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Hair and perceived attractiveness in the West.

Find PBMIF on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube for useful tips and facts in consumer and fashion psychology.

Hair... Credit: @PBMIF

The hair care market in 2023 is massive... indeed. But we're not here today to give you statistics about the hair care market. We're here to tell you about a couple of (recent) psychology studies that can give us an insight as to how a woman's perceived attractiveness (in Western culture) is influenced by her hair (according to research conducted in the West).

If you're interested in this topic, you might also want to read:

The psychology behind clothing and first impressions in dating...

MBTI, style, and fashion. MBT... I... wouldn't bother.

Diameter, density, and style of hair.

  • In three experiments, Fink et al. (2016) explored how diameter, density, and style of hair influenced women's perceptions of age, health, and attractiveness.

  • Female participants from a university in central Germany looked at computer generated images of Caucasian women with different hair (only their hair from behind and one shoulder were visible), and rated the images on age, health, and attractiveness.

  • The results suggested that straight hair and copper coloured hair were seen as younger, and blonde hair was seen as older.

  • Thick hair was seen as less healthy, and less attractive than thin hair.

  • Straight hair was seen as healthier, and more attractive than wavy hair.

  • Copper and brown hair were seen as healthier, and more attractive than blonde hair.

  • The original density (defined as 100% hair fibre counts in Caucasians) image, was seen as the youngest, healthiest, and most attractive.

  • Long hair was seen as the most attractive.

  • Hair style had the strongest effect on visual perception.

Hair colour (and length).

  • Matz and Hinsz (2018) investigated how women's hair colour and length influenced males' judgements about women's age, health, attractiveness, relationship, and parenting capability.

  • Male participants from a university in the USA were asked to look at computer generated images of Caucasian women with different hair colours and lengths (only their hair from behind and one shoulder were visible), and were then asked to answer questions about the women's age, health, attractiveness, relationship, and parenting capability.

  • Lighter hair was found to be associated with youth, health, playfulness, and attractiveness, (and therefore positive relationship and parenting potential).

  • Longer hair was found to be associated with youth, but reduced parenting potential.

  • It is suggested that young women change their hair colour to meet stereotypical Westernised conceptions of beauty.

Location, location, location.

  • Wortham et al. (2018) decided to study men and women on their preference of hair colour on women in line with the interest of evolutionary psychology theories predicting that individuals are attracted to hair colours both familiar to them, and rare for their culture.

  • The study, based in Florida, USA, asked participants to report their own, their parents', and their significant other's hair colour, along with their geographic region. Their hair colour preferences were surveyed.

  • Due to familiarity with hair colours present in different populations, geographic location was predicted to influence participants' preferences.

  • It was found that male and female participants both preferred brown hair, then blonde hair, and lastly red hair.

  • Male participants' choice of hair colour was consistent across geographic regions, however female participants varied their choice dependent on which geographic region they originated.

  • Red hair was preferred more frequently than expected based on the prevalence of redheads in the studied population (both men and women preferred red hair 6% of the time, while only 3% of the female population were redheads).

Take the results of these studies with a pinch of salt because they're ethnocentric and based on small sample sizes; their findings shouldn't really be generalised to other cultures. Also, not only hair plays a role in how we are perceived by others, and of course, attraction is subjective.

Does the hair (style and colour) of a (potential) partner matter to you?

  • Yes, definitely.

  • Nah, that's shallow.

  • Other (Want to tell us? Drop us a line.)


Fink, B., Hufschmidt, C., Hirn, T., Will, S., McKelvey, G., & Lankhof, J. (2016). Age, Health and Attractiveness Perception of Virtual (Rendered) Human Hair. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1893.

Matz, D. C. & Hinsz, V. B. (2018). Women's hair as a cue to desired relationship and parenting characteristics. The Journal of Social Psychology, 158(5), 558-573.

Wortham, J., Miller, A., & Delvescovo, D. (2018). Male and female hair colour preferences: Influences of familiarity, geographic region of origin, and environment on mate attraction in University of Tampa students. Florida Scientist, 81(1), 33-54.


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