Bernhard Fink, Paul Matts, Susanne Röder, Rolanda Johnson and Maria Burquest

Differences in visual perception of age and attractiveness of female facial and body skin

International Journal of Cosmetic Science

Perception of age and health is critical in the judgement of attractiveness. The few studies conducted on the significance of apparent skin condition on human physical appearance have studied faces alone or isolated fields of images facial skin. Little is known about whether perception of the face matches that of other body parts or if body skin affects overall age and attractiveness perception when presented in combination with facial skin. We hypothesized that independent presentation of female faces, chests and arms (including hands) – cropped from a full face and upper body image – would result in significant differences in perception of age and attractiveness compared to the corresponding composite. Furthermore, we sought to investigate whether relatively young and attractive looking skin on selected, individual parts of the body affects overall perception. Digital photographs of 52 women aged 45–65 years were collected and processed to yield four derivative sets of images: One set showed the composite of all features, i.e. the face, the chest and the arms, whereas the other three were cropped carefully to show each part of the upper body described above independently. A total of 240 participants judged these faces for perceived age and attractiveness. Our results showed significant differences in perception with the chest and the arms being judged significantly younger than the face or composite image of the same women. Moreover, arms and chest images were perceived as more attractive than face and composite images. Finally, regression analysis indicated that differences between the perceived and chronological values of overall age perception could be predicted by age perception of the face and arms. These results continue to support the significance of facial age perception in assessment of a woman’s age, but highlight that body skin also plays a role in overall age impression.