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David Perrett, Dan Re, Ross Whitehead, Ian Stephen, Dengke Xiao; Perception of health and facial attractiveness is influenced by small changes to lifestyle.. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):564. doi: 10.1167/11.11.564.
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Recent research demonstrates a marked influence of skin colour on facial appearance: enhanced skin redness and yellowness increases perceived healthiness and attractiveness. We have investigated the basis of skin colour associations with health, and examined the perceptual sensitivity to change in skin colour. Reduced blood oxygenation and skin perfusion occurs with cardiovascular disease but variation in a normal population is unclear. In 2 studies (n > 50 young adult Caucasians) we found skin redness (CIE a*) was reduced in participants reporting mild illness (colds and flu) compared to those reporting no illness. Skin redness was also raised in participants reporting increased weekly exercise levels (even with modest amounts of extra exercise). In a study of 38 students, we found that skin yellowness (CIE b*) was associated with dietary intake of fruit and vegetables: increased consumption enhanced skin yellowness within 6 weeks. We used a two-alternative forced choice paradigm to measure thresholds for change in apparent health and facial attractiveness due to change in skin colour. For colour changes associated with diet, thresholds were Δ < 1.5; equivalent to a change of 3.3 portions of fruit and vegetables per day. For skin colour changes with oxygenated blood perfusion, thresholds were Δ < 1.4; possibly equivalent to the difference between 0 and 1 hour of vigorous exercise a week. We conclude that even small changes to diet and lifestyle can induce perceivable benefits to skin colour, facial health and attractiveness.
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