A new study says that make-up makes women appear younger by increasing the contrast between facial features and skin tone. In fact, our mind unconsciously uses this contrast to decipher how old someone looks, so make-up doesn’t really make us younger, it changes the perception of our age.
Scientists say that the results of the study show why women wear make-up in this particular way – contrasting red on the lips and darkening the eyebrows and eyelids. According to Richard Russell, a psychology professor at Gettysburg College, as people age, there is less contrast between the facial features and the surrounding skin. So, when we look at someone, we unconsciously use this as a sign to figure out how old they are. For the research, Russell and his team assessed images of 289 faces between the ages of 20 and 70, and discovered a repeating pattern. As a person grows older, the colour of the eyes, lips and eyebrows change, while the skin tone darkens.
As a result, older faces have less contrast between certain features and the surrounding skin than younger faces. Differences were found in the redness of the lips and the skin around it, and in the contrast between the forehead and the eyebrows.
So, make-up could easily be used to change the appearance of these areas of the face, but would it really make the face look younger? In order to prove that, the scientists carried out a second research involving more than a hundred participants from Gettysburg and Paris. Using a computer, the researchers artificially altered the facial contrasts and asked the participants on which picture the person is older. The digitally manipulated versions with less contrast were perceived as older, and those which had more contrasting colours were younger.
The study was conducted in collaboration with CE.R.I.E.S. (Epidermal and Sensory Research and Investigation Center) at the Chanel Research and Technology and was published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE. Researchers also explained that female faces in general have greater contrast than male faces and that contrast is considered a sign for attractiveness, as well as for femininity and masculinity. That’s why red lips and rosy cheeks make you look younger and prettier. And that’s why women wear make-up – to keep their facial contrast for as long as possible.