Page last updated at 16:40 GMT, Monday, 16 November 2009

'Golden glow' is healthiest look

The skin portions of the images on the right look healthier
The skin on the right faces are made redder and yellower and look healthier

A golden glow is the healthiest and most attractive look for Caucasian skin, researchers have claimed.

St Andrews University scientists used specialist computer software to allow people to manipulate skin colour to make images more healthy.

They chose to increase the rosiness, yellowness and brightness of the skin.

The researchers said eating fruit and vegetables would be a better way of achieving this complexion, rather than darkening the skin through a suntan.

Melanin, the pigment that causes the tan colour when you expose your skin to the sun, makes the skin darker and more yellow, but participants in the study chose to make skin lighter and more yellow to make it look healthier.

The only natural way in which we can make our skin lighter and more yellow is to eat a more healthy diet high in fruit and vegetables
Professor David Perrett
St Andrews University

"This discovery is very exciting and has given us a promising lead into cues to health," said Professor David Perrett, head of the perception lab at St Andrews University, where the research took place.

He said: "What we eat and not just how much we eat appears to be important for a healthy appearance.

"The only natural way in which we can make our skin lighter and more yellow is to eat a more healthy diet high in fruit and vegetables."

He said skin that was slightly flushed with blood and full of oxygen suggests a strong heart and lungs, supporting the study's findings that rosier skin appeared healthy.

Smokers and people with diabetes or heart disease have fewer blood vessels in their skin, and so skin would appear less rosy.

The preference for more golden or 'yellow-toned' skin as healthier might be explained by the carotenoid pigments that we get from the fruit and vegetables in our diet.

These plant pigments are powerful antioxidants that soak up dangerous compounds produced when the body combats disease.

They are also important for our immune and reproductive systems and may help prevent cancer.

The work is published this week in the International Journal of Primatology and has been funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Unilever Research.

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