Does Smiling Make You Less Attractive?

May 25, 2011

When people rattle of the list of features they look for in a man, usually one of the top three is a nice smile. Bizarre then, that a new study finds men smiling in photos to be the least attractive.

"According to new research on body language out of the University of British Columbia, women find happy men—in this study, men who were smiling in photos—significantly less attractive than men portraying other emotions. In a survey of 1,000 adults, women generally preferred men who looked strong and proud, arms raised into the sky, or sullen and ashamed—in that order. Happy men were rated the least attractive. Interestingly, when it came to male preferences, things were reversed: Men rated happy women the most attractive and proud, strong women least attractive."

As with all of these findings, we never really get the gay angle. The study goes on the suggest that smiling and happiness are often though of as "feminine-appearing expressions," which bring us round to what we as gay men may think. I suppose if we're looking for "masc men" then smiling photos may indeed be a turn off for some. I have two photos I send around to men of the internet: one in which I'm smiling and the other in which I'm not. Some might say the non-smile photo portrays me as a bit more butch (I'm also wearing a backward baseball cap). It's hard to tell which photo has been more effective, but I have notice a trend in the type of guys that respond to each and now tailor which one I send accordingly.

Personally, I've found myself drawn to photos that are all at once sexy and cute. To me this is the ideal; someone who you 100% want to bone, but gather that they've got a fun or playful personality (oftentimes represented by a smile or smirk). That being said, I've been known to click on photos of men that sound similar to more attractive ones in the study. The results are still surprising given how transcendent a smile can be in real life. I guess it all depends on what you're looking for when you're viewing the photo.

Gun to your head: which to you go for more often when viewing profiles, the smile or the strong?

Tags: Online Dating, smiling, pics
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Post written by RobHeartsDH (View Author Profile)
About this author: Rob lives in Manhattan with his black pug Riley. When he’s not thinking about daddies, he enjoys writing, eating burritos, watching copious amounts of television, and thinking about his next meal.
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I think your own photo would be way less attractive without the smile.

Absolutely agree... and it's such an honest smile at that!

And how many folks are answering the question anyway? The author already established that the study had left the "gay factor" out of the equation... so to stay in topic... I would go for the smile photo first!

I think women are attracted to men with sad, sullen or ashamed expressions because of their desire to "nurture" or "mother" other people, or to "fix" things. A picture of a smiling man (a smile with the teeth showing) is interpreted by a woman as someone who doesn't "need" her. On the other hand, men find a smile attractive because it indicates confidence, which can be very sexy; or happiness, which they might want to share; or that the smiling man knows something we don't, and we want to know what's making him smile. And for many people, not smiling simply means they don't have the best teeth. For me, a big open smile communicates strength, confidence and accomplishment, all of which I think are attractive attributes in a man. Or in a woman, for that matter.

And "women liking smiling men or not" would apply to us gay men on a gay Or am I missing something?

I agree. Perhaps the author is comparing gay men once again to women in society...If the subject was what gay men found attractive - another man smiling or not in a photo - that might have been something of value. Why must we be subjected to this type of nonesensical rhetoric once again - and on a gay site as well?!?!

part of me thinks you didnt even read this whole article.

if you feature both you get the best of both

Pretty pathetic comment----people suck i general, so it figures smiling is bad--people are such assholes

"people suck i general"???

someone needs to be introduced to the wonderful world of proofreading!

A smile across the room gets me laid. A sullen pout does not.
You do the math!

Exactly. The fact that I'm smiling in my main profile picture is often the first thing that's commented on when people contact me. I also smile and make eye contact in public a lot.

That's why panhandlers think I'm an easy mark....(sigh). But, it's also why I rarely sit alone by myself in a public place... even if I don't know anyone in the room.

right - that's the bottom line....

An article with a link to an article about an article with no link or citation to the article it's discussing. Huh.

I actually would've been interested in seeing the real research behind this, so I don't want to come down too hard on the author for posting about it, but as it stands, all that's really here is an unsourced pop-psych article with Cosmo flair. It'll serve only to invite lots of sexist exposition from people who've never studied social psychology or sexual/gender identity development, which you can already see starting above with "Women want to be everyone's mother."

And I, personally, prefer a sexy smile. ;-)

Interesting article. I've always thought I had a killer smile that could charm the pants off of anyone, but I seem to get more hits on my profile when my main picture is one with me looking more serious, or with my teeth at least not exposed. Personally, I tend to be drawn toward a beautiful smile in profiles. . .the sullen, "butch" look feels forced and even ridiculous at times to me. But, maybe I'm in the minority.

Smiling faces.... show No traces... of what evil...... lurks within!

The Undisputed Truth! Long live Motown!

Results of this study are about as significant as many studies are including the idea that oat bran cures heart issues until the reality of the oat bran study was that the people lost weight simply because they were kept within the confines of a facility so they could not raid their refridgerators at home during the study and then giving credit for the weight loss to whatever silly stuff they are fed during the voluntary incarseration period. Some studies are even created just to stimulate federal grant programs with the results being orchestrated a bit sometimes.

A smile does not mean much other than a traditional way to take a picture. The serious look was common back when folks had to pose for a long time in the ole days due to long exposure times and their mouth would start to hurt from smiling too long. Looking overly serious could simply sometimes mean a headache, hangover or an attitude that becomes less than positive over time.

There's smiling and there's smiling...fake "gayface" smiles are just as big a turnoff as other gayface posturings. That being said, what's more attractive than a happy, relaxed, easy-going dude? Truthfully, I only read the post because of author RobHeart's cute smile anyhow, so that kinda speaks for itself.

And since many women - like many gay men - have a chronic inability to make intelligent choices in men I'd tend to ignore their feelings on the subject of attractive men altogether - surveyed, and otherwise: a dude who can dazzle me with his smiles and laughter is fast-tracking himself right into my bedroom that's for sure!


That's a very true statement - I don't smile at all in front of the Camera unless the photographer does something stupid :P

As a photographer...when people use their "photo" smile, it look and feel very staged when viewed by others. a relaxed, more natural smile draws the viewer in and makes them want to know more about the subject. Personally if find the same to be true when men want to have that butch, macho look and actually just end up looking mean and unapproachable. Most of us have gotten caught up in wanting to look like ( fill in the blank ) so we force a look that isn't natural to our true selves. When I am checking out profile pictures, I not only check out the smiles, I also check out the eyes..smiles can say alot but the eyes don't lie...... smiles are window dressing...the eyes are the window to a persons true nature....

somebody please fix the headline, that typo is driving me CRAAAAAAAAAAAAZY ("makes" should be "make")

Not when the sentence starts with "Does"...

Smile, darn ya, smile!

Its the quality of the smile that is key. A forced smile is deadly, but a natural smile born of humor, and a sunniness of spirit is deeply compelling.

Interesting article but I have zero interest in what heterosexual women consider attractive in heterosexual men. With regard to the gay community, I find a smile goes a long way. Personally, I'm more drawn to profiles on this site where the men are smiling in their photos. And that applies to men in person as well.

When I was younger I used to try and play down my smile because I thought it would detract from my "coolness." However, over time, more and more people began to comment on my nice smile so I started to take advantage of it. One of the greatest compliments to hear from a man is, "Wow, you've got a beautiful smile." :-) Plus, many other studies have shown that smiling makes one more attractive.

Happier people are funner to be around, (especially if they are naked)... :)


If you are the type of person that doesn't like a smile then I don't want you to be attracted to me.
Either you are bound up in some fake, macho gay mentality or you are actually unhappy and seek another unhappy person.
It's more attractive to have a relaxed, "comfortable in yourself" appearance that allows you to smile and laugh.
In my opinion, we should all have a variety of photos in our profiles, some smiling, some not.

why do gay men care if women find them attractive?

The less TV and talk radio you listen to the more you may smile in the first place - hehe. Nature came without electronic media for a reason. Why not be an individual apart from generic studies, parties, denominations, church's and generic labeling. So many people get into a mindset based on whatever some media is pumping into them. Get out and see the stars at night with no media input at all and you realize no one has any idea at all about anything other than what one feels for another human being apart from the systems that exist to give different groups control and sell a line of products and professional buddy services at very high rates.

What kind of photos were they using I the test it could just happen to be that the person who conducted this study just had no idea what a man with a good smile looked like or just randomly chose bad candidates..
I know for one that I often even ask for photos of men with a smile just so I can see their gentler more love happy side.. See how well those smiling muscles are developed, haha like a flex for the face ;)

Someone who does not smile in a photo does seem more "butch". I honestly have not payed attention to what I find more attractive in a photo, but I think I will start paying attention. I always either smile in a photo or smirk. But that's just me, I dont' look right when I'm not smiling.

My sullen smile works wonders.

They say a picture says a thousand words.
If that is the case, then meeting up with somebody in person says a zillion words.
Pictures are often very mis-representative.

I agree that no one should assume that what women like in a man is going to reflect gay men want. Many studies have been done that suggest that women like the bad boy type as a lover but will marry a "beta-provider" because is more likely to stay and help take care of the kids. That may explain their preference for the gruff or sullen facial expressions.

I would rather see a hint of his playfulness in at least a little smile. One of the great things about being a man who loves men is that we get to be more humorous and playful with each other than hetero couples do. Women have little to no sense of humor.

"Women have little to no sense of humor."
Nice of you to casually drop in with one of the greatest generalizations of all time.
That's half the population of the planet.

A smile indeed catches my eye. A frown turns off my attention. There are no guarantees in life; a smile does not translate automatically into a nice person but the majority of my experience has proven me right more often than not. A smiling face invites people in.

Smiles on men are always sexy - Maybe women are a little afraid of smiling men and may read a smile as lecherous?



I think some guy being overly concerned with what makes him more (or less) attractive is really unattractive.... And just plain shallow & vapid.

Surveys can be very biased. I think a lot depends on culture, age, etc. I def feel that a nice smile makes both; men and women, more attractive. That's just my opinion.

I usually have no trouble finding people when smiling. My picture now doesn't have a smirk, it just has me with a slightly serious look on my face. I agree with one of the comments above, there are women who do not like smiles because that want to, "nurture" the guy. Although a smile shows someone who is happy. I tend to pay more attention to the eyes though, a smile is fine and all but I prefer staring into a nice hair of eyes. They tell more about a person than the smile does. That guy in the picture above has incredibly HOT eyes!