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What Is Facial Attractiveness?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Facial attractiveness is the degree of aesthetic appeal in a person's face. Research into this topic illustrates surprising cultural consistency when it comes to measuring and valuing attractiveness, suggesting that responses to human faces are deeply engrained in human biology. People with faces deemed more attractive can experience more success in life and may encounter preferential treatment. Those with an interest in this subject may be able to find facial attractiveness studies to participate in at a local college, university, or research institute.

A number of factors combine to contribute to facial attractiveness. One is symmetry: the more symmetrical someone's face is, the more likely viewers are to rate that person as attractive. There may be an evolutionary basis for this, as humans are symmetrical organisms and flaws in the face may indicate a flaw in the underlying DNA. For example, someone might have a genetic disorder that could be passed on to children that manifests in the form of facial asymmetry.

The size and location of structures on the face, including the mouth, eyes, and nose, also play a role in facial attractiveness. People with features that are too closely or widely set may be considered less attractive, as can those with thickened or thinned features. The degree of femininity or masculinity projected is also sometimes important. Full, pouting lips can be considered attractive on a woman, for instance, but not a man, because they are typically associated with female faces.

From an evolutionary perspective, discriminating on the basis of facial attractiveness can have a logical basis. The condition of someone's face can provide information not just about genetics, but also overall health. People with good nutrition, for example, may have clear, healthy skin and well developed features. Someone with a history of illness might have discolorations under the eyes or facial swelling, which could indicate that person might be a poor prospect as a mate.

Measures to increase facial attractiveness can include the use of cosmetics to highlight or understate facial features, as well as surgical procedures to change the shape and structure of the face. While the face alone does not determine success in life, those with more attractive faces and bodies can tend to experience higher wages and life achievements. In a simple example, an employer looking at two people with equal qualifications who both perform well on interviews might prefer the more attractive person, often on a subconscious level.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Read more
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