What makes the man or woman attractive?

Broad shoulders, a manly sweaty smell, a larger penis? Big eyes, smooth skin, young, full breasts? What are the characteristics that attract us in a man or woman? It’s about inner beauty. And yet we can be turned off by someone’s appearance. The physical appearance cannot be ignored.

Effects of appearance can be found in all kinds of areas, such as in a friendship, a romantic relationship, but also during job interviews. The ,halo effect, ensures that attractive people are also attributed other positive qualities and therefore have a greater chance of getting a job.

What attracts us so much to someone else?

General features

First, there are characteristics that make both men and women attractive. This is mainly about symmetry. We prefer a symmetrical face and a symmetrical body. This would indicate the absence of errors. Someone with an asymmetrical face or body could be ill or have an injury. According to evolutionary psychologists, this would indicate a less successful mate and could result in poorer reproduction.

Other factors include youthfulness, skin clarity and smooth skin. Clear eyes and hair are also important.

Male attraction

Men with a narrow waist and broader shoulders (a V-shaped body) are preferred by women. They also often go for taller men and more masculine features. Masculinity is especially important when the woman is fertile.


  • Broad forehead
  • Relatively lower lower part of the face
  • Wide jaw
  • High cheekbones



A muscular body is often judged as an ideal image, with large muscular arms (particularly the biceps) and a muscular chest. This could indicate greater protection and safety.


A longer and thicker penis is considered more attractive, according to research in China, England, the US, France, Spain, Italy, New Zealand and Sweden.


Height is said to be associated with nutrition and wealth, so someone taller would be better nourished and wealthier. This is of course important for women in evolution, because a wealthy man would be able to take better care of her and her children. The preference is therefore for taller men.

Age and youth

Nowadays, older-looking men are seen as more attractive because of the preference for body hair. The absence of body hair is often associated with young boys, who have not yet developed sufficiently. In Roman times, young boys were considered very attractive.

Body odor

Men with an attractive face were rated as having better body odor. This was tested double-blind, with neither the researchers nor the women knowing which scent belonged to which man. In addition to facial attractiveness, facial symmetry was also important.

Attractive face

  • Male face (see above)


Female attraction

Men especially prefer younger and more beautiful women with symmetry of the body. Nowadays, more and more attention is being paid to women’s appearance, and according to evolutionary psychologists, much of this attraction can be traced back to fertility potential.

Facial features

The proportion of the face is very important. Symmetry is preferred, as are full lips, a higher forehead, a narrow chin and nose, a narrow jaw and high cheekbones. In addition, smooth skin and large, clear eyes are important.
Men with blue eyes seem to prefer women with the same eye color. This did not apply to men with brown eyes.


Youth has an important relationship with reproduction. An elderly woman can no longer have children and this is not advantageous given evolution. Preference is therefore given to younger women, because they can have children with far fewer problems and complications.

Breasts and buttocks

Many men like to look at the breasts and buttocks of women and a distinction is sometimes made between the ,breast man, and the ,butt man,. However, there is a wide variation in breast size preference. However, larger breasts would indicate higher levels of estradiol and progestrone, which are hormones important for fertility. Symmetry is also very important.
A full buttocks may indicate the likelihood of anal intercourse and would therefore be more attractive. A well-proportioned body is important, and most fat storage should be around the waist, i.e. in the buttocks and thighs.

Body proportion (BMI) and hip-to-waist ratio

In the past, there was a preference for fuller women, but nowadays women have to be thinner, although there is also a counter reaction. Yet it appears that 81% of cultures prefer a slightly plumper or fuller woman.
The waist-hip ratio should be around 0.7 and 0.9. This varies slightly by culture (e.g. 0.6 in China, 0.8 or 0.9 in South America and Africa), but 0.7-0.9 can be found across cultures.


Just as the woman goes for a taller man, the man goes for a shorter woman. Women should preferably deviate only 0.7 to 1.7 standard deviations from the average height in the population.

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