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: Education Dept awards $75M in innovation grants

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Group: Wildlife populations down drastically

17 hours ago

Populations of about 3,000 species of wildlife around the world have plummeted far worse than previously thought, according to a new study by one of the world's biggest environmental groups.

Climate change affecting species

1 hour ago

The Global Change and Sustainability Research Institute (GCSRI) and the Wits Rural Facility (WRF) hosted a top climate change scientist, Professor Camille Parmesan, who delivered a talk to staff, students ...

Recommended for you

Research band at Karolinska tuck Dylan gems into papers

Sep 29, 2014

(Phys.org) —A 17-year old bet among scientists at the Karolinska Institute has been a wager that whoever wrote the most articles with Dylan quotes before they retired would get a free lunch. Results included ...

A simulation game to help people prep for court

Sep 25, 2014

Preparing for court and appearing before a judge can be a daunting experience, particularly for people who are representing themselves because they can't afford a lawyer or simply don't know all the ropes ...

When finding 'nothing' means something

Sep 25, 2014

Scientists usually communicate their latest findings by publishing results as scientific papers in journals that are almost always accessible online (albeit often at a price), ensuring fast sharing of latest ...

User comments : 0