Medical face masks make men look more attractive: Study

SINGAPORE (CNA) – A study in the United Kingdom has found that men who wear medical masks are perceived as more attractive by members of the opposite sex.

Researchers at Cardiff University’s School of Psychology found that medical masks made for more attractive coverings than cloth masks and notebooks. The least attractive faces were completely uncovered.

This was true whether the men were considered attractive or unattractive before the coverings were introduced, according to the study published in the journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications on January 10.

The results ran counter to findings of similar research conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic, said the authors of the study.

A 2016 study in Japan found a “sanitary-mask effect” showing that people associated medical masks with disease, perceiving masked faces as less healthy and hence less attractive.

“While medical masks might prime disease, they can also be seen as a sign of being responsible and caring citizens, which may positively impact perceived attractiveness,” said the Cardiff University researchers.

This was in line with other research conducted during the pandemic that “shows faces wearing medical masks are considered more likely to be ill, but also more socially desirable and trustworthy”.

Researchers at Cardiff University conducted their experiment in February 2021, about seven months after face masks were made compulsory in places like supermarkets and public transport in the UK.

“Research carried out before the pandemic found medical face masks reduce attractiveness,” said Dr Michael B Lewis, one of the study’s authors, in an article on Cardiff University’s website.

“We wanted to test whether this had changed since face coverings became ubiquitous and understand whether the type of mask had any effect.”