Why Having a Drink Makes You Better Looking

istock / istock

Image credit: iStock

It is a truth universally acknowledged that beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder. (See: the many t-shirts featuring that very slogan available for purchase.) Knock back a drink or three and suddenly, the homely individual sitting at the end of the bar looks like a rock star. But take away your buzz and the mere fact that he's had a drink could make him look more attractive, according to a new study.  

“We sought to explore the possibility that alcohol consumption leads to the consumer being rated as more attractive than sober individuals,” the authors write in the resulting paper, published in Alcohol and Alcoholism. “In other words, we asked whether the consumption of moderate amounts of alcohol enhances the attractiveness to the opposite sex of the consumer.” 

Researchers asked 40 students from the University of Bristol to pose for photos, both while sober and after consuming alcohol. Photographers snapped three shots of each study participant: one taken completely sober, one after a single drink, and the final image after he or she had consumed two beverages.

A different group of heterosexual subjects were asked to look at the photos. In some cases they examined both the sober photo and the one-drink snap; in others, participants looked at the sober photos and the images taken after two drinks.

The result: those who had enjoyed one cocktail were said to be better looking than in their sober portraits. But if a person consumed two drinks, the group perceived them as less attractive.

The researchers don’t know why one drink makes someone sexy, but they have a theory: Drinking can alter a person’s physical appearance. For example, even a little bit of alcohol causes cheeks to look rosier, which people are wired to interpret as sexually appealing.

"Rosiness is attractive because it characterizes good physical health characteristics,” Marcus Munafò, one of the authors of the paper, told LiveScience. “What it means is that alcohol is sort of hijacking that mechanism, or promoting the aspects of facial features that we regard as attractive for other reasons."

The authors conclude that booze’s role in sexual behavior might be a two-way street; people who drink perceive others as hotter while also making themselves look better.

“That is, in addition to perceiving others as more attractive, “ the authors write, “an alcohol consumer may also be perceived by others as more attractive, and therefore receive greater sexual interest from potential mates.”