Facial appearance reveals immunity in African men

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 3
  • Abstract:

    Facial appearance is thought to indicate immunity in humans, but very few studies have tested this relationship directly. The aim of this study was to test the relationship between direct measures of immunity, perceived facial health and attractiveness, and facial cues in African men. We show that men with a stronger cytokine response are considered significantly more attractive and healthy. Men with more masculine, heavier facial features (i.e. muscular appearance) have a significantly higher cytokine response and appear significantly healthier and more attractive, while men with a yellower, lighter, “carotenoid” skin colour, have a marginally higher immune response and are also considered significantly more healthy and attractive. In contrast, more symmetrical, skinnier looking men appeared more attractive and healthier, but did not have a stronger cytokine response. These findings also shed new light on the “androgen-mediated” traits proposed by the immunocompetence handicap hypothesis (ICHH) and we propose that facial muscularity serves as a better estimate of an “androgenmediated” trait than facial masculinity. Finally, we build on previous evidence to show that men’s facial features do indeed reveal aspects of immunity, even better than more traditional measures of health, such as body mass index (BMI).