Fertile women are more attractive

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A study has shown that females with high levels of the sex hormone oestrogen have prettier faces and are more likely to catch the attention of the opposite sex. Make-up such as foundation and powder can mask the effect, however.

Psychologists at St Andrews University asked volunteers to rate a selection of young women's faces for attractiveness, health and femininity. Those with higher levels of oestrogen came top with men and women.

Miriam Law Smith, who led the study, said: "Women are effectively advertising their general fertility with their faces. Our findings could explain why men universally seem to prefer feminine women's faces.

"In evolutionary terms, it makes sense for men to favour feminine fertile women; those that did would have had more babies."

The psychologist said oestrogen had an impact on appearance during puberty, when it can affect bone growth and skin texture. Those with high levels often have attractive bone structure and smooth skin.

But no link between appearance and oestrogen was found in the responses to women wearing make-up.