MJ Law Smith, DI Perrett, BC Jones, RE Cornwell, FR Moore, DR Feinberg, LG Boothroyd, SJ Durrani, MR Stirrat, SR White, RM Pitman & SG Hillier (2006). Facial appearance is a cue to oestrogen levels in women. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 273: 135-140. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2005.3296

Although many accounts of facial attractiveness propose that femininity in women's faces indicates high levels of oestrogen, there is little empirical evidence in support of this assumption. Here, we used assays for urinary metabolites of oestrogen (oestrone-3-24 glucuronide, E1G) and progesterone (pregnanediol-3-glucuronide, P3G) to investigate the relationship between circulating gonadal hormones and ratings of the femininity, attractiveness and apparent health of women's faces. Positive correlations were observed between late follicular oestrogen and ratings of femininity, attractiveness and health. Positive correlations of luteal progesterone and health and attractiveness ratings were marginally significant. Ratings of facial attributions did not relate to hormone levels for women wearing make-up when photographed. There was no effect of sex of rater on the relationships between oestrogen and ratings of facial appearance. These findings demonstrate that female facial appearance holds detectable cues to reproductive health that are considered attractive by other people.

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