The influence of skin tone, hair length, and hair colour on ratings of women's physical attractiveness, health and fertility


Viren Swami, Department of Psychology, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2UW, UK. E-mail:


The present study investigated the role of skin tone, hair colour and hair length in perceptions of women's physical attractiveness, health and fertility. One-hundred and thirty men and 112 women rated a series of 12 line drawings that varied in three levels of skin tone, two levels of hair colour and two levels of hair length. Results showed a number of interactions between the three variables, suggesting that these phenotypes are highly intercorrelated. However, there were also significant main effects of each of the variables, with hair colour generally explaining the greatest amount of variance. In general, light-toned figures were rated the most positively. Contrary to expectations, however, brunettes were rated more positively than blondes, and hair length had only a weak effect on ratings of attractiveness. Implications of these findings and the limitations of the use of line drawings are discussed in conclusion.