The Science of Physical Attraction

Use caution when using makeup as bait

By Pat Lawson Muse
|  Thursday, Feb 9, 2012  |  Updated 10:15 PM EDT
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<a href=Dr. Jackie Eghrari-Sabet, of Family Allergy & Asthma Care in Gaithersburg, Md., on the potential for physiological consequences to efforts to attract a mate." />

Pat Lawson Muse

Dr. Jackie Eghrari-Sabet, of Family Allergy & Asthma Care in Gaithersburg, Md., on the potential for physiological consequences to efforts to attract a mate.

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For Valentine’s Day, the thoughts and hearts of many turn to love. If “true” love begins with the first glance, many women use makeup as a key attraction.

Science says that when one person is attracted to another, it causes the pupils to dilate and that dilation, in turn, draws more attention to the eyes.

“In Renaissance times they used a chemical called belladonna to make the black part of the eyes wider. It gives you that doe-eyed look,” said Dr. Jackie Eghrari-Sabet, of Family Allergy & Asthma Care in Gaithersburg, Md.  “However, if you use makeup to draw attention to the eyes, be aware that makeup chemicals can increase the risk of infection."

She advises patients to toss the mascara after 3 to 6 months, the eye shadow after one year.

Of course, eye makeup alone won’t complete the look of love.  A little blush on the cheeks makes us look healthy. However, science says those ruddy cheeks aren’t really about looking healthy.

“What we’re looking for in western culture is the flush of love,” said Dr. Jackie.  “Those red cheeks really mean you are sexually interested. Many women will experience this flush up your face. That’s what the blush is mimicking.”

But be aware that your blush could also cause contact dermatitis -- “the rash of love,” Dr. Jackie called it.

“Doctors can find out what’s causing the rash by doing a contact allergy test so that we know what the chemicals are and what the patient should stay away from,” she said.

And then there are the lips. Sexual attraction causes a plumping of the lips, which signals potential suitors. These days lipsticks also plump, color and last all day. On the flip side, “the lipsticks are drying and can cause a lot of edema and swelling,” according to Dr. Jackie.

One of the more popular Valentine’s Day gifts is perfume, which goes directly to your head. You smell it and the olfactory nerve in your nose triggers neurons in your brain. Sweet scents trigger those neurons in men.

“In some ancient cultures women would dust themselves with sweet basil,” said Dr. Jackie.  “Spicy scents tend to trigger neurons in women."

Finally, if you think Hulk Hogan muscles sweep the average woman off her feet, think again. Recent studies show that when women chose men by physique, they tend to take the Goldilocks approach.

“Not too muscular, and not too thin," Dr. Jackie said. "Most women like them just right.”

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