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Women's Skin Tone Influences Perception Of Beauty, Health And Age
A new study is revealing that wrinkles aren't the only cue the human eye
looks for to evaluate age. Facial skin color distribution, or tone, can add
10-12 years to a woman's perceived age.
The study, published in the latest issue of the journal Evolution and Human
Behavior, used three-dimensional imaging and morphing software to remove
wrinkles and furrows from pictures of women, leaving skin tone as the only
variable. Researchers were then able to determine exactly what impact facial
skin tone has on how young, healthy and attractive people perceive the women to
be. Faces with more even skin tone were judged to be younger.
"Until now, behavioral scientists have mostly ignored the overall homogeneity
and color saturation of a person's skin," says lead researcher Dr. Karl Grammer.
"This study points out that wrinkles aren't the only visual cue to a woman's
"Skin tone and luminosity may be a major signal to suitors of a woman's
attractiveness, as well as of her assumed age," said Grammer, who is founder and
scientific director of the Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute for Urban Ethology at the
University of Vienna, Austria.
The researchers took digital photographs of 169 Caucasian women between the ages
of 10 and 70. Then they used specialized morphing software to "drape" each
subject's facial skin over a standardized model, in effect, taking 169 different
skin tones and applying them to a common canvas.
In the process, other potential age-defining features such as facial furrows,
lines and wrinkles were removed, leaving skin tone as the only variable. Then,
these models were viewed by 430 observers who were asked to estimate each
model's age and gauge her health and attractiveness.
The models who had the most even skin tone received significantly higher ratings
for attractiveness and health, and were also judged to be younger in age. The
models with uneven, blotchy skin tone were judged to be significantly older.
"Whether a woman is 17 or 70, the contrast of skin tone plays a significant role
in the way her age, beauty and health is perceived," says study co-author Dr.
Bernhard Fink. "An even skin tone can give visual clues about a person's health
and reproductive capability, so it is considered most desirable."
Fink, a senior scientist in the Department for Sociobiology/Anthropology at the
University of Goettingen, Germany, said the work is important for women
considering efforts to improve their tans. "We found that cumulative UV damage
from too much sun dramatically influences skin tone, giving women yet another
reason to prevent future UV-related skin damage or try to correct past sun
The researchers said that tone variances could be caused by several factors
including cumulative UV damage (freckles, moles, age spots), natural aging
(yellowing, dullness) and skin vascularization (redness). Not surprisingly, the
study hinted at a positive correlation between the amount of accumulated
photodamage and the amount of uneven skin tone.
Next Phase of Tone Research - Getting Under the Skin As a next step, Drs.
Grammer and Fink will partner with scientist and skin imaging expert Dr. Paul
Matts, from P&G Beauty (a division of Procter & Gamble that funded the study) to
look at the distribution of 3 chromophores – melanin, hemoglobin, and collagen
-- in the skin of study subjects and correlate this distribution with perceived
attractiveness. A non-invasive imaging technology called SIAscopy--originally
developed by UK-based Astron Clinica for early skin cancer detection--will help
the scientists study the chromophores. These 3 chromophores directly affect how
the human eye perceives qualities such as luminosity in young skin or dullness
in aging skin.
"Because skin has optical depth, our eyes perceive discolorations on the surface
and in underlying layers. This discoloration can be subtle or overt. We believe
the judgment of facial skin age is influenced by uneven chromophore distribution
and a decrease in light reflection," says Grammer.
About Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute for Urban Ethology The Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute
for Urban Ethology was founded in 1972. It is a division of the Ludwig Boltzmann
Society for the promotion of the sciences, a semi-public non-profit institution
for the promotion of the sciences in Austria. The institute works on a
multidisciplinary basis. The scientific staff consists of medical doctors,
psychologists and sociologists. It is financed by a subsidy from the Ludwig-Boltzmann-Society,
the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture and through
contracts for research projects. The Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute is one of 45
research institutes belonging to the Ludwig-Boltzmann Society.
About the University of Goettingen, Department of Sociobiology/Anthropology The
Department of Sociobiology/Anthropology at the University of Goettingen devotes
its research to the scientific study of behavior in humans and primates. The
scientific staff consists of anthropologists, ethologists, behavioral ecologists
and geneticists, and research involving humans focuses on the study of physical
attraction and the hormonal basis of behavior. The department's activities are
mainly funded by the University of Goettingen and the German Volkswagen
About P&G Beauty
P&G Beauty science has more than 1,800 scientists and technical employees
working at nine global technical centers with an unparalleled commitment to
technology development. Company scientific efforts have resulted in over 3,500
active beauty care patents. This allows P&G to develop products uniquely suited
for different types of hair and skin, and tailored to different cultures and
climates. P&G scientists are constantly seeking new ways of turning inspiration
P&G Beauty sells more than 130 different brands in over 180 countries worldwide
that touch and improve lives daily. P&G Beauty had more than $19 billion in
global sales in fiscal year 2004/05, making it one of the world's largest beauty
companies. The global leading beauty company at mass, P&G Beauty brands include:
Pantene®, Head and Shoulders®, Olay®, Max Factor®, Cover Girl®, Gillette®
Complete Skin Care for Men, Always®, Joy®, Hugo Boss®, Wella®, Herbal Essences®,
Clairol Nice 'n Easy® and SK-II®.
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