None of my advice should be taken as saying that people absolutely must become conventionally attractive: this would be quite hypocritical of me, as a medically transitioning transgender person, for whom comfort in my body trades off against conventional attractiveness. You have no obligation to be any more conventionally attractive than you please, and being conventionally attractive does not make you a better person. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked female (or human).
In particular, I would very much advise against adopting any habits you would not be willing to have in the long term. You want to date someone who wants to date you. Prioritize things that you’ve always meant to do (maybe this can be the motivation you were looking for to work out), then things that don’t make much difference one way or the other (getting your teeth whitened). If you’re like “but I don’t WANT to do Thing”, don’t do Thing.
I am deliberately phrasing this as ‘conventionally attractive’, because there are plenty of people who get laid like tile and go against my advice. Niche marketing works! But the question of how to maximize one’s attractiveness to the average person is still interesting.
The single two best things you can do to get laid are (1) socialize with new people and (2) actually ask those people out. If you are not doing those two things, I would strongly advise doing those things BEFORE you take my advice.
I suck at online dating and can’t give advice about it.
My advice is based only on my own observations. Take with all relevant grains of salt.
Everyone always recommends losing weight, and it’s true that people in the 18.5-25 BMI range tend to be more attractive than those who are heavier (or lighter). However, diets usually fail in the long term, which makes me leery of giving this as advice. I think for most people the lowest-hanging fruit is something else.
Lift weights. Pretty much everyone, male and female and other, would become more conventionally attractive if they lifted weights. Don’t worry about getting “too bulky” or “too muscular”: in order to get sufficiently muscular that it’s a detriment, you’d have to have lifting weights as your primary hobby. (Which is why I’m not giving the opposite advice– bodybuilders generally fall under the “don’t change important aspects of yourself to get laid” exception.) For women, squats are an excellent way to get a round ass. Starting Strength is a good guide to lifting weights. Muscles require lots of protein to maintain; try eating half a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
If you have skin issues, go to a dermatologist. If your teeth are crooked or stained, go to a dentist. Hair makes a lot of difference in your facial appearance. In my experience, the best way for a person who doesn’t know anything about hair to get a good haircut is going to an expensive salon, saying one or two adjectives you’re going for (“punky” and “androgynous” were my go-tos), and then agreeing with whatever the hairdresser says.
It is important to get clothes that fit properly. Yes, even if you’re fat. I see so many people in ill-fitting baggy clothing that doesn’t flatter them at all, when they would be perfectly attractive if they had clothing that fits right. Here’s a guide to fit for men; I don’t know of a similar guide for women. If you have the money and want to, buying your clothes off the rack and getting them tailored can improve how much the clothes fit.
I understand that there is something mysterious about colors going with your complexion, but when I tried to learn about it I got really confused about what seasons have to do with anything.
Men, in general, tend to care more about youth in their sexual partners than women do, so people who want to have sex with men might want to look into reducing signs of aging. Applying sunscreen daily is the single best thing you can do to prevent wrinkles.
Some people do well with canned lines of the pickup-artist sort, but I tend to prefer actually developing the attractive traits that the canned lines are simulating. If you actually have the trait, your body language, tone of voice, and word choice will all line up, but if you don’t you might wind up having confident words and insecure body language and come off as weird or creepy. And having the trait, instead of using lines, allows you to react well in unfamiliar situations. That said, it’s a crutch that’s useful for some people.
I do not support lying, but it is not lying to selectively emphasize things when you’re flirting. If sometimes you are cheerful and happy and sometimes you are whiny as hell, it’s okay to choose to be cheerful while you are flirting.
Physical appearance is relatively more important if you want to have sex with men, while personality is relatively more important if you want to have sex with women. That said, both are important to both groups, and a lot of people who are willing to admit sentence #1 tend to underestimate the importance of personality to men and physical appearance to women.
People always talk about how confidence is attractive. In my opinion, about half of why confident people get laid has nothing to do with confidence being attractive and is instead about being willing to actually hit on people (the single most important thing you can do for your sexual success!) and bouncing back well from rejection. That said, feeling secure in yourself and being able to laugh off criticism are pretty attractive traits. (I was going to have a sentence here about self-deprecating humor as countersignaling confidence vs. self-deprecating humor as apologizing for your existence, but then I realized how hard it was to distinguish these two things. Seriously, I don’t envy the canned-lines people their job.)
Getting groupies is dating on easy mode. If you have a talent that you can show off easily– whether it’s writing, music, art, or spinning poi– you can impress people with it and then many of them will want to date you. While it’s theoretically possible to get groupies for anything, it requires less talent to get groupies for talents that are sexy (think poetry, not programming) and that are easily demonstrated to an unskilled person.
Kindness is attractive. Note that I did not say that pedestalization and codependency are attractive; they are not. Key things to think of: are you being nice to people whom you don’t want to have sex with as well as those you do? Are you setting reasonable boundaries? Are you being nice because you want other people to be happy, or because you’re terrified that they’ll dislike you if you don’t and being disliked is the Worst Possible Thing? Do you expect people to throw a ticker-tape parade because of how nice you are? Being nice to the waiter used to be a big kindness tipoff, and now everyone knows about it so it’s expected, so I would suggest instead giving a dollar to a homeless guy and then if the person you’re flirting with notices shrugging and saying “eh, he looked sad, it was nothing”. (This may not work if the person you’re flirting with is the sort of person who doesn’t like giving money to homeless people because they might spend it on drugs.)
Many people find it attractive to be listened to as if they are the most interesting person in the world. This is also terribly useful for introverts, because you don’t have to think of new things to say. It is possible to counterfeit (any good book on interviewing for journalism or qualitative research will explain the techniques) but probably the best way to achieve this is to flirt with interesting people.
People like it when they have good feelings, and therefore tend to prefer happy people to sad people, unless you can be the sort of sad person who makes a bunch of flippant jokes about it, in which case they like you again because you’re funny. Be enthusiastic about things you like. Try to look on the bright side of bad situations. Smile.
Speaking of good feelings: being funny is a good thing, and unfortunately extremely difficult to teach, so I don’t think it’s low-hanging fruit for non-funny individuals.
For reasons I do not understand, a dark and tragic past is one of the most attractive traits one can have. Combine with several other attractive traits; a dark and tragic past all by itself just looks pathetic. Don’t be whiny; as best as I can tell, the best ways to deploy one’s dark and tragic past is through mysteriousness, flippancy, or forthright honesty and owning your shit. Don’t bitch about everyone who has Done You Wrong, because that is generally considered a red flag. If you heavily rely on dark and troubled pasts as a flirtation strategy, be aware that this attracts people with a saving-people thing who are terrible at setting boundaries, and be prepared to have a long conversation about Putting On Your Own Oxygen Mask First.
I am informed that some men don’t like sluts, but I have never actually met a man of this sort; the men I know tend to find it a selling point when you openly like and enjoy sex. (Yes, it’s a selling point for commitment too.) I recommend women work on overcoming their internalized slut-shaming and sex-negativity, if they have any.
A lot of having an attractive personality is learning how to flirt, because that’s where you show off your shiny awesome new personality. The key to flirting is practice, practice, practice. Like any skill, flirting gets easier the more you do it. And don’t be afraid of creeping people out: while you shouldn’t go about deliberately creeping people out, if you accidentally happen to make someone feel uncomfortable, it’s not the end of the world. It’s okay to make mistakes while you’re learning.
If you are a nerdy woman who wants to have sex with nerdy men: watch Firefly. Look at Kaylee. Try to be Kaylee. In particular, note that she is cheerful, cute, non-threatening, and happily sexual, and that she infodumps about a topic that nerdy men are interested in (spaceship engines). These traits are very attractive to nerdy men.
If you are a developmentally disabled or personality disordered woman who comes off as childish: watch Enchanted. Try to be Giselle. Notice that she is optimistic, idealistic, compassionate, and happy; when she’s sad, she’s adorably sad; she takes joy in little things and has faith in people. I have found this to be an excellent strategy for making your childishness work for you.