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LONDON, Nov 2 (AFP) - A woman's fertility is as plain as the nose on her face -- or more particularly her cheekbones, chin and skin -- but not if she is wearing make-up, scientists said on Wednesday.
Researchers at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland made the claim after asking volunteers to rate pictures of 59 young women aged 19 to 25 for attractiveness, health and femininity.
Comparing the results to an analysis of the photographed women's levels of oestrogen, they found that those with high counts of the sex hormone were judged to be prettier by both male and female participants.
As a result, they were more likely to catch the attention of the opposite sex.
"Women are effectively advertising their general fertility with their faces, " said Miriam Law Smith, a psychologist who led the study.
"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," she added. "Those that did would have had more babies."
Oestrogen has an impact on a girl's appearance during puberty, particularly on bone growth and skin texture.
Attractive bone structure and smooth skin were found to correspond to high levels of the hormone.
But no relationship was found between perceived appearance and oestrogen in the study's responses to women wearing make-up, suggesting cosmetics could be hiding fertility cues, the researchers said.
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