Just like how smiling and displaying kindness make you more attractive, showing signs of stress, like bags under your eyes or dull skin, makes you less attractive. And not just because stress tends to show up on our faces—somehow, others can sense that it’s part of a weakened immune system. In a study from Europe and South Africa, women rated men as more attractive when the men had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and a stronger immune system. “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,” study author Fhionna R. Moore, PhD, a psychologist at Abertay University in Scotland, told CNN. The researchers suspect that testosterone, which is linked with a strong immune system and low cortisol, also plays a role in attracting women. Here are 37 stress management tips to find the calm in your life.
Grow a beard
Biologically, heterosexuals look for typically male or female traits in the opposite sex—the most glaring of which for women is men’s facial hair. “The research indicates some sex-specific characteristics are attractive—particularly those that highlight differences between males and females,” Dr. Nicholson says. “For example, different styles of facial stubble and beards can signal a man’s masculinity.” A recent study from Australia found that women considered men with heavily stubble the most attractive—but interestingly, rated men with full beards as the highest for parenting ability and healthiness. Although a beard’s connection with health seems random, it actually may be true: Beards are able to block the sun’s rays, so they might protect against skin cancer. They may also keep dust and pollen from entering the airway. And as for being a good dad, a beard might indicate that a male is sexually mature and ready to reproduce. Find out the best beard style for your face shape.
Show off your curves
Women tend to think men prefer thin figures—but the opposite might actually be true. According to research, men prefer a waist-to-hips ratio of 7:10, which means you’re fairly curvy and have “good childbearing hips.” Biologically, men might be onto something: Women with this waist-to-hip ratio have been shown to have optimal levels of estrogen, and are less prone to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. You can play up your hips by walking with a “swaying gait”—researchers at Texas A&M University found that this swinging motion was seen to be extra-feminine to men. “High heels can accentuate women’s feminine characteristics as well,” Dr. Nicholson says, so if you really want to exaggerate your swinging walk, science says to wear heels. Read how science has found the sexiest possible dance moves.