Facial Features: What Women Perceive as Attractive and What Men Consider Attractive

PLoS One. 2015 Jul 10;10(7):e0132979. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0132979. eCollection 2015.


Attractiveness plays an important role in social exchange and in the ability to attract potential mates, especially for women. Several facial traits have been described as reliable indicators of attractiveness in women, but very few studies consider the influence of several measurements simultaneously. In addition, most studies consider just one of two assessments to directly measure attractiveness: either self-evaluation or men's ratings. We explored the relationship between these two estimators of attractiveness and a set of facial traits in a sample of 266 young Spanish women. These traits are: facial fluctuating asymmetry, facial averageness, facial sexual dimorphism, and facial maturity. We made use of the advantage of having recently developed methodologies that enabled us to measure these variables in real faces. We also controlled for three other widely used variables: age, body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio. The inclusion of many different variables allowed us to detect any possible interaction between the features described that could affect attractiveness perception. Our results show that facial fluctuating asymmetry is related both to self-perceived and male-rated attractiveness. Other facial traits are related only to one direct attractiveness measurement: facial averageness and facial maturity only affect men's ratings. Unmodified faces are closer to natural stimuli than are manipulated photographs, and therefore our results support the importance of employing unmodified faces to analyse the factors affecting attractiveness. We also discuss the relatively low equivalence between self-perceived and male-rated attractiveness and how various anthropometric traits are relevant to them in different ways. Finally, we highlight the need to perform integrated-variable studies to fully understand female attractiveness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Face / anatomy & histology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Perception*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Waist-Hip Ratio
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The research was supported by funds from the grants BFU2010-10981-E of the Spanish MICINN and “FONDECYT Iniciación” #11130028 of the Chilean FONDECYT.