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Skin Coloring Shown to Affect a Person's Attractiveness

Posted: November 25, 2009

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The preference for more golden, or yellow-toned skin as healthier might be explained by the carotenoid pigments that people get from the fruit and vegetables in their diet. These plant pigments are powerful antioxidants that soak up dangerous compounds produced when the body combats disease. They are also important for our immune and reproductive systems and may help prevent cancer.

They are the same dietary pigments that brightly colored birds and fish use to show off their healthiness and attract mates, and the researchers think that similar biological mechanisms may be at work in humans. "In the West, we often think that sun tanning is the best way to improve the color of your skin," said Stephen, "but our research suggests that living a healthy lifestyle with a good diet might actually be better."

Melanin, the pigment that causes the tan color when skin is exposed to the sun makes the skin darker and more yellow, but participants in the study chose to make skin lighter and more yellow to make it look healthier. "This discovery is very exciting and has given us a promising lead into cues to health," said Professor David Perrett, head of the Perception Lab at the University of St. Andrews, where the research took place. "What we eat and not just how much we eat appears to be important for a healthy appearance. The only natural way in which we can make our skin lighter and more yellow is to eat a more healthy diet high in fruit and vegetables."

Reference: Stephen ID et al (2009). Facial skin coloration affects perceived health of human faces. International Journal of Primatology DOI 10.1007/s10764-009-9380-z, November 23, 2009