth mask, one with a medical mask and one without coverage. The participants then had to rate the men’s attractiveness on a scale of 1 to 7. Surprisingly, the most attractive pictures overall were those that showed a man wearing a blue medical mask. Men wearing cloth masks were also considered more attractive than people free of coverage.


The results could be due to a number of reasons. First, masks could obviously hide ‘undesirable’ features that are considered unattractive by some women. Acne, bad teeths or big noses for example would be hidden. However, while this could explain the results of cloth masks, the effect of blue medical masks probably goes beyond a simple effect of occlusion.


The second hypothesis is that medical masks could be associated with medical professionals which are considered desirable and trustworthy and therefore positively impact their attractiveness for many women. This could also explain why the results run counter to the 2016’s study : while Miyazaki and Kawahara used both men and women’s pictures, here, the researchers only used pictures of men.


The third hypothesis is that masks are now correlated to the prevention of the COVID-19 spread, which the Japanese women had not experienced yet. Masks could therefore be associated with responsibility and maturity which could also affect women’s perception of attractiveness.


“The current research shows the pandemic has changed our psychology in how we perceive the wearers of masks. When we see someone wearing a mask we no longer think ‘that person has a disease, I need to stay away’ stated Dr Michael Lewis, a reader at the University of Cardiff.


By Perle Masri

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