What does Healthy Look Like?

According to research out of the UK, the color of a person’s skin affects how healthy and therefore how attractive they appear.

And since the color of a person’s skin is directly influenced by the quality of their diet, the researchers concluded that your diet may be crucial to achieving the most desirable complexion and therefore maximizing your attractiveness.

So, it’s true…you are what you eat.

Or, in this case, you’re as attractive as you eat.

Note - Researchers were looking exclusively at Caucasian test subjects. The research was not concerned with racially differentiated skin colors.

The Study

Using specialist computer software, a total of 54 Caucasian participants of both sexes were asked to manipulate the skin color of male and female Caucasian faces to make them look as healthy as possible. They chose to increase the rosiness, yellowness and brightness of the skin.

“Most previous work on faces has focused on the shape of the face or the texture of the skin, but one of the most variable characteristics of the face is skin color,” said Dr. Ian Stephen who is now at the University of Bristol.

“We knew from our previous work that people who have more blood and more oxygen color in their skins looked healthy, and so we decided to see what other colors affect health perceptions.

Skin that is slightly flushed with blood and full of oxygen suggests a strong heart and lungs, supporting the study’s findings that rosier skin appeared healthy. Smokers and people with diabetes or heart disease have fewer blood vessels in their skin, and so skin would appear less rosy.

whathealthylookslike red face What does Healthy Look Like?


The preference for more golden or ‘yellow-toned’ skin as healthier might be explained by the ‘carotenoid pigments’ that we get from the fruit and vegetables in our diet. These plant pigments are powerful antioxidants that soak up dangerous compounds produced when the body combats disease. They are also important for our immune and reproductive systems and may help prevent cancer.


whathealthylookslike yellow face What does Healthy Look Like?


They are the same dietary pigments that brightly colored birds and fish use to show off their healthiness and attract mates, and the researchers think that similar biological mechanisms may be at work in humans.

“In the West we often think that sun tanning is the best way to improve the color of your skin,” said Ian Stephen, “but our research suggests that living a healthy lifestyle with a good diet might actually be better.”

Melanin, the pigment that causes the tan color when skin is exposed to the sun makes the skin darker and more yellow, but participants in the study chose to make skin lighter and more yellow to make it look healthier.

whathealthylookslike bright face What does Healthy Look Like?


Beauty = Health

And until all of us start carrying our health records around with us, we will have to rely on our ancient “lizard brains” to determine if another person looks healthy and therefore attractive.

moz screenshot 2 What does Healthy Look Like?


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  • pdf copy of the study
Doug Robb is a personal trainer, a fitness blogger and author, a competitive athlete, a social media nerd and a student of nutrition and exercise science. Since 2008, Doug has brought his real-world experience online via his health & fitness blog, Health Habits.

1 Comment

  1. Kayjay

    June 28, 2010 at 5:04 am

    I mean it is no brainer honestly….You can six pack or run 10 miles on the treadmill or sweat like Xmas goat BUT the fact if you eat junk food, dont drink enough water, eat Candy like you are lost in a Candy store, you are not healthy at all!