Does a Woman’s Skin Color Indicate Her Fertility Level?: Preliminary Findings

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Abstract

Roberts et al. (2004) showed that perceived facial attractiveness of women is higher in the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle than in the luteal phase, suggesting the existence of visible cues of ovulation. However, the nature of such cues remains speculative. Here, in an initial pilot study, we test the hypothesis that changes in female facial skin coloration across the menstrual cycle could be one of the signals that men have adapted to in order to assess female fertility. Spectrophotometric measurements of the facial skin color of normally ovulating Caucasian women (aged 24–29 years) were collected in the late follicular and midluteal phase of their menstrual cycle. Facial images were also taken in both sessions and judged for attractiveness and health by a panel of German men (aged 16–37 years). In line with Roberts et al. (2004), our results show that men perceive women in the late follicular phase to be significantly more attractive and healthier than those in the midluteal phase. However, we did not detect any significant differences in objective measurements of skin color between the two phases. We conclude that the increase in male perception of female facial attractiveness and health in the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle is not caused by a change in overall skin color and/or lightness.

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