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Health Often Determined by Skin Tone

Posted: April 1, 2009

Another reason to keep skin vital and fresh has arisen, with new research pointing out people use others' skin color and tone to determine how healthy they are.

People use the color of your skin to judge how healthy you are, according to researchers at the University of St Andrews. Scientists in the School of Psychology have shown there is truth to the received wisdom that a "rosy" complexion denotes healthiness, whilst a "green" or "pale" color indicates illness.

Lead researcher Ian Stephen worked with the University's Perception Lab to determine how face color is associated with healthy looks. Several monkey species use redness in their faces or sexual skin to advertise their health status and to attract mates. The team was keen to discover whether similar mechanisms were at work in humans.

Stephen said, "Parents and doctors know that when you get ill, you can end up looking pale. Our research goes further and shows that even young, healthy university students can benefit from a complexion reflecting more blood and more oxygen in the skin."

The team from the University of St Andrews first measured how skin color varies with the amount of blood and oxygen in the blood. These measurements were used with computer graphics to allow research participants to change the color of the faces in the photographs to look as healthy as possible. The team found that, for all faces, participants added more oxygen rich blood color to improve the healthy appearance.