What are the factors that affect the beauty of the face

Women's faces: measurable attractiveness

06/03/2015 | Research | Spirit & Society

Psychologists at the University of Bern know the connection between hormones and beauty: women with low testosterone and high estrogen levels are the most attractive.

By Lisa Fankhauser

Is Beauty Measurable? "Yes," says psychologist Janek Lobmaier, who researches the influence of the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone on the attractiveness of women. "Previous studies showed that the attractiveness of women increases with the level of estrogen," he explains. However, since estrogen and testosterone occur in men and women, Lobmaier, who has examined faces since completing his licentiate thesis, now tested both hormones for the first time. “The face is extremely interesting - it says a lot about a person,” he says. He is fascinated by reading, for example, emotional states or subtle changes from the “face, which is usually an honest source of information”. The study of hormones and faces has increased in recent years. However, the University of Bern is the only university in Switzerland that conducts research in this area. In previous Bern studies, for example, changes in women's faces during the female cycle were researched.

Generally applicable attractiveness

Attractiveness serves as an indication of fertility and health in order to guarantee reproduction. “People agree - even across cultures - what is attractive,” says Lobmaier. Four general, evolutionary biological criteria define what is considered attractive: symmetry, healthy appearance, averaging and sexual dimorphism. Symmetry is an indication of normal, proportional growth. Healthy appearance is a safe bet for potential offspring. Averageism rules out dangerous genetic mutations and sexual dimorphism denotes a typical male or female appearance. "Of course, personal preferences are also important," says the psychologist. Incidentally, the four criteria do not only play a role in adults. Babies prefer attractive adults and swallows prefer conspecifics with symmetrical tail feathers.

Hormones affect appearance

Female and male hormones shape appearance differently. Estrogen causes soft features, a fine chin, full lips or narrow cheekbones. Testosterone is responsible for distinctive eyebrows or a strong, broad face. Since the two hormones influence each other, Lobmaiers ’study mimicked their effects. After hormone measurements on test subjects, their portraits were ranked with software in terms of testosterone and estrogen levels and an average was formed. “This enabled typical features to be shown in prototypes,” he explains. For attractiveness - especially charisma - important factors such as skin color or structure were not taken into account, as the focus was on the shape of the face. It was assumed that firstly women with a lot of estrogen, secondly with little testosterone or thirdly with a ratio of little testosterone to much estrogen would be rated as attractive.

Nice: little testosterone, a lot of estrogen

The results largely confirmed the assumptions: pictures of women with low testosterone levels were rated more attractive by female and male subjects than those with a high one. The knowledge that women with a low testosterone to estrogen ratio - this inhibits the masculinization of facial features - are considered attractive shows that the correct ratio of both sex hormones is an important prerequisite for female attractiveness. Interestingly, high estrogen levels were not associated with increased attractiveness - this contradicts previous studies. The fact that men and women find the same faces attractive is “astonishing, but a common finding,” says Lobmaier.

Future studies: images of men

"It would be interesting to examine the influence of both hormones on the attractiveness of men," says Lobmaier. Until now it has always been shown that women prefer men with low testosterone levels. While high testosterone levels are associated with good genes, they are also associated with less affection and care, which is important in raising children. “It would also be exciting to research how infant hormones influence what happens during puberty,” he explains. Because hormones can have a strong influence on behavior, for example a high testosterone level is associated with increased risk and decision-making behavior.