London, July 2: Women can tell whether a man is attractive and has “good” genes just from a glimpse of his cheek, a study of male sex appeal says.
Pernickety females from a range of species, including humans, use clues such as appearance to size up genetic quality before selecting a mate.
A study by Prof. Morris Gosling and Dr Craig Roberts at the University of Newcastle suggests that a man wears his genes on his skin. They asked 90 women to assess the facial attractiveness of 76 men. When shown a small area of facial skin, the attractiveness rankings stayed the same, suggesting that the quality of a man’s complexion is important.
“If you show just those little bits of skin, you get the same story as the whole face,” said Prof Gosling, who with Dr Roberts presented the study at the Royal Society’s summer exhibition yesterday.
When the scientists studied the genetic make-up of the men, they found that there was a correlation between an attractive complexion and men with more varied genes that are thought to be healthier. Prof. Gosling said: “They are looking at our faces and picking those of us who have a mixed genetic composition.
“Women tend to avoid inbreeding. That means getting genetically varied offspring so that they can resist parasites.”
Prof. Gosling said the cosmetics industry took advantage of that fact to mask the poor complexions that suggested undesirable genes. “What you are doing with make-up is trying to cheat.”