Men with a healthier skin colour are more attractive to women than those with a masculine face, according to new research. The study used photographs of 34 Caucasian and 41 black African men's faces in controlled conditions to measure the skin colour of their faces. It revealed that women found men more attractive if they had a more 'golden' colour skin.
Dr Ian Stephen, who led the research, used a new computer technique to measure mathematically how masculine faces are.
Each face was then given a score.
Dr Stephen said: 'The attractive colour in our face is affected by our health - especially by the amount of colourful antioxidant carotenoid pigments we get from fruit and vegetables in our diet. 'They are thought to be good for our immune and reproductive systems, making us healthy and increasing fertility. 'The masculinity of the face had no effect on the attractiveness of the face.'
According to Dr Stephen, when humans find a member of the opposite sex attractive their brains are telling them they are an appropriate mate. In evolutionary terms, people who are recognised as healthy fertile mates will be more successful at having offspring.
Dr Stephen also believes eating your five a day will make you look better than a tan would. He said: 'Most people think the best way to improve skin colour is to get a suntan, but our research shows that eating lots of fruit and vegetables is actually more effective. He added: 'Our study shows that being healthy may be the best way for men to look attractive.
'We know that you can achieve a more healthy looking skin colour by eating more fruit and vegetables, so that would be a good start.' The research was carried out by the School of Psychology at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus where Dr Stephen is based.
the new study doesn't rule out the chance that cultural differences influence which physical traits women find attractive, said Laura Dane, an evolutionary psychologist at Douglas College in British Columbia, Canada.
And overall, Dane emphasized, the paper is missing a key point: "Physical attractiveness is not the only thing that women use to choose" a partner.
For instance, in selecting a mate, women will often trade looks for resources or personality.
Dane described a 1990 study in the Journal of Psychology in which women were asked to choose between what many would consider an attractive man in a Burger King uniform and an unattractive man in a suit.
Most women chose the man in a suit, presumably because he would be a better provider. However, in a separate part of the study, most women also said they would prefer an attractive man in a suit, she pointed out.
When the study authors performed a similar experiment with men, the subjects most often chose the more attractive woman, regardless of the outfit, Dane added.
Such predictability is why studying "men's preferences [in women is] very boring," study co-author Penton-Voak said. Men consistently want women who show signs of youth and femininity, which in turn indicate high fertility.