Face masks make people look more attractive
There have been precious few positives during the Covid pandemic but British academics may have unearthed one:
people look more attractive in protective masks.
Researchers at Cardiff University were surprised to find that both men and women were judged to look better with a face covering obscuring the lower half of their faces.
In what may be a blow for producers of fashionable coverings – and the environment – they also discovered that a face covered with a disposable-type surgical mask was likely to be deemed the most appealing.
Dr Michael Lewis, a reader from Cardiff University's school of psychology and an expert in faces,
said research carried out before the pandemic had found that medical face masks reduced attractiveness because they were associated with disease or illness.
"We wanted to test whether this had changed since face coverings became ubiquitous and understand whether the type of mask had any effect," he said.
"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."
The first part of the research was carried out in February 2021 by which time the British population had become used to wearing masks in some circumstances.
Forty-three women were asked to rate on a scale of one to 10 the attractiveness of images of male faces without a mask, wearing a plain cloth mask, a blue medical face mask, and holding a plain black book covering the area a face mask would hide.
The participants said those wearing a cloth mask were significantly more attractive than the ones with no masks or whose faces were partly obscured by the book.
But the surgical mask – which was just a normal, disposable kind – made the wearer look even better.