Researchers at Glasgow University have been looking into the correlation between the rise in the sex hormone oestradiol and a reddening of the skin in women. Lead researcher Professor Benedict Jones said in the recently published study, "Oestradiol may increase blood flow to blood vessels close to the surface of the skin, increasing skin redness." This could be the reason why women appear healthier and more attractive when they're blushing — it's the way their bodies tell the world they're ready to be moms. At least, their bodies are.
If oestradiol sounds familiar, it's because it's the main hormone responsible for activating women's cycles and helping them grow to sexual maturity. It's also what keeps our reproductive cycles regulated, and is thus often discussed in relation to hormonal birth control. Not surprisingly, the hormone reaches its highest levels when we ovulate because that's when our body is readying itself for conception. It would thus make sense, instinctually speaking, for men to perceive us as most attractive when they sense those levels are peaking, because it's the best time to impregnate us.
While the idea behind this study may seem pretty logical, according to the senior psychologist at the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, it's the first time the correlation's been proven. "Our data are the first to link changes in facial coloration directly to changes in measured oestradiol, supporting the proposal that cyclic changes in facial redness in female primates with prominent facial skin are underpinned by change in oestradiol."
The study closely monitored the skin color changes in 116 women all around the age of 21 for five weeks. All had to forgo use of birth control pills, and tanning beds and products for the full five weeks, and naturally any makeup had to be removed prior to examination.
But the correlation is even more psychologically ingrained than we think. Several previous studies have concluded that women tend to wear pink and red more when they're ovulating. So the next time you grab that red sweater from your closet in the morning, think about what time of the month it is and how it could be your hormones making your outfit decision today.
The researchers have noted that this red trend during a woman's most fertile days may be the reason behind why red shades are considered sexy, and why Valentine's Day's signature colors are also in the blush family.
However, there is some dispute over why blushing became a health/fertility indicator. It's unclear whether it's simply an effect of rising hormone levels or if females developed it as part of evolution to help attract males when they're most likely to conceive.
Regardless of the reason, it's definitely inspired me to try wearing varying shades of red to my local bar to see what happens and the next time you wear blush, remember its main purpose is to signal to men that you're primed for baby making.
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