Tan is 'In': Study Finds Light Brown More Attractive than Pale or Dark Skin

Sep 28, 2006

Some African-American stars have been ridiculed for trying to lighten their skin color, but many Caucasians go to tanning salons to darken their skin. A new study by University of Missouri-Columbia researcher Cynthia Frisby found that people perceive a light brown skin tone to be more physically attractive than a pale or dark skin tone.

"Does a person's skin color alone impact whether others perceive her as physically attractive? Advertisers want their models to be perceived as attractive so that consumers will buy their product, and previous studies have found that black models used in advertisements frequently are fair-skinned and have more European features. I wanted to test skin color separately to find out whether it's important to perceptions of beauty. I found that without regard to physical features, people prefer light brown skin over dark brown skin or pale skin," said Frisby, associate professor of advertising at MU's School of Journalism.

For the study, photographs of four female models were adjusted using computer software. Each model was imaged in three different skin tones - light, medium and dark - but all other features remained the same. Frisby asked 79 female participants to evaluate a selection of the photographs, which they believed were for an upcoming advertising campaign. Frisby analyzed the responses and discovered that participants, of whom 45 were Caucasian and 34 were African American, found the light brown skin tone most attractive.

These findings might impact how advertisers use African-American models. Some advertisers have worried that using African-American models for mainstream products might alienate potential Caucasian buyers, Frisby said, but this study shows Caucasians and African Americans react in similar ways to light, medium and dark shades of skin tone.

"Since the mid-1960s, many advertisers have been in a dilemma regarding the use of blacks in advertisements," Frisby said. "Many considered using blacks in advertisements to appeal to a growing black target audience but were concerned that use of blacks might alienate white consumers. Fortunately for advertisers and advertising agencies, research shows that white consumers react to black models in advertisements in almost exactly the same way as black consumers react. It seems that both groups prefer the light brown skin tone, whether it's a tan Caucasian or a light-skinned African American."

The study, "'Shades of Beauty': Examining the Relationship of Skin Color to Perceptions of Physical Attractiveness," was published in the August issue of the journal Facial Plastic Surgery.

Source: University of Missouri

Explore further: Explainer: How to solve a jewel heist (and why it takes so long)

Related Stories

Our bond with dogs may go back more than 27,000 years

13 minutes ago

Dogs' special relationship to humans may go back 27,000 to 40,000 years, according to genomic analysis of an ancient Taimyr wolf bone reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 21. Earlier genome ...

Recommended for you

Top UK scientists warn against EU exit

May 22, 2015

A group of leading British scientists including Nobel-winning geneticist Paul Nurse warned leaving the European Union could threaten research funding, in a letter published in The Times newspaper on Friday.

Publisher pushback puts open access in peril

May 21, 2015

Delegates at the The Higher Education Technology Agenda (THETA) conference on the Gold Coast last week heard from futurist Bryan Alexander about four possible scenarios for the future of knowledge. ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.