Sclera color changes with age and is a cue for perceiving age, health, and beauty

Psychol Aging. 2014 Sep;29(3):626-35. doi: 10.1037/a0036142.


Redness or yellowness of the sclera (the light part of the eye) are known signs of illness, as is looking older than one's actual age. Here we report that the color of the sclera is related to age in a large sample of adult Caucasian females. Specifically, older faces have sclera that are more dark, red, and yellow than younger faces. A subset of these faces were manipulated to increase or decrease the darkness, redness, or yellowness of the sclera. Faces with decreased sclera darkness, redness, or yellowness were perceived to be younger than faces with increased sclera darkness, redness, or yellowness. Further, these manipulations also caused the faces to be perceived as more or less healthy, and more or less attractive. These findings show that sclera coloration is a cue for the perception of age, health, and attractiveness that is rooted in the physical changes that occur with age.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology
  • Attitude to Health
  • Beauty
  • Color
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cues*
  • Face
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Perception*
  • Sclera / physiology*
  • White People
  • Young Adult