Ok, I was GOING to post this last night. But Sci’s laptop had epic internet fail. Hopefully it will work again anon. As it is, you’re getting your post late. Sci was going to do something for April 1. Too late now!
In the meantime, let’s talk about flushing. Being female, Sci had a certain amount of exposure to things like makeup growing up, and the one thing I could never understand was this:
(Photo courtesy of makeuptips.com)
Blush. I could never understand blush. If I put on too much, I looked like a clown, if I put on too little, I might as well not put on any at all! To this day, blush remains somewhat of a mystery to Sci. Though I know the proper application, etc, I’ve never thought it really added anything.
But what if it does? What if a little extra flush to my cheeks would make me look…a little more robust?
Stephan et al. “Skin blood perfusion and oxygenation colour affect perceived human health” PLoS ONE, 2009.
We all know that some animals use bright colors to signify things like mating potential and dominance. Birds are especially well known for this, but mammals are too. In particular, primates, such as macaques, are known to get red in the face in response to changes in reproductive hormone levels. But what about humans? We certainly have varying levels of redness in our skin. Not only that, red is a color that humans pay a lot of attention to. We see sports teams wearing red as being more likely to win. Women can seem more attractive to men, simply by wearing red.
But does natural redness, especially in the face, affect how healthy we seem to each other? To test this, the authors of this study took a whole bunch of photographs in a gray room, where light was controlled to be as mediocre as possible. These photos were then given to subject participants, who were allowed to give the face more oxygenated blood (to make it more red), or more deoxygenated bloog (to make it more bluish-red).
As you can see in the figure above, participants were presented with either a very red face, or a very UN-red face. They were then asked to press a mouse key to give the faces more of less oxygenated blood to make the faces appear as healthy as possible. Not surprisingly, they added more red to faces that started out low in redness, and less red to those starting out high in redness.
This means that a significant amount of the faces had red added to them, regardless of how red they were to start out with, though of course the very red faces had some taken away. Not only that, participants added more red to women’s faces than men’s, though it didn’t matter whether the participant themselves was male or female. Overall changes made were an increase in redness, and a small decrease in blueness.
It seemed clear from the results that more oxygenated blood (more red) was better for apparent health than less red. Participants rated mosr of the faces (96%) as healthier when there was more oxygenated blood. But the researchers wanted to look at effects of facial ethnicity as well. In most cases, facial ethnicity and the ethnicity of the participant did not affect how much red was added to the faces. There was, however, a significant interaction between participants of African origin and African faces, with African participants increasing redness significantly more than other participants. But in the end, it doesn’t matter what your ethnicity, more red is still better.
The authors conclude that people are cued to think of redder faces as more healthy, and thus possibly as more attractive, than faces with less red. So I guess this whole trend for models that are pale and thin and scary is…to shock people?
(Courtesy of Project Rungay)
Maybe a little less red around the lips and a little more in the face, Mr. McQueen. As for me, I might have to get out my blush a little more. Sci needs all the health she can get!
Stephen, I., Coetzee, V., Law Smith, M., & Perrett, D. (2009). Skin Blood Perfusion and Oxygenation Colour Affect Perceived Human Health PLoS ONE, 4 (4) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005083
Filed under: Neuroscience