It’s been well over two years since face masks became an essential part of our life. From surgical to couture face masks, we have seen, and perhaps worn it all. Now, a new study says face masks have altered what (and whom) we find attractive.
The 2022 study published in Cognitive Research Journal titled ‘Beyond the beauty of occlusion: medical masks increase facial attractiveness more than other face coverings‘ suggests that medical masks have been found to increase one’s attractiveness during Covid-19. According to the study, “faces were considered as most attractive when covered by medical masks and significantly more attractive when occluded with cloth masks than when not occluded.”
The research involved asking 43 women to rate the attractiveness of images of male faces shown on a scale of one to 10. The pictures were of three kinds: one with the person in a surgical mask, without a mask, and while holding a plain black book in front of the bottom half of the face, the part a face mask would cover.
The results found that participants rated those wearing a cloth mask significantly more attractive than the ones with no masks or whose faces were partly covered with the book. It also states that disposable surgical masks are considered the most appealing as opposed to the more fashionable varieties.
The research, conducted by Cardiff University, went on to state that in Japan — where wearing masks was a practice long before Covid-19 — wearing a mask increases attractiveness among women as it hides “potentially undesirable facial features such as acne“.
The study stated that contrary to the sanitary mask effect wherein “medical face masks prompt an image of disease and thus result in lower ratings of facial attractiveness of the wearer”, Covid-19 has altered the status quo as now — “faces wearing medical masks would be rated as more attractive than unmasked faces due to the importance of lower face information, particularly from the perioral area, in determining facial attractiveness.”
It further stated that “unattractive and averagely attractive faces were rated as significantly more attractive when in the masked compared to unmasked condition”. This shows a dramatic psychological shift in people, and the factors they now consider in choosing a partner, due to the pandemic.