The role of sexually dimorphic skin colour and shape in attractiveness of male faces

Mariana Carrito, Isabel Maria Barbas dos Santos, Carmen Emilia Lefevre, Ross David Whitehead, Carlos Fernandes da Silva, David Ian Perrett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Evidence for attraction to sexually dimorphic features in male faces is inconsistent in the literature. Mixed results regarding facial masculinity and male attractiveness may arise partly from different influences of face shape and face colouration depending on whether colour was controlled. Recent research suggests that masculinity in face colour, namely darker skin, and femininity in shape are attractive in male faces. Here we examine the influence of sexual dimorphism in skin colour and face shape on attractiveness in 3 experiments. We allowed female participants to manipulate male and female face images along axes of sexual dimorphism in skin colour and/or shape in order to optimise attractiveness. Participants searching for the most attractive appearance chose to masculinise the colour of male faces more than the colour of female faces (although not reaching significance in Experiment 3; p = .16). We found a clear preference for feminine shape in male faces supporting predictions of recent research. These results help to clarify the influence of facial masculinity in women’s attractiveness preferences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125–133
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number2
Early online date25 Sept 2015
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016


  • Face perception
  • Attractiveness
  • Sexual dimorphism
  • Face shape
  • Skin colour
  • Masculinity


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