When choosing your dating profile picture, consider this: men want to date women with a glam look and fresh blowout, but they don’t trust them. In women’s eyes, however, being well-groomed makes a man more trustworthy, a new study finds.
Wondering if the popularity of dating apps like Tinder held secrets to how much a photo influences desire, University of Connecticut researchers asked 153 straight men and 152 straight women, ages 17 to 36, to look at one of four pictures.
The women either looked at a photo of the same man who was either unenhanced or enhanced with styled hair, makeup, and flattering lighting. Men either looked at a pic of the same woman who was unenhanced or enhanced—with styled hair, makeup, and flattering lighting.
Then the participants answered questions about the person.
Both men and women ranked the people with makeup, styled hair, and flattering lighting as significantly hotter than the natural photos.
Men found the styled woman more attractive and less trustworthy, as if she had something to hide.
“The guys were very much honest in their assessment of the female. They say I do find her more attractive and I do find her less trustworthy and I am OK with it,” says Rory McGloin, assistant professor in residence in the department of Communication at the University of Connecticut and author of the study. The findings, released Friday, will be presented at the 65th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“Males are so used to seeing women who have been Photoshopped and edited [in society] and they are just skeptical,” that maybe she’s not really that good looking," says McGloin.
In women’s eyes, attractive men benefited from a “halo effect.”
“If he is attractive and I would like to date him, he must be trustworthy,” McGloin explains.
While the new study looked at online dating, it mirrors what happens in the real world.
The new research is further evidence of how makeup can change people’s perceptions of a woman’s character, says Alex Jones, a postdoctoral research associate at Gettysburg College who was not involved in the study.
“Attractive people are not always seen in a positive light,” he writes via email. “Attractive women seem particularly vulnerable to these judgments and cosmetics use is one area where harsher judgments are given to women.”
The reason? People think women using cosmetics are vain, deceitful, and narcissistic, Jones explains.
Though findings on makeup use remain mixed. A 2011 study found that people think women who wear some makeup in the workplace seem more likeable, trustworthy, and confident. Yet, Jones’ own study showed that makeup barely increases how attractive both men and women find a woman.
The study’s findings confirm that enhancing your appearance can be a double-edged sword.
“More makeup will make you more attractive, but you will [also] be seen as less attractive for a number of reasons,” says Jones.