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What Your Face Says About You

Your eyes might be the windows to your soul, but your face also says a lot more about you than you realize.

Photo via Pixabay.

It’s tough to ignore the voice in your head of your mother repeating that hackneyed platitude “Don’t judge a book by its cover” once you’ve formulated an on-the-spot judgment of someone based on their appearance. Turns out, however, these snap judgments can be fairly accurate, and the answers to our personality, fitness, and intelligence may be written on our faces.


“The idea is that our biology, like genes and hormone levels, influences our growth, and the same mechanisms will also shape our character,” Carmen Lefevre at Northumbria University told the BBC.

Lefevre’s research has found that people with higher levels of testosterone tend to be wider-faced with bigger cheekbones. Additionally, they are also more likely to be assertive and even aggressive. The link between face shape and dominance is more common than you would initially expect. Studies have previously examined Capuchin monkeys and professional soccer players to make these correlations. With monkeys, the wider the face, the more likely they are to dominate and rank higher in a group hierarchy. For soccer players, one study by Keith Welker at the University of Colorado, Boulder, looked at data from the 2010 World Cup and found that the ratio of a player’s width and height in their faces predicted both the number of fouls and the number of goals scored amongst offensive players.

As you might expect, you can also accurately judge one’s health and fitness from looking at their face. In fact, the BBC reports that the amount of fat on your face is a stronger indicator of your level of fitness compared to other, more standard measures, such as your body mass index. Those with thinner faces are less susceptible to infections, and if they are infected, it’s often less severe than their plump cheek counterparts. Thin-faced people also are more likely to have lower rates of depression and anxiety, supporting the well-known connection between mental health and physical fitness.

Benedict Jones at the University of Glasgow thinks recent research and understanding about fat in the body explains why facial fat is bad news. “How healthy you are isn’t so much about how much fat you have, but where you have that fat,” he told the BBC.

Pear-shaped people, with more weight in their hips and bottoms but slimmer torsos, tend to be healthier than apple-shaped people whose weight was concentrated in their torso. Jones hypothesizes that the fullness of your face may be a reflection of the fat deposits in the harmful areas of your body. Or it could just be that facial fat is inherently dangerous on its own, although there is no specific evidence yet as to why or how it’s harmful.

Additionally, the tint of your skin can subtly reveal secrets about your health. If you have a slightly yellowish, golden tone, you’re probably in good health. This is due to carotenoid pigments, which help build a healthy immune system. Meanwhile, a slight pink blush is a signal of good circulation from an active, healthy lifestyle as well as a sign of a woman’s fertility. Jones explains that the peak of a woman’s menstrual cycle is usually accompanied by a slightly redder tint, and this is probably one of the small shifts in appearance and behavior that cause a woman to be slightly more attractive when she is most likely to conceive.

Strangely enough, we can predict intelligence from someone’s face with modest accuracy, but it’s not clear yet what exactly make someone look smart. Additionally, other studies show that our collective gaydar is fairly accurate; we often can guess someone’s sexual orientation within a split-second, even when there are no stereotypical clues.

Physical beauty might only be skin deep, but the skin on our face can reveal our inner beauty as well.

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