Do women's faces become more attractive near ovulation?

Horm Behav. 2019 Sep:115:104560. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2019.07.008. Epub 2019 Jul 26.


There have been mixed findings regarding whether raters judge women's natural faces more attractive when the women were photographed near ovulation relative to when photographed in other cycle regions. Bobst and Lobmaier (2012) isolated shape cues associated with ovulatory timing via computer morphing techniques and found that men judged face shapes characteristic of the fertile window as more attractive than those characteristic of the luteal phase. Here, we tested replication of their findings but also added stimuli from the early follicular phase. We constructed three composite faces constructed from photos of the same 23 women who had each been photographed in the early follicular phase, during the fertile window, and during the luteal phase. We next warped 20 other identity faces to the shapes of the composite faces representing each cycle phase, and asked male participants to rank order the resulting face triplets for attractiveness. Men ranked fertile window and luteal phase stimuli as more attractive than early follicular stimuli, but ranked fertile window and luteal phase faces as equally attractive. This result failed to replicate preferences for fertile window over luteal phase stimuli, and thereby argues against perceivers' ability to detect face shape cues of immediate fecundity. Because estradiol was lower in the early follicular phase relative to the other two cycle phases, our findings are consistent with the possibility that within-women increases in estradiol produce subtle increases in face shape attractiveness. Discussion addresses the overall evidence for facial cues of women's ovulatory timing.

Keywords: Attractiveness; Estradiol; Menstrual cycle; Progesterone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Beauty*
  • Estradiol / physiology*
  • Face / physiology*
  • Facial Recognition / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovulation / physiology*
  • Progesterone / physiology*
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology
  • Social Perception*
  • Women*
  • Young Adult


  • Progesterone
  • Estradiol