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Does wearing face masks make you more attractive? Findings of a new UK study, explained

The results counter the ‘sanitary-mask effect’, or the finding that medical face masks signal an image of disease, thereby lowering the ratings of facial attractiveness.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: January 19, 2022 2:40:18 pm
Through the study, researchers analysed how different kinds of face masks changed the attractiveness of 40 males. (File)

Researchers from Cardiff University in the UK have found in a study that face masks – the kinds people have been wearing since the beginning of the pandemic – make their wearers look more attractive.

The findings were published in the journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications this month.

The results counter the ‘sanitary-mask effect’, or the finding that medical face masks signal an image of disease, thereby lowering the ratings of facial attractiveness. The Covid-19 pandemic seems to have changed this, because face masks are more ubiquitous now and may even help in increasing the face’s attractiveness, as the study has found.

The study mentions that there is a common belief among Japanese women that wearing a mask increases one’s attractiveness as it covers their undesirable facial features such as acne.

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What did the researchers find?

Through the study, researchers analysed how different kinds of face masks changed the attractiveness of 40 males. They found that the kind of face mask has a bearing on how attractive males look. For instance, the study says that the blue surgical masks increase attractiveness more than other kinds of masks.

To carry this study out, a number of female participants were shown a series of male faces of low or high attractiveness that were covered with a medical surgical mask, a cloth mask, a book, while some faces were not covered at all. The female participants were then asked to rate these faces on their attractiveness.

The results showed that those faces that were covered with surgical masks were considered to be the most attractive and faces covered with cloth masks were considered ‘significantly’ more attractive than those not covered with anything.

The researchers say that these results not only counter the ‘sanitary-mask effect’ but are also consistent with similar studies conducted amid the pandemic. One such study was conducted in 2020 and it also emphasises that medical masks increase facial attractiveness for “unattractive and average faces”.

“Research carried out before the pandemic found medical face masks reduce attractiveness – so we wanted to test whether this had changed since face coverings became ubiquitous and understand whether the type of mask had any effect,” Dr Michael Lewis, a Reader from Cardiff University’s School of Psychology, was quoted as saying in a press release.

“Our study suggests faces are considered most attractive when covered by medical face masks. This may be because we’re used to healthcare workers wearing blue masks and now we associate these with people in caring or medical professions. At a time when we feel vulnerable, we may find the wearing of medical masks reassuring and so feel more positive towards the wearer,” he added.

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