Researchers have discovered why women often opt to wear lipstick, as they found that humans tend to judge how young a person is by comparing the contrast between different facial features and skin tone.
Led by a professor from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, it suggests that the contrast of facial features is one main way people unconsciously decide a person’s age.
Makeup is often applied to increase different facial contrasts, like redness of lips.
Scientists said this might be why makeup is worn the way it is, as shades of lipstick increasing the redness of lips makes the face look younger.
“Unlike with wrinkles, none of us are consciously aware that we’re using this cue, even though it stares us in the face every day,” Richard Russell, a professor, said.
Russell worked with researchers from cosmetic giant Chanel’s R&D division, which is dedicated to skin-related issues and facial appearance.
In a study, Russell measured images of 289 faces ranging from 20 to 70 years old. He found that aging makes the lips, eyes and eyebrows paler, and surrounding skin gets darker.
This makes the face have less contrast between features and skin.
As a person ages, difference in redness between the lips and the surrounding skin decreases, and luminance difference between the eyebrow and forehead does as well.
But people are usually not consciously aware of this sign of aging, though the brain uses it as a way to tell how old someone is.
“The kind of contrasts that decreased was the contrast between the facial features - the lips, the eyes, and the eyebrows with the surrounding skin. So, for example, we found that the redness of the lips decreases with aging, but the skin that surrounds the lips actually becomes more red, so the redness contrast between lips and the rest of the face decreases with age and that certainly is something that can be manipulated with makeup,” Russell said.
To confirm his hypothesis, he artificially altered the color of his subjects’ lips and other facial features using a computer.
After he increased the contrasts, observers perceived them as much younger.