Cincinnati, OH (October 24, 2006) -- A new study is revealing that wrinkles aren't the only cue the human eye looks for to evaluate age. Facial skin color distribution, or tone, can add 10-12 years to a woman's perceived age.
The study, published in the latest issue of the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, used three-dimensional imaging and morphing software to remove wrinkles and furrows from pictures of women, leaving skin tone as the only variable. Researchers were then able to determine exactly what impact facial skin tone has on how young, healthy and attractive people perceive the women to be. Faces with more even skin tone were judged to be younger.
"Until now, behavioral scientists have mostly ignored the overall homogeneity and color saturation of a person's skin," says lead researcher Dr. Karl Grammer. "This study points out that wrinkles aren't the only visual cue to a woman's age.
"Skin tone and luminosity may be a major signal to suitors of a woman's attractiveness, as well as of her assumed age," said Grammer, who is founder and scientific director of the Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute for Urban Ethology at the University of Vienna, Austria.
The researchers used software to take skin of women of different ages and electronically drape on onto a single standardized underlying facial structure. Then they showed these images to hundreds of observers who rated the age of each picture.
The researchers took digital photographs of 169 Caucasian women between the ages of 10 and 70. Then they used specialized morphing software to "drape" each subject's facial skin over a standardized model, in effect, taking 169 different skin tones and applying them to a common canvas.
In the process, other potential age-defining features such as facial furrows, lines and wrinkles were removed, leaving skin tone as the only variable. Then, these models were viewed by 430 observers who were asked to estimate each model's age and gauge her health and attractiveness.
The models who had the most even skin tone received significantly higher ratings for attractiveness and health, and were also judged to be younger in age. The models with uneven, blotchy skin tone were judged to be significantly older.
"Whether a woman is 17 or 70, the contrast of skin tone plays a significant role in the way her age, beauty and health is perceived," says study co-author Dr. Bernhard Fink. "An even skin tone can give visual clues about a person's health and reproductive capability, so it is considered most desirable."
Women (and men for that matter) who go for plastic surgery to lift and tuck ought to look at techniques for making skin color more even. Anyone know of safe home remedies that decrease skin discoloration?
These researchers will next look at the distribution of melanin, hemoglobin, and collagen for effects on skin tone.
Next Phase of Tone Research – Getting Under the Skin As a next step, Drs. Grammer and Fink will partner with scientist and skin imaging expert Dr. Paul Matts, from P&G Beauty (a division of Procter & Gamble that funded the study) to look at the distribution of 3 chromophores – melanin, hemoglobin, and collagen -- in the skin of study subjects and correlate this distribution with perceived attractiveness. A non-invasive imaging technology called SIAscopy--originally developed by UK-based Astron Clinica for early skin cancer detection--will help the scientists study the chromophores. These 3 chromophores directly affect how the human eye perceives qualities such as luminosity in young skin or dullness in aging skin.
Venture capitalists, biotech companies, and beauty products companies would all do well to pay attention to these results. Products that remove damaged clumps of melanin and other accumulations of intracellular and extracellular trash will find a large market.
Accumulation of junk both in and outside of cells is a major cause of aging. The accumulated trash is probably a source of free radicals and also crowds out cellular components that perform basic tasks. The development of full body rejuvenation therapies will be helped by the development of products that remove accumulated trash from the skin. The widespread willingness to spend big dollars to enhance outer appearances will therefore accelerate the development of rejuvenation biotechnologies.
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