And you thought it was all about PMS…
Hormone levels predict attractiveness of women
00:01 02 November 2005
NewScientist.com news service
- Gaia Vince
are the computer-generated composite face of the 10 women with highest
and lowest levels of oestrogen – which do you find more attractive?
Answers at the end of the story (Image: Miriam Law Smith)
beauty, the subject of philosophical and artistic musings for
millennia, can be predicted by something as basic as hormones – in
women, but not men. Researchers at the University of St Andrews in
Fife, UK, have found that women’s facial attractiveness is directly
related to their oestrogen levels.
Smith and colleagues photographed 59 women, aged between 18 and 25,
every week for six weeks. On each occasion, they provided a urine
sample for hormone analysis and gave information on where they were in
their menstrual cycle. None of the women wore make-up, nor were they
taking the contraceptive pill.
then selected the photograph of each woman that had been taken at the
time of her highest urine-oestrogen level. As expected, this correlated
to the point of ovulation in the women’s menstrual cycles. These
photographs were rated by 14 men and 15 women, also aged 18 to 25, for
attractiveness, health and femininity.
also rated two composite face images. One composite was an amalgamation
of the 10 women with the lowest peak-oestrogen levels, while the other
image was a combination of the 10 women with the highest levels (see
was a very strong and direct correlation between the level of each
woman’s oestrogen and how attractive, healthy and feminine they were
found to be, showing that fertility is related to attractiveness,” Law
Smith told New Scientist. The faces considered most healthy and feminine were also deemed the most attractive.
is likely that those women with higher hormone levels also had
increased levels of oestrogen during puberty – the time when the
hormone has a crucial role in determining facial appearance,” she
The amount of oestrogen produced by a
person’s body during the average seven-year-long puberty is largely
determined by heredity. The hormone has lasting effects on bone growth
and tissue formation as well as the skin’s appearance, Law Smith
So should 13-year-old girls be given
doses of oestrogen in the hope that they will grow into more beautiful
women? “Absolutely not,” Law Smith says. “It certainly may make them
more attractive, but who knows what other effects the hormone may have?”
course there may be an easier way – faking it. A further study by Law
Smith’s group found that when women wore make-up the correlation
between perceived attraction and oestrogen levels was completely
masked, because make-up improved appearance.
answers: The left-hand composite faces was from women with the highest
oestrogen levels, and was judged more attractive than the composite
face on the right, from women with the lowest levels of oestrogen.