What makes a person attractive and which features are considered beautiful? We also wanted to get to the bottom of the question. The result: beauty is NOT ONLY in the eye of the beholder.

Mirror, mirror on the wall – what makes me the fairest of them all?

In times of Tinder, Lovoo, Bumble and Co., it is essential to present ones appearance convincingly. The first impression seems to be more crucial than ever. But even for those of us who are not looking for a partner, the self-representation seems to be increasingly important. The question arises: what exactly does make us attractive? When is a person considered beautiful?

We researched and came across exciting results that we do not want to withhold from you.

Features of attractive faces

The human face provides the viewer with important information. Not only can we extract emotions from them, but we can also derive biologically and socially relevant information. Through the psychology of evolution, we are able to make assumptions through the face, which serve as an indicator of i.e. good or healthy genes. It can therefore be said that a healthy-looking face is perceived as more attractive.

There’s no surprise there. Yet, it is interesting that certain attributes of the face are considered equally attractive across sexes, sexual orientations, cultures and generations. For example, studies have shown that toddlers as young as two months are looking at attractive faces for longer than those considered unattractive in their culture.

Researchers summarize the features for facial appeal in the following points:

  • Symmetry,
  • mediocrity,
  • and sexual dimorphism

Let’s take a closer look at these features:

1.) Symmetry

Unconsciously, we perceive symmetry as an indicator of a stable and healthy development of an individual. That has been proven in different studies by comparing multiple faces of monozygotic twins – identical twins who are genetically identical siblings – the more symmetrical of the two was considered more attractive.
Other studies have found that women find symmetrical faces to be more attractive in men, even if they can only see half of the face being assessed.

In addition, the symmetry has an influence on the perception of other properties, i.e. the body odor. Women find the body odor of men with symmetrical faces more attractive.

2.) „Average“

In addition to symmetry, the „average-ness“ is also considered particularly important by researchers. So does that mean that „normal“ faces are more attractive than individuality? One could say so. Specifically, this refers to an experiment in which faces were generated by a computer, which corresponded to the average in all values. The consequence: Both men and women preferred the average to „individual“ faces. Researchers have suggested that the artificial “average faces” suggest increased immune resistance. This feature, evolution-theoretically considered, is crucial in partner choice. In addition, the average is rated as trustworthy. Familiarity therefore has a significant impact on the assessment of attractiveness. And this experience is always to be seen individually.

But that does not mean that average faces are always considered more attractive. Positive deviations from the trend were classified as particularly attractive in other experiments.

3.) Eyes, lips, cheeks – this is what we perceive as „beautiful”

Another important attraction feature is the sexual dimorphism. This describes the manifestations of the secondary sexual characteristics of both sexes. The more extreme this characteristic, the more attractive the person. And here, too, the features allow conclusions to be drawn about good genes.

Especially with female faces, there seems to be a relatively clear relationship between “typically” feminine attributes and the sensation of attractiveness.

attractive woman menschen attraktiv

Typically attractive feminine features are:

Full lips Are perceived as especially feminine, fertile and mature.
Strong cheekbones Tough, sexy and mature – form an interesting contrast that looks attractive.
Plucked / well-groomed eyebrows Lift the eyes out and underline their effect.
Big eyes Perceived as confident, cute, childlike, worthy of protection.
High forehead Emphasizes childish scheme. In combination with eyes, many emotions are transported. That creates trust.
Small mouth and jaw Paired with the high forehead and the big eyes, a small chin-jaw-game looks dainty.

These properties have proven attractive even across different cultures. In women, the contrast between the childish scheme, which responds to the male protector instinct, and attributes that suggest fertility and pronounced femininity, has a particularly irritating (is this the right word?) effect.

Typically attractive masculine characteristics:

Strong cheekbones and strong chin Perceived as male and strong. Protection is suggested to the other person.
complexion A complexion with yellow and red shades is unconsciously perceived as attractive by fair-skinned types.
Dense, dark eyebrows A typical male attribute and manifestation of the sexual gender feature
eyes The “window” to the soul. Eyes create trust. A confident look is interpreted as masculine and strong.

With male faces, conclusions are more complex. For example, studies have shown that female’s preferences for a man’s attractiveness depends on her menstrual cycle. During their fertile phase, masculine faces are preferred. In the non-fertile phase, on the other hand, women prefer men with more feminine, softer facial features. Incidentally, if a woman wants a short-term relationship, she prefers more masculine faces. In this case, the attractiveness of the counterpart generally has a higher priority.

man smiling attractive

By the way, men can also communicate a lot through gaze or expression. A broad grin at first seems less attractive to women than a confident smile. Man should not look too strict and heroic either, otherwise he come across as scary and arrogant.

Individual factors as assessment framework

The appearance of health looks attractive. A strong “male” looks attractive, a seemingly fertile female as well. But do not worry: even if you don’t have lips like Angelina Jolie, or a chin like Hugh Jackman, you do not have to be scared. In addition to all the explanations, (based on evolutionary theory) there is no question that one’s own descent along with social environment, have the greatest influence on the perception of attractiveness.

As a result, faces that look familiar to us are perceived as more attractive. Consequently, our descent, origin and social environment also have an impact on our sense of attractiveness.

A principle that is often used in major advertising campaigns is to use well-known celebrities to promote a product. Because we usually put these people into roles, traits etc. and we “know” them, we trust this testimonial. In psychology one speaks of the mere-exposure-effect, “which describes the fact that just through the repeated perception of an initially neutral judged thing, we attribute them with positive traits.“