Scientists have revealed the secret to looking younger

Scientists have revealed the secret to looking younger

The fountain of youth is something that humanity has been searching for since pretty much the dawn of our existence, but its location has evaded us no matter where we look. Throughout history, people from all cultures and eras have attempted to cheat the ageing process, sometimes going to bizarre and extreme measures in order to counteract their wrinkling skin and aching joints - but nothing worked.

Cleopatra used to take baths in donkey milk, ancient Greeks smothered their skin in honey and olive oil, and Elizabeth Báthory - one of the most infamous serial killers of all time - would soak in the blood of virgins in order to preserve her youthful looks. Unsurprisingly, despite their (sometimes highly controversial) efforts, they all turned into prunes eventually.

Skip forward to the 21st century, however, and it seems that scientists might finally have uncovered the secret to looking young. And, thankfully, it doesn't require any human sacrifices.

Amazingly, it seems that people have intuitively known about this simple technique for some time, and a quick peek through your Instagram feed is likely to give away what science has only just confirmed. Yes, the elusive quest for eternal youth has finally reached its end - and the answer is 'contrast'.

A study of women's faces across 4 ethnic groups - Caucasian, Chinese, Latin American and black South African - showed that having higher contrast between facial features resulted in a more youthful appearance. Scientists discovered this by digitally manipulating the luminance around the eyes, eyebrows and mouth, and found that those with a higher color contrast were found to be perceived as younger.

As the introduction of the study explains:

'Individual faces ... were perceived younger by French and Chinese participants when the aspects of facial contrast that vary with age in the majority of faces were artificially increased, but older when they were artificially decreased.'

This conclusion was reached after the photos of 763 make-up-free women between age 20 and 80 were analysed, showing that a simple enhancement of the features was enough to change people's perception on the age of the subject.

But what if you're not blessed with naturally contrasting features? Well, the study touches on that, too.

The co-author of the study, Richard Russell, had this to say about people whose features did not show high contrast:

'The way we manipulated features in the photos was very similar to what you'd do with make-up, and I would be surprised if you couldn't get similar effects [with cosmetics]. We know that lips get less red with age and eyebrows get lighter, for instance, and those are both things you could address with makeup, if you wanted.'

And the paper itself notes that makeup was actually designed for this very purpose:

'Altogether these findings indicate that facial contrast is a cross-cultural cue to youthfulness. Because cosmetics were shown to enhance facial contrast, this work provides some support for the notion that a universal function of cosmetics is to make female faces look younger.'

Yes, everybody, it's taken scientists several millennia, but we've finally got empirical proof: makeup helps you look younger.