A study found those who took bronzing pills for a Joey Essex style look were 50 per cent more likely to be described as ‘hot’ just 12 weeks later.
But the research also warned that taking the tan pills did nothing for the mens’ well-being - even though they looked ‘much fitter’.
It shows people are turned on by outward signs of health - rather than actual health, according to the findings published in Behavioral Ecology.
In January a survey revealed the number of young British men using fake tans has doubled in only a year - imitating stars of The Only Way Is Essex and a host of other celebrities.
Earlier research has also found tanned Brits have more sex than their paler pals.
Now the first experimental evidence of the pigment beta-carotene’s effect on attractiveness and health suggests the tanning chemical is sexually selected in humans.
The natural pigment gives many fruit and vegetables - such as carrots and pumpkins - their colour and in high doses adds a yellow or orange glow to the skin.
So Dr Yong Zhi Foo looked for links to the “signals of health” from the carotenoids and real health by giving 43 heterosexual white men beta-carotene pills for 12 weeks and a dummy treatment to 20 controls.
Afterwards 66 heterosexual women, also white with an average age of 33, were asked to rate before and after photographs of all the participants, aged around 21, who were also tested on their health at the same time.
This included their level of oxidative stress, immune function and quality of semen.
As expected the beta-carotene supplements increased overall ‘tanning’ of the skin - but not lightness.
And these faces were 50 percent more likely to be chosen as attractive - as well as healthier looking - compared to the pre-photos or the placebo group.
The researchers said the pills significantly boosted attractiveness and appearance of health, but did not affect any health functions.
They said this disproves the popular argument that carotenoid-based colouration is an “honest signal” of health and is associated with acting as an antioxidant.
One proposal is people are attracted to signs of health in a desire to reproduce and those who display these have a greater chance of survival, greater fertility and providing genes that promote healthy offspring.
Dr Foo, of Western Australia University, said: “Carotenoids are known to be responsible for the striking mating displays in many animal species.
“Our study is one of the first to causally demonstrate carotenoids can affect attractiveness in humans as well.
“It also reaffirms the results of previous studies showing that what we eat can affect how we look.”
He called for further research on the influence of carotenoid coloration on mammals - in particular to discover if the findings are replicated in women.
Dr Foo said some people are more attractive as mating partners than others and one characteristic that plays an important part is carotenoid-based colouration.
Two years ago a survey found 87% of people think they are more attractive to the opposite sex when they’re browner - leading to 65% thinking they actually get more nookie when they are glowing.
When asked which celebrity’s tan would make them feel the sexiest, 32% voted for bronzed Kelly Brook followed by Jennifer Anniston (27%).
And last month another study found one in three young men use bottle bronzer - up from one in six a year ago.
More males are plumping for TOWIE orange than women of the same age.
Incredibly, one in four - inspired by the healthy glow of stars from Hollywood heart-throb Ryan Reynolds to Strictly Come Dancing favourite Ed Balls - booked a session in a self tanning booth, compared with one in five young women.