[Paleopsych] Toronto Star: A beautiful combination
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Fri Nov 25 02:11:51 UTC 2005
A beautiful combination
MIRIAM J. LAW SMITH
These are composite images of the faces of 10 women with the highest
level of estrogen and 10 women with the lowest levels.The composite
image of 10 women with high estrogen levels is on the left. Men chose
it as the most attractive in the study.
Researchers link estrogen to looks
Nov. 13, 2005. 07:50 AM
Beauty, as it turns out, isn't skin deep. A study at the University of
St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland, has shown that attractiveness in
females relates to the hormonal composition of blood.
Researchers found that men tend to be attracted to women who have high
levels of estrogen, a naturally occurring sex hormone linked to
fertility. The report also found that women with high estrogen levels
had more feminine features, such as bigger eyes, fuller lips and
The researchers photographed 59 women between 18 and 25, who were
wearing no makeup, and took a urine sample from each subject for
hormone analysis. A group of men then rated the women in the
photographs for health, femininity and attractiveness.
The results showed that men were most attracted to the women who
tested for high levels of estrogen. Miriam Law Smith, who helped carry
out the research, says men were, in effect, choosing the women best
poised to bear children.
"From an evolutionary point of view, it would now make sense that men
prefer feminine female faces because those are the women who have
higher estrogen levels, and who are ultimately more fertile," says Law
Smith. "In our evolutionary past, men who favoured women with feminine
features would be choosing the more fertile female, thus would have
had more babies and be passing on more of their genes."
The study also suggests cosmetics do much more than merely add a touch
of colour to a woman's face.
Law Smith believes women wear makeup to mimic the facial cues that
allude to heightened fertility. A woman with low levels of estrogen,
then, would be more likely to wear more makeup.
"What we think is happening here is that women are using makeup to
cover up the cues of low fertility that would normally be found in the
face," she says.
It seems to work. In an alternate test, photographs were taken of the
same women, this time wearing makeup. The rankings showed no
correlation between beauty and estrogen levels. The women had
successfully mimicked the facial fertility cues.
Law Smith has been asked repeatedly if the study will result in new
The point of the experiment, she says, was not to find a way to
enhance female beauty but to explore the workings of human attraction.
She points out that while estrogen supplements have been known to
clear up skin, they aren't likely to give a developed woman more
"We wouldn't suggest that this research could implicate the use of
estrogen supplements to improving women's (attractiveness)," says Law
Smith. "I would never recommend giving adults or adolescents estrogen
in the hope that it would make them more attractive."
That men are hardwired to be attracted to the women at the peak of
fertility an affinity that doesn't lessen with men's age seems to
paint a bleak picture for older women.
But Smith Law says the test shows only men's initial reaction and
doesn't take into consideration the other elements that come into play
when choosing a partner.
Interestingly, the phenomenon doesn't appear to apply when the genders
"Men with higher levels of testosterone have more masculine-looking
faces, but it's different in terms of determining attractiveness
because masculine men aren't always found more attractive," says Law
"Females tend to have a lot more variation on what they find
attractive. A handsome, rugged man might ultimately not make a good
father... Multiple motives contribute to female preference, whereas
male preference, across all cultures and time, tend to favour the most
Answer: The composite image of 10 women with high estrogen levels is
the one on the left.
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