Studies say the most attractive features for men and women fall under the category of self care. Photo: Adam Hollingworth
Want to know what scores you the most points in the handsome stakes? Hint: it's not a chiselled jaw or bulging six pack.
When it comes to assessing physical features, the opposite sex awards the highest marks for things you can easily change, such as how well you present and carry yourself.
Those things you can't change like height, eye colour — and all those other seemingly vital stats — actually have significantly less impact, say social scientists.
That means attending to errant eyebrow hairs, grubby nails and scruffy attire counts for a lot more than having a perfect body or standing six-foot tall.
"Essentially, the most attractive features about a person, male or female, is that they put forth some effort to shower, groom, select some nice clothes, stand up straight, and manage their diet a bit. No plastic surgery, major gym time, or extensive overhauling required," said US attraction expert Jeremy Nicholson.
According to Nicholson, social scientists Albert Mehrabian and J.S. Blum first made this discovery back in 1997 when they studied the importance of stable features versus changeable features in order to figure out which combination of the two rendered a person attractive.
Surprisingly they found the most attractive features by a long shot fell under the category of self care: grooming, neat hair, nice fitting and good quality clothes, good posture, and healthy weight.
Three other physical feature groups they assessed — masculinity for men (shoulder width or a bigger jaw), femininity for women (long hair and bigger, rounder eyes) and pleasantness (a happy demeanour) — were each found to be only one-third as important.
Katia Loisel-Furey, dating expert and co-author of two-sided book How to get the man you want/How to get the woman you want said she found the same thing when researching her book.
"Cleanliness is more important than looks. It's especially so when it comes to women looking for men. Women are biologically attracted to success so when a man dresses well and looks after himself, he gives off an air of confidence," she said.
Pack a punch where it counts
This is one area that can make or break your attractiveness, said Nicholson — think hygiene, hair product and attention to detail: clipping, snipping and flossing.
"Guys should make sure they shower regularly and get a nice-smelling deodorant. Sometimes sweaty is sexy, but reeking like an old gym bag is not."
Women can also turn off in the presence of nose hair, ear hair, or a uni-brow, says Nicholson. "A bit of tweezing and trimming can go a long way. Otherwise, it can be an instant deal-breaker.
"Guys are apt to not notice these details without education about them, whereas women pick them up right away. This can result in guys being oblivious to why their partners are turned off and tuning out."
Grooming essentials: a man's guide
For another basic attractiveness boost, dust off the iron, avoid the baggy look and opt for overdressed versus underdressed, said Nicholson.
Guys can step things up a notch by stocking up on classics like plain dark t-shirts, nice jeans, dress shirts/pants, a few good pairs of shoes and a nice suit.
If you want to go the extra mile, accentuate these basics with a few well-made pieces from this year's fashion that flatters your body and colouring.
"This can send the signal that a guy is high status and in-the-know," said Nicholson.
Good posture is sexy, said Loisel-Furey, and it's also one of the easiest and cheapest ways to instantly boost your looks.
Just do a quick mental check list: don't cross your arms or legs, put your shoulders back, and always try to make eye contact and smile.
"Simple things like that can make a dramatic difference to how you rate in the attractive stakes and in life," said Loisel-Furey.
A great attitude can also overshadow physical imperfections. This is about owning who you are, and making others feel at ease, she said.
"Historically, when it comes to interaction, guys can be a bit unaware. Just being more interested in people around you makes you more attractive."
"Just show someone you like them. Focus on the other person. That takes the pressure off. It changes the whole dynamic and makes you more fun, relaxed and attractive.”
A potbelly or a lot of excess weight will definitely count against you in the attractiveness stakes, according to research, but both these things can be changed over time.
The good news here is you don't need a tight bum or washboard abs to get noticed, said Nicholson. Instead, he says aim for the "relatively healthy" look you get by eating well, and doing some regular exercise.