A study conducted by Karl Grammer, PhD, and Bernhard Fink, PhD, at the Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute for Urban Ethology in Austria, Vienna, and the Department for Sociobiology/Anthropology at the University of Goettingen in Germany, shows that facial skin color distribution or tone can add or subtract as much as 20 years to the perception of a woman’s age.

The researchers took digital photos of 169 caucasian women, aged 10 to 70, and used morphing software to “drape” each subject’s facial skin over a standardized bone structure. Other potential age-defining features such as facial furrows, lines, and wrinkles were removed. The subjects who were judged to have the most even skin tone also received higher ratings for attractiveness and health, and were judged to be younger in age.

Tone variances can be caused by several factors, including cumulative UV damage (freckles, moles, and age spots), natural aging (yellowing and  dullness), and skin vascularization (redness). The study showed a positive correlation between the amount of accumulated photodamage and the unevenness skin tone.

As their next step, Grammer and Fink will partner with Paul Matts, PhD, of P & G Beauty,  look at the distribution of light-reflecting molecules—chromophores—to study subjects’ skin and correlate it to perceived attractiveness. A noninvasive imaging technology called the SIAscope (originally developed for early skin-cancer detection) will help the scientists get under the skin’s surface to study the chromophores.

[www.medicalnewstoday.com, June 13,2006]