Healthy living

Eating fruit and veg better for your skin than tanning

Zone default image 'Yellow-toned skin' looks healthiest

Faces with a 'golden glow' appear more healthy and attractive, and this is best achieved by eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, not by tanning, scientists say.

Research conducted at the University of St Andrews asked 54 white men and women to use specialist computer software to change the skin colour of male and female faces to make them look as healthy as possible.

"Most previous work on faces has focussed on the shape of the face or the texture of the skin, but one of the most variable characteristics of the face is skin colour," said Dr Ian Stephen, who led the study.

The volunteers chose to enhance the rosiness, yellowness and brightness of the skin.

Melanin, the pigment that causes the tan colour when your skin is exposed to the sun, makes the skin darker and more yellow, but the volunteers in the study chose to make skin lighter and more yellow to make it look healthier.

But why did the participants think this colour gave the healthiest appearance?

The researchers suggested the preference for a more golden or 'yellow-toned' skin as healthier might be explained by the carotenoid pigments that we get from the fruit and vegetables in our diet.

They also are powerful antioxidants that mop up dangerous compounds produced when the body fights disease and are important for our immune and reproductive systems. They may also help prevent cancer.

"In the West we often think that sun tanning is the best way to improve the colour of your skin," said Dr. Stephen, "but our research suggests that living a healthy lifestyle with a good diet might actually be better."

"This discovery is very exciting and has given us a promising lead into cues to health," said Professor David Perrett, head of the Perception Lab at the University of St Andrews, where the research took place.

"What we eat and not just how much we eat appears to be important for a healthy appearance.

"The only natural way in which we can make our skin lighter and more yellow is to eat a more healthy diet high in fruit and vegetables."

The research is published in this week's International Journal of Primatology.

This article was published on Tue 17 November 2009

Image © Irina Yun -

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