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Things That Can Make You Appear Less Attractive, Says Science

Certain habits can keep you from looking your best.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Attraction is an art. It's also a science. Researchers have found that certain lifestyle habits can make you look less attractive, and some of them might surprise you. Some directly affect the quality of your skin, and others seem to act on that indescribable certain something that dictates how good-looking or desirable you appear to others. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Not Getting Enough Sleep

woman sleeping peacefully

According to a 2017 study, getting just two nights of inadequate sleep can make a person look less attractive. Researchers asked study participants to rate a series of people's photos based on their attractiveness; the photo subjects who were sleep-deprived were scored as less attractive than people who'd gotten a full eight hours of sleep.

"A healthy, attractive face is characterized by a certain degree of redness, which in turn is indicative of increased vasodilation and vascularization," the researchers wrote. "Blood flow to the skin is strongly promoted by sleep and this vasodilation may be a way for the body to facilitate the distribution of endogenous defense agents. With a lack of sleep, blood flow to the skin is reduced, and according to raters faces look more pale after not sleeping." Not just for this reason, experts advise making sleep a priority: Aim to get seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night.


Eating Too Much Sugar

woman craving sugar

It's true: Research has found that consuming too much sugar can actually make you look older by actively aging the skin. That's because when sugar—glucose or fructose—is ingested, the body produces substances called advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) in response. These toxins damage collagen and elastin, two proteins in the skin that keep it looking plump and youthful. The result can be wrinkles, sagging, poor skin tone, and age spots. 


Drinking Too Much Alcohol


Alcohol dehydrates the skin and causes inflammation. If you habitually drink to excess, research suggests you can expect to see more fine lines, wrinkles, redness, and puffiness. Not a great look. To keep yourself looking your best—and to reduce your risk of cancer or heart disease—avoid alcohol or drink only in moderation. That means no more than two drinks a day for men and just one drink a day for women.

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Stressing Out Too Much

woman puts hands on head, stressed, busy at work

Not only does chronic stress seem to age a person prematurely, studies have found that both men and women with high levels of the stress hormone cortisol are considered less attractive by the opposite sex. "Women seem to be able to detect the men who've got the strongest immune response, and they seem to find them the most attractive," said an author of the 2012 study in which women rated pictures of men; a separate 2013 study found the same results when the gender was flipped.

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Eating Meat

cured meats

In one European study, researchers found that men who consumed a vegetarian diet were considered more masculine and attractive by women. The scientists assembled a group of men who ate either vegetarian or meat-inclusive diets. They were given underarm pads to collect their body odor, and women were asked to sniff each pad and assess it for attractiveness and masculinity. Vegetarians scored the highest—and those results held when the groups reversed their dietary habits and the experiment was repeated. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
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