Beauty News: Science Attempts to Explain Why Women Love Makeup & Why Blush Works

I love when I come across a "science" article that confirms all my biases about makeup and beauty. Nothing like feeling that you have data for your irrational beliefs. Two studies recently caught my eye along this line.

The first is a report from Japanese cosmetics company Kanebo. In their "Cosmetics, Beauty and Brain Science Project," researchers examined brain regions that are activated when a woman contemplates her face with and without makeup. When observing without makeup, activity was detected in the caudate nucleus of the brain -- an area involved with emotion, learning and memory. The caudate is also rich in dopaminergic neurons which are often involved in brain reward pathways. The scientists in this study infer from this that when women contemplate their own faces sans makeup, they are anticipating the beauty enhancement from makeup application which then leads to a flood of pleasurable emotions and stimulation of the reward system. As one scientist describes it: "There is a mixture of expectation, encouragement and ambition. Make-up contributes to building relationships with others and feelings of pleasure in women."

I attempted to find a scientific paper detailing these findings but it does not seem that it has been published yet. It would be interesting to see the detailed methods of this research and as I hesitate to draw any firm conclusions. But, if the thought of makeup leads to dopamine release, then I guess I'm not far off when making statements like "Makeup is my drug of choice."

Next up is a soon-to-be-published study (Skin Blood Perfusion and Oxygenation Color Affect Perceived Human Health) from researchers in Scotland who recruited participants and showed them pictures of people of various ethnicity. Then the participants were asked to adjust the coloring of each picture, either adding more red tint (to simulate oxygenation) or blue tint (to simulate deoxygenation), after being told to make the person in the picture appear more "healthy."

Health, in evolutionary biology terms, is associated with increased desirability to potential mates. As discussed in the paper, women in particular benefit from the effects of slightly flushed skin because it is correlated with increased cardiovascular health and increased levels of sex hormones (both of which are desirable to potential mates). Unsurprisingly, participants in this study consistently gave the faces a slight increase in oxygenation to mimic this healthy flush.

Per the authors: "In the current study, we show that color associated with skin blood perfusion and oxygenation affects the healthy appearance of human faces. Attractiveness, thought to signal underlying health and strongly related to perceived health, is a major factor in human mate choice, particularly by men. It is likely, therefore, that the enhanced health appearance associated with increased skin blood color and oxygenation color has consequences for attractiveness and mate choice."

Thereby confirming that adding some blush to your face simulates the attractiveness of a healthy, glowing flush and can help attract that that guy (or gal) you've had your eye on. At least, in an evolutionary biology-primal sort of way. After that, it's up to you.

 

2 comments:

Shannon said...

Can I consider this justification for my blush obsession? Hehehe

April 6, 2009 at 8:19 PM
Kyl said...

Oh my gosh. You and me both, sister.
April 6, 2009 at 9:32 PM

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