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Scientists Say You’re at Your Most Attractive When a Little Buzzed

A new study has found that beer goggles kind of work both ways: our faces are perceived as a little bit cuter after we've sipped down a piña colada.
Hilary Pollack
Los Angeles, US

Beer goggles, as we all know, are a real thing. Under the cloak of night and the influence of a string of generously poured gin and tonics, your make-out companion from the corner barstool was practically modelesque. You couldn't believe your good fortune, that they, too, would want to touch tongues. Until, that is, you saw them by the harsh light of sobriety (and daylight) and bore witness to an ogre instead of an Adonis or Athena. But then again, they were probably seeing through tequila-colored glasses as well when they tried to mate with you in the middle of a crowded watering hole—and they might be equally dismayed.


READ: This Professor Has Invented a Pill that Eliminates Hangovers

Apparently, these things go both ways: your sober self isn't really the shiniest version of you either. There is a happy medium, and it's right when your legs start to feel tingly. A recent study suggests that you're actually at your personal aesthetic best after that single glass of wine, pint of beer, or pineapple-ful of piña colada.

The research was published February 25 in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism and conducted at the University of Bristol. Forty students agreed to be photographed three times each: once completely sober, once after a single drink equivalent to a glass of wine, and a final time after a second serving of booze. Then, a separate group of heterosexual peers was instructed to rate their headshots in side-by-side comparisons, selecting the most attractive photo of the student. The rating group chose between either a photo of the person sober next to a photo of them after one drink, or a photo of the person sober juxtaposed with their image after two drinks.

Senior researcher Marcus Munafò, a biological psychology professor at the university, suspects that your face essentially loosens up a bit after you down a little liquor.

Interestingly, the photos taken after one drink were considered more attractive than the sober ones—but after two drinks, they became less attractive. This magic portal to slightly-more-attractiveness apparently dangles precariously as soon as you tip back the last sip of your jalapeño margarita.


So why the hell is this happening? Are beer goggles … contagious? (Short answer: yes. The more friends you drink with, the more you drink. But that's not necessarily why you're cuter after a cocktail, in this instance.)

Senior researcher Marcus Munafò, a biological psychology professor at the university, suspects that your face essentially loosens up a bit after you down a little liquor. Alcohol can make your pupils dilate (which boosts perceived attractiveness) and your muscles relax, potentially giving you a wider smile or kinder-looking eyes. Researchers also cited booze's effect of making one's cheeks rosy, a quality that potential mates subconsciously associate with good health.

But the team is quick to point out that just because you may look slightly healthier momentarily doesn't mean that alcohol is actually doing your body good (unless you're drinking red wine, which just might be clearing up your acne and burning off your blubber). But alcohol, our great pal, could be "hijacking that mechanism" that makes you look healthier, in Munafò's words.

But mind the study's conclusion, which warns that "in addition to perceiving others as more attractive, a mildly intoxicated alcohol consumer may also be perceived as more attractive by others. This in turn may play a role in the relationship between alcohol consumption and risky sexual behaviour."

In non-scientific terms, beer goggles x beer goggles = trouble. Regrettable fun!

But don't forget that hangovers are ugly, too. No one feels like a ten when they're slumped in bed in last night's outfit, a thin stream of drool trailing out of the corner of their mouth, hair resembling a bird's nest.

And even worse, you may roll over to find someone else equally freaky next to you.