Facial attractiveness is related to women's cortisol and body fat, but not with immune responsiveness

Markus J. Rantala, Vinet Coetzee, Fhionna R. Moore, Ilona Skrinda, Sanita Kecko, Tatjana Krama, Inese Kivleniece, Indrikis Krams


Recent studies suggest that facial attractiveness indicates immune responsiveness in men and that this relationship is moderated by stress hormones which interact with testosterone levels. However, studies testing whether facial attractiveness in women signals their immune responsiveness are lacking. Here, we photographed young Latvian women, vaccinated them against hepatitis B and measured the amount of specific antibodies produced, cortisol levels and percentage body fat. Latvian men rated the attractiveness of the women's faces. Interestingly, in women, immune responsiveness (amount of antibodies produced) did not predict facial attractiveness. Instead, plasma cortisol level was negatively associated with attractiveness, indicating that stressed women look less attractive. Fat percentage was curvilinearly associated with facial attractiveness, indicating that being too thin or too fat reduces attractiveness. Our study suggests that in contrast to men, facial attractiveness in women does not indicate immune responsiveness against hepatitis B, but is associated with two other aspects of long-term health and fertility: circulating levels of the stress hormone cortisol and percentage body fat.

  • Received March 19, 2013.
  • Accepted May 2, 2013.
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