Contrast in facial features tell-tale sign of ageing!

Updated: Mar 15, 2013, 13:22 PM IST

Washington: The contrast between your facial features and surrounding skin may reveal your age, as it is a tell-tale sign that people unconsciously use to decipher how old someone looks, researchers say.

Contrast between the features and the surrounding skin decreases as we age resulting in older faces to have less contrast than younger ones, Psychology Professor Richard Russell who collaborated with researchers from Epidermal and Sensory Research and Investigation Center CERIES, said.

The difference in redness between the lips and the surrounding skin decreases, as does the luminance difference between the eyebrow and the forehead, as the face ages.

Although not consciously aware of this sign of ageing, the mind uses it as a cue for perceiving how old someone is.

"Unlike with wrinkles, none of us are consciously aware that we`re using this cue, even though it stares us in the face every day," Russell said in a statement.

The discovery of this cue to facial age perception may partly explain why cosmetics are worn the way they are, and it lends more evidence to the idea that makeup use reflects our biological as well as our cultural heritage, according to Russell.

In one study, Russell and his team measured images of 289 faces ranging in age from 20 to 70 years old, and found that through the ageing process, the colour of the lips, eyes and eyebrows change, while the skin becomes darker.

This results in less contrast between the features and the surrounding skin - leaving older faces to have less contrast than younger faces.

In another study involving more than a hundred subjects in Gettysburg and Paris, the scientists artificially increased these facial contrasts and found that the faces were perceived as younger. When they artificially decreased the facial contrasts, the faces were perceived as older.

Cosmetics are commonly used to increase aspects of facial contrast, such as the redness of lips. Scientists propose that this can partly explain why makeup is worn the way that it is - shades of lipstick that increase the redness of the lips are making the face appear younger, which is related to healthiness and beauty.