Not even the most ardent believers in equality or the notion that a book cannot be judged by its cover can reasonably refute the power of appearances. 

We draw several conclusions about others within seconds of first meeting them, conclusions we will find hard to shake in the future, even if we see evidence to disprove them. Yet, when these conclusions are positive ones, when through our appearance we send visual cues that people receive in a positive light, something amazing happens, what researchers term the "halo effect." According to the halo effect, when people pick up positive visual messages and cues from your appearance, they will assume that other aspects about you are equally as positive. This snowball effect has the capacity to transform your life, and you can get it rolling simply by looking your best.

To that end, we've gathered together a top 10 highlighting the benefits of being as attractive as you can be and looking your very best -- benefits that aren't just assumptions or common sense, but ones supported by independent data.

1. Boost Your Salary 5 to 10 Percent
According to "Beauty and the Labor Market," a paper by Daniel Hamermesh and Jeff Biddle that was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, men who are attractive enjoy a premium on salaries, upwards of 10 percent, compared to their less appealing colleagues, a finding largely independent of occupation.

So can looking your best really make an impact on your current salary? There is only one way to find out:Upgrade the way you present yourself at work.

2. Get a Second Interview
A guy can rely on his persistence and on the strength of his resume when landing an initial job interview, but assuming he's qualified, what factor may end up being the tipping point? The thing that either lands that second interview or sinks any chance of it? You guessed it: personal appearance.

According to a study reported on by corporate image consultant Susan Bixler in The New Professional Image, the No. 1 reason given by over 150 employers for rejecting a job applicant following the first interview was poor personal appearance.

3. Land a Higher Starting Salary
A researcher from Fairleigh Dickinson University wanted to know if appearances would have any influence over starting salaries offered by employers. To find out, she sent identical resumes to over 1,000 employers asking what starting salary would be offered. Half of the resumes included a picture of the "applicant" before being made over and given a more professional and polished look, and the other half included a picture showing the person with the polished look.

The applicant with the polished, professional appearance did much better than his mediocre self, receiving starting salary replies upwards of 20 percent higher than his counterpart.

4. Be More Persuasive
You would think that nothing could be more persuasive or succeed in changing the minds of others than an airtight argument presented in a marching, logical fashion. This does not appear to be true; rather, some studies have shown that appearance alone is more than enough. Attractive people, by virtue of their appearance alone, have been found to be more persuasive (especially in the advertising setting) than their unattractive counterparts. Curiously, people tend to confer upon attractive people the quality of being an independent thinker, someone whose opinion is beyond undue influence.

5. Enjoy Greater Credibility
People who are perceived as more attractive than others are also regarded as being more credible and more reliable than their less attractive peers. While this is difficult if not impossible to accurately quantify, studies carried out by researcher A.G. Miller on the formation of impressions in others showed that attractive people are perceived as having a sense of purpose to their lives and act according to their will and conscience, lending them a greater degree of credibility in the eyes of others.

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More From AskMen.com:

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Top 10: Grooming Myths 

Top 10: Anti-Aging Products Every Man Should Own 

Top 10: Foods That Improve Your Appearance 

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6. Amplify How Others Perceive Your Accomplishments
Attractive people do not, as a rule, perform tasks or projects at work or elsewhere any better than unattractive people. Yet the work of two economists, entitled "Why Beauty Matters," showed that people do not perceive things in such an unbiased manner. Rather, they tend to have higher expectations from attractive people and they tend to overestimate their productivity.

In other words, simply by amping up your appearance, you can amp up how people perceive the things you do.

7. Raise Your General Self-Confidence
No one disputes the incredible effect self-confidence can have on a guy. People are drawn to confident people, and when they find it in others, they buy into it. Now, there are several ways to gain self-confidence, and one of them is in presenting yourself in the most attractive manner, in part because it'll make you feel good but also because, according to published estimates, we have the occasion to see our reflections in windows, mirrors and other surfaces as many as 50 times a day. What is the effect on self-confidence and behavior if one's reflection is showing a guy who you know could be a whole lot more attractive if he just put a little extra time and effort into it?

8. Be a Happier Person
Can being the most attractive person you can be also make you a happier person? Though this is the only entry on our list not directly supported by data, this benefit is nonetheless backed up by a preponderance of evidence, namely by the many other benefits named in this list: earning a better salary, enjoying more self-confidence, being regarded as credible and authoritative by others, having your accomplishments viewed in a light that perhaps is more aligned with your own perceptions of them. All these things necessarily point towards a happier, more fulfilled person -- and it's all simply from paying closer attention to the way you present yourself to others.

9. Make Better First Impressions With Women
Every spring, Maxim publishes its Sex Survey, polling several thousand women on a variety of topics relating to sex and relationships. The most recent survey, which arrived in the April issue, included the following question:

"What's the biggest potential turnoff when first meeting a man?"

The top answer, given by 36 percent of responding women, was bad hygiene. And while bad hygiene can refer to many things -- bad breath, ill-fitting clothes, unkempt hair -- all those things can be nullified by presenting the best possible version of yourself.

10. Expand Your Network
Arguably the best benefit of being as attractive as you can be is the ability to expand your network professionally and personally -- an ability that can be seen as the sum of all the other benefits, since it is through networking that we are introduced to new, interesting and potentially influential people. Researcher Karen Dion and her colleagues found that people seek out and expect to find more socially desirable traits in attractive people -- traits such as strength, sensitivity, poise, modesty, and character. Such a perception will undoubtedly draw people to you, allowing you to expand your network and open up new and exciting avenues in your life.