New paper! African and European perception of African female attractiveness

Majority of research on attractiveness is restricted to faces of European origin. The perception of attractiveness may, however, vary across communities due to variations in both facial morphology and local standards of beauty. We investigated the relative contribution of four facial markers of attractiveness based on 101 female facial portraits (standardized, non-manipulated) from Cameroon and Namibia, which were assessed by local male raters and by raters from a distant European population, the Czech Republic. Images from Cameroon include only women of Bantu origin, while Namibians are represented by women of both Bantu (Owambo/Herero) and Nama origin. While controlling for age and BMI, we explored the relationship between female attractiveness and a set of facial traits: fluctuating asymmetry, averageness, shape sexual dimorphism, and skin color (rated and measured in CIELab color space).

In the Cameroonian sample, local male raters favored lighter-skinned female faces with morphology closer to average. The attractiveness of Nama women as rated by Nama men positively correlated with lighter complexion, but this did not extend to rating by Cameroonian men. The attractiveness of Namibian Owambo/Herero women was positively associated with facial femininity and lighter complexion when judged by both Cameroonian and Nama male raters. In all samples, the attractiveness as rated by Czech men was predicted by age and BMI, but not by skin color. We found no significant association between attractiveness and fluctuating asymmetry in any of the tested samples. When controlling for age, the effect of skin color on attractiveness turned to be non-significant in the Owambo/Herrero and Nama sample, but remained significant in the Cameroonian sample. Variations in skin color thus represent an important factor of African female attractiveness within the African context, but they do not seem to affect judgements made by European raters. Sensitivity to some facial markers of female attractiveness thus seems to be restricted to regional populations and/or constrained by shared ethnicity.