Attractive Skin Coloration: Harnessing Sexual Selection to Improve Diet and Health

Evol Psychol. 2012 Dec 20;10(5):842-54.


In this paper we review the mechanisms through which carotenoid coloration could provide a sexually selected cue to condition in species with elaborate color vision. Skin carotenoid pigmentation induced by fruit and vegetable consumption may provide a similar cue to health in humans (particularly light-skinned Asians and Caucasians). Evidence demonstrates that carotenoid-based skin coloration enhances apparent health, and that dietary change can perceptibly impact skin color within weeks. We find that the skin coloration associated with increased fruit and vegetable consumption benefits apparent health to a greater extent than melanin pigmentation. We argue that the benefits to appearance may motivate individuals to improve their diet and that this line of appearance research reveals a potentially powerful strategy for motivating a healthy lifestyle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Beauty
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Birds / physiology
  • Carotenoids / pharmacology*
  • Diet*
  • Face / physiology
  • Female
  • Fishes / physiology
  • Fruit / chemistry
  • Health
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanins
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology*
  • Skin Pigmentation / drug effects*
  • Vegetables / chemistry


  • Melanins
  • Carotenoids