Investigating the effect of wearing the hijab: Perception of facial attractiveness by Emirati Muslim women living in their native Muslim country

Sheen M., Yekani H. A. K., Jordan T. R.

PLOS ONE, vol.13, no.10, 2018 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 13 Issue: 10
  • Publication Date: 2018
  • Doi Number: 10.1371/journal.pone.0199537
  • Journal Name: PLOS ONE
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


The Hijab and other forms of Islamic veiling are important social, cultural, and religious symbols that are central to the identity of millions of Muslim women across the world. However, despite the large body of literature that exists on the political and socio-cultural aspects of Islamic veiling, little is known about how the appearance of women wearing the hijab is perceived by other Muslim women within their native Muslim country. To throw light on this important issue, the current study focussed on the effects of the hijab on female facial attractiveness perceived by practising Muslim Emirati women living in their native Muslim country (the United Arab Emirates) who themselves wore the hijab as everyday attire. Participants were shown frontal-head images of women in three different conditions: covered (heads fully covered by the hijab except for the face), partially covered (heads fully covered by the hijab except for the face and the hair around the forehead) and uncovered (heads with no covering). The findings showed that faces in images where heads were covered and partially covered by the hijab were rated as equally attractive but both were rated as significantly less attractive than faces in images where heads were uncovered. These findings suggest that, even for practising Muslim Emirati females living in their native Muslim country for whom wearing the hijab is a normal aspect of everyday life, perception of facial attractiveness is compromised by wearing this garment. We argue that this effect of wearing the hijab is not consistent with a preference for one's own cultural group (cultural endogamy) and may, instead, occur because wearing a hijab occludes external features, such as hair and ears, which normally contribute to the perception of human facial attractiveness. In sum, while wearing the hijab may be dominated by male attitudes towards suppressing female attractiveness towards males, the findings from this study suggest that female Muslims too perceive the negative influence of wearing the hijab on female facial attractiveness.