What makes an attractive face? General patterns of facial preferences in both men and women.

From: Anthropological Review

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  • The paper is a review of the existing literature.


  • The paper is a systematic review / meta analysis of all relevant trials.
  • This means that the data from all similar trials has been grouped to form an overall outcome.


  • Averageness and symmetry are preferred by males and females, probably because they signal genetic quality and developmental stability.
  • Men prefer highly feminised female faces and women prefer a moderate level of male facial masculinity. However, facial masculinity that is too pronounced signals high level of testosterone and, thereby, a poorly developed pro-family personality.
  • In women, facial hair is detrimental to facial attractiveness. In men, the effect is not consistent.
  • Faces with a clear complexion are attractive to both men and women. Men prefer light and smooth skin in women.
  • Positive facial expressions (smiling) also enhance facial attractiveness.
  • Many factors, in particular skin condition and facial proportions, affect perceived age, which is an important component of facial attractiveness. Men in particular strongly prefer youthful-looking female faces. 


  • In both men and women, facial attractiveness is increased by symmetry, averageness, a smooth and clear complexion, and a pleasant expression.