Age is a primary social dimension. We behave differently toward people as a function of how old we perceive them to be. Age perception relies on cues that are correlated with age, such as wrinkles. Here we report that aspects of facial contrast–the contrast between facial features and the surrounding skin–decreased with age in a large sample of adult Caucasian females. These same aspects of facial contrast were also significantly correlated with the perceived age of the faces. Individual faces were perceived as younger when these aspects of facial contrast were artificially increased, but older when these aspects of facial contrast were artificially decreased. These findings show that facial contrast plays a role in age perception, and that faces with greater facial contrast look younger. Because facial contrast is increased by typical cosmetics use, we infer that cosmetics function in part by making the face appear younger.
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Porcheron, A., Mauger, E., & Russell, R. (2013) Aspects of facial contrast decrease with age and are cues for age perception. PLOS ONE 8(3): e57985. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0057985