Women’s skin tone influences perception of beauty, health, age, sociobiologists find
Skin discoloration, uneven tone can add years to perceived age
Philadelphia, Penn. (June 9, 2006) -- Using a revolutionary imaging process, a new study is revealing that wrinkles aren't the only cue the human eye looks for to evaluate age. Scientists at the Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute for Urban Ethology (Austria) and the Department for Sociobiology/Anthropology at the University of Goettingen (Germany), have shown that facial skin color distribution, or tone, can add, or subtract, as much as 20 years to a woman's age. The study is to be presented at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society (HBES) annual meeting, June 7-11, 2006, in Philadelphia, PA. The study used 3-D imaging and morphing software technologies to remove wrinkles and bone structure from the equation to determine the true impact of facial skin color distribution on the perception of a woman's age, health and attractiveness and is currently in the edit acceptance process with the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.
"Until now, skin's overall homogeneity and color saturation received little attention among behavioral scientists. This study helps us better understand that wrinkles are not the only age cue. Skin tone and luminosity may be a major signal for mate selection and attractiveness, as well as perceived age," says lead researcher Dr. Karl Grammer, Founder and Scientific Director of the Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute for Urban Ethology, University of Vienna, Austria.
Taking digital photos of 169 Caucasian women aged 10-70, the researchers used specialized morphing software to "drape" each subject's facial skin over a standardized bone structure. Other potential age-defining features such as facial furrows, lines and wrinkles were removed. The subjects who were judged to have the most even skin tone also received significantly higher ratings for attractiveness and health, and were judged to be younger in age.
Tone variances can be caused by several factors including cumulative UV damage (freckles, moles, age spots) natural aging (yellowing, dullness) and skin vascularization (redness). Not surprisingly, the study hinted at a positive correlation between the amount of accumulated photodamage and the amount of uneven skin tone.
"Whether a woman is 17 or 70, the contrast of skin tone plays a significant role in the way her age, beauty and health is perceived," says study co-author Dr. Bernhard Fink, Senior Scientist in the Department for Sociobiology/Anthropology at the University of Goettingen, Germany. "Skin tone homogeneity can give visual clues about a person's health and reproductive capability, so an even skin tone is considered most desirable. In this study, we found cumulative UV damage influences skin tone dramatically, giving women yet another reason to prevent UV-related skin damage or try to correct past damage that is causing uneven skin tone."