The Beauty Benefits of Smiling

Studies show that a smile makes you look more attractive and competent. We test out the power of a winning grin.

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| November 29th, 2011

Here’s what I found: On the day that I smiled less than usual, nothing out of the ordinary happened. It was a gloomy Monday and I wasn’t feeling too well so it was easier to not grin. Although it was hard to suppress a smile when a coworker said something funny, I basically stayed in my corner of the office and didn’t socialize much (so I suppose not grinning did have an effect after all).

QUIZ: What’s Your Humor Style?

Next, I prepared for a day of near-constant smiling. Before going ahead with it, I asked Dr. Markman if it’s creepy to smile all of the time. His answer? Kind of—yes. That’s because a frozen facial expression isn’t really communicative.

“All interactions are a dance,” he says. “If you’re dancing with someone who’s waltzing and you’re doing the Cha-Cha, you’re going to step on them and it’s not going to be a pleasant experience. The whole point of a good dance is people responding to each other. Conversation is the same way.”

Also, smiling all day is forced—and a fake grin doesn’t garner the same beauty benefits. A 2011 study of bus drivers found that fake smiling (aka “surface acting”) actually depressed mood compared to “deep acting,” which is smiling by way of conjuring positive thoughts and memories. When they did the latter, not only did their moods improve, but their productivity also increased. With that in mind, I thought, how am I going to make my extra-smiley day genuine? 

MORE: When Body Language Backfires 

I wanted to try out the all-smiles experiment on a day when I was over-the-moon ecstatic, but I ended up testing it out a week after my smile-free day. By the time I reached the office that morning, I had that fatigued facial muscle feeling you get after smiling for one too many photos.

At first I was a little self-conscious grinning like crazy. For one, I didn’t want to send any flirting signals. But luckily I went through the whole day without anyone thinking I was hitting on them. There were at least four smiles I received in return, which I don’t think I would have normally gotten while walking the streets of New York City. I would have liked to say this was the day I randomly got a free Starbucks offered to me or that someone said “they liked my style” or “I had good energy,” but I didn’t get any of those types of comments. I did, however, feel more energetic. In terms of having great social interactions, the days when I smile genuinely (versus constantly) are more fruitful.

MORE: Charm School: How to Be Magnetic

Do White Teeth Make a Difference in Your Smile?

I also tested out another theory—that white teeth make for an even more attractive smile. That may be because pearly whites are linked to youth and vibrancy. On the flip side, yellowy, dark teeth are a sign of aging because the enamel thins out as we get older, showing the darker dentin underneath. Our teeth also become porous, so they pick up stains more easily.

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