Nadine Samson, Bernhard Fink and Paul Matts

Visible skin condition and perception of human facial appearance

International Journal of Cosmetic Science

Evolutionary psychology suggests that certain human beauty standards have evolved to provide reliable cues of fertility and health. Hence, preferences for some physical characteristics of the face and body are thought to reflect adaptations for the promotion of mate choice. Studies that have investigated facial attractiveness have concentrated mainly on features such as symmetry, averageness and sex-typical traits, which are developed under the influence of sex steroids. Few studies, however, have addressed the effect of human skin condition on perception of facial appearance in this context, and possible implications for sexual selection. There is now accumulating evidence that skin pigmentation and skin surface topography cues, particularly in women, have a significant influence on attractiveness judgements, as they seem primarily to signal aspects of age and health. This article (i) reviews briefly some of the main determinants of visible skin condition, (ii) presents recent evidence on its signalling value in face perception and (iii) suggests areas for future research with reference to an evolutionary psychology framework.