What our faces can tell other people about our health

Our facial appearance influences how we feel about ourselves, and other people’s faces influence who we choose to approach or avoid and who we would like to form romantic relationships with. At a glance, a face reveals a lot of information about how we feel or the types of behaviors we might be about to engage in, but what does it say about us when we don’t express emotions? Turns out it’s more than you can imagine.

Over the past few years I have learned how aspects of our personality are present in our faces, how symptoms of depression make faces appear less socially desirable, and how wearing makeup changes perceptions of social traits, but the most important signs of that our faces can give are health.

The face is a biological poster and we are expert readers, always interested in what it has to say. We’re drawn to healthy-looking faces and avoid those that aren’t (think about the feeling you may have had the last time you were on the train or bus near someone who didn’t look well), but the question is what. It makes a person feel good. The face looks “healthy” before our eyes, that is the most intriguing thing.

There are many historical examples of people altering their facial appearance to appear healthier. Things like how body mass index (BMI) influences face shape or the smoothness of skin texture influences how healthy we are, but it’s actually facial coloring that seems to be the most important.

Lighter areas show where the skin on healthier-looking faces is brighter (left), redder (center), and yellower (right).
Early research has identified that faces with lighter, redder and yellower skin were considered the healthiest, and this was consistent across all ethnicities. There also appeared to be relevant biological processes associated with these colors: for example, lighter skin is associated with the ability to absorb more vitamin D. Greater redness, particularly when coming from oxygenated blood, may indicate greater circulation and blood supply. efficient to the skin.

But it’s the yellowish color that seems to be particularly relevant to health, and for good reason: People with yellower skin tend to have healthier diets, rich in fruits and vegetables. The organic pigments in these foods, known as carotenoids, are enormously beneficial to health and appear to be responsible for producing that much-desired healthy glow. Interestingly, tanning also increases the yellowness of the skin and makes faces appear healthier, but the yellowing conferred by carotenoids (as a result, perhaps, of a healthy diet) is preferred to the yellowing caused by tanning. .

Healthy glow
The secret to a healthy appearance is not as simple as eating more fruits and vegetables; However, it’s a little more complicated than that, and a healthy face color may have more nuances than previously thought. Skin conditions such as dark circles under the eyes or rosacea, a condition that causes the skin to become flushed and red, cause great concern to sufferers: Google searches for treatments or remedies return millions of results. Both conditions are also localized to areas of the face, suggesting that colors in certain areas of the face could be relevant to looking healthy. Could these color patterns on faces, rather than the color of the entire facial skin, be more relevant to looking healthy?

To answer these questions, we asked observers to rate faces according to their level of health and calculated color differences between faces considered very healthy and very unhealthy. We used Caucasian faces for comparison, but there is some evidence to suggest how general skin colors (yellow, redness and lightness) are also considered healthy in non-Caucasian faces: it seems that everyone, regardless of race, finds these shades. to be healthy.

Our research found that while yellowness across the entire face contributed to a healthy appearance, confirming previous findings, lighter skin under the eyes and redder skin on the cheeks seemed to play larger roles. That coloration, in those areas, seemed to explain much more variation in health scores than yellowing of the skin.

We subtly changed the photographed faces to have lighter skin under the eyes and redder cheeks, and also the reverse effect: darker skin under the eyes and greener cheeks. By asking people to choose

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