Increase Your Attractiveness: Study Finds Stress Effects Beauty
Stress makes its mark on the female face, according to a new study that finds men judge women with high levels of a stress hormone less attractive. The finding is a gender turnaround on previous research that has found that women go for low-stress guys, too. Stress can suppress fertility, said study researcher Markus Rantala, a professor of biology at the University of Turku in Finland. Thus, Rantala told LiveScience, it’s no surprise that both men and women might have evolved to prefer chilled-out faces. Could decreasing chronic stress increase your attractiveness towards potential mates?
The new study does suggest one intriguing gender difference: Men weren’t more attracted to women with stronger immune systems, another factor that can show up in facial features. Even so, previous research on men’s judgments of beauty has found that women prefer guys with strong immune responses.
“Our major finding is a little bit of a disappointment for us, because we didn’t find that immunology is linked to attractiveness in women,” Rantala said.
Judgments of beauty are both cultural and individual, but psychologists and biologists find that humans the world over tend to agree on a few things. For example, men prefer younger women to older women, and neither men nor women tend to prefer people who look sick or diseased, Rantala said. The evolutionary drive to reproduce likely pushes people toward looks that indicate health and fertility. Because of this there is a cultural stresson on how to increase your attractiveness.
Studies on women’s perceived attractiveness and their health have been mixed, however, Rantala said. He and his colleagues asked 52 Latvian women to have the photographs of their faces taken during fertile times in their menstrual cycles. The women also received a hepatitis B vaccination. A month before and after the shot, the researchers took a blood sample to measure the women’s hormones and antibodies, immune proteins that help the body defend against foreign invaders. The researchers also measured the women’s body-fat percentages.
Lower Stress to Increase Your Attractiveness
Next, 18 men rated the photographs of the women’s faces for attractiveness on a scale of 0 to 11. The results revealed that the prettiest faces didn’t necessarily belong to the women with the strongest immune response — but the women with the lowest levels of the stress hormone cortisol were consistently ranked as hotter.
Body fat was also linked to attractiveness, such that the thinnest and fattest women were seen as the least attractive. As with stress, both obesity and being underweight can cause fertility problems, Rantala said, which could explain the finding.
Men may not cue into women’s immune strength the way women cue into men’s because of different reproductive strategies between the sexes. For men, reproduction is relatively cheap, so the goal, evolutionarily speaking, would be to have as many offspring as possible. For women, who have to gestate their offspring, giving each baby the best chance to survive to adulthood is far more important. The sex difference could explain why women might be more alert to facial signals of a strong immune system in a potential mate.
Criteria for Immunity and Stress Research
The researchers note to measure immunity they looked only at antibodies, which make up just one factor for immune response; the prettier women may have had immune advantages the researchers couldn’t measure.
Excessive stress can affect the biological system in varying conditions. The body has a natural defense mechanism in place that is effective in regulating and managing stress so that it is not harmful to our health. However, when the stress builds up to a point that the body is back logged and no longer able to regulate the abundant loads of stress, decapitating symptoms can occur. The reduction in stress may be able to increase your attractiveness to the opposite sex and signal firtility. The natural defensive mechanisms within ourselves is not singular and needs to be viewed as more of a holistic perspective. It is known as the neuroendometabolic (NEM) stress response, which is a circuit board of sorts that can be split into two primary compartments, being the neuroendocrine response and the metabolic response. The NEM’s circuit is inclusive of essential systems and organs, all playing a part in fending off aggravating factors caused by stress, and maintain the regulation of stressful influences on the biological system. An example is the secretion of a hormone by the adrenal glands called cortisol, known primarily for its role in fending off stress. When stress isn’t managed well and accumulates, then symptoms such as immune weakness and fatigue can occur.