Cosmetics Enhance Appearance of Femininity, Lack of Cosmetics Increases Appearance of Masculinity

Research by neuroscientist Richard Russell of the Gettysburgh Perception Lab suggests that sexual dimorphic differences between male and female faces, especially under circumstances of minimal sexual dimorphism, is all about contrast. Males have darker skin except for eyes and lips. Comparisons of manipulated androgynous faces demonstrate that greater ratio of skin:eyes/lips contrast suggests female, while lower ratio of contrasts suggests male. The effect of cosmetics (e.g., mascara and eyeliners that darken eyes, lipstick that distinguishes lips) is to increase the contrast and thereby enhance the appearance of femininity, whereas lessening cosmetics enhances the appearance of masculinity.

Check out this fascating 2010 chapter on “Why Cosmetics Work.”

Christopher Lynn

About Christopher Lynn

Christopher Dana Lynn is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama, where he co-directs the Evolutionary Studies program.  Chris teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in biological anthropology, human sexuality, evolution, biocultural medical anthropology, and neuroanthropology.  He received his Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology in 2009 from the University at Albany, SUNY, where his doctoral focus was on the influence of speaking in tongues on stress response among Pentecostals.  Chris runs a human behavioral ecology research group where the objectives include studying fun gimmicky things like trance, religious behavior, tattooing, and sex as a way of introducing students to the rigors of evolutionary science.  In all his “free” time, he breaks up fights among his triplet sons, enjoys marriage to the other Loretta Lynn, strokes his mustache, and has learned to be passionate about Alabama football (Roll Tide!).  Follow Chris on Twitter: @Chris_Ly
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3 Responses to Cosmetics Enhance Appearance of Femininity, Lack of Cosmetics Increases Appearance of Masculinity

  1. Alexandra says:

    thank you, nice post!
    I devoted friend of Alexandra De Markoff Cosmetics))

  2. Christopher Lynn Christopher Lynn says:

    Agreed. He references cultural variation in the intro, but I am still reading. Will let you know. Personally, I was thinking of Princess Amidala & the way the way movies make up humans to make them look alien. Given your recent post on the new EO Wilson book, you may recall this reference. It reminds me of the way Wilson suggests that science fiction writers get social aliens wrong if they are tool users with claws, that fleshy finger pads are a necessary preadaptation for tool use.

  3. I’d be curious to know how the author accounts for societies in which it is males, not females, who wear makeup. On the surface, at least, this seems like a study with very narrow applicability.

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