Here's Exactly How Much You Should Drink To Look Your Sexiest

Photographed By Mark Iantosca.
You've probably heard of (or experienced — no judgment here) "closing-time effect." This is the phenomenon in which we imagine that people look better at the end of the night, when our partner-snagging window begins to close. It often works in tandem with the "beer goggles" principle, which holds that the drunker we are, the more attractive we find potential partners. What researchers have rarely explored, though, is this: How attractive do other people find us after we've had a few? Thankfully, the folks at the University of Oxford have concocted an answer to that burning question.

For a study just published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, researchers recruited heterosexual university students and photographed their faces (in "neutral expressions") at three points: when the students were sober, after they'd consumed about 250 milliliters (or a third of a bottle) of 14%-alcohol wine, and after they'd consumed 500 milliliters (two thirds of a bottle). Then, researchers presented 104 of these sober, tipsy, or drunk headshots to sober heterosexual volunteers who rated the attractiveness of the opposite-sex photo subjects — and consistently rated the subjects who had consumed "low doses" of alcohol as the sexiest.

What's perhaps most fascinating about this study is that it subtracted IRL interaction from the equation. It would be one thing to appear desirable in person or even on camera while buzzed (but shy of drunk or sloppy). In fact, it would make sense given what we know about how alcohol reduces inhibitions and encourages social behavior. But, the drinkers in this scenario were only known to their evaluators through still photos of their neutral faces — so, what gives?

The researchers suggest that the widening of the blood vessels that occurs when we drink alcohol gives us a "healthy" flush, which may be most noticeable after moderate (but not high) alcohol consumption. And, alcohol's muscle-relaxing effect may lead to more relaxed, approachable expressions, even when people are aiming for "neutral." The researchers do nod to the reality that flirting is more likely to happen in a bar than at a lab, and that many other factors besides a rosy glow influence whom we invite home. Still, we'll welcome any insight into the mysteries of attraction.
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