Hot for Hormones – How Hormones Affect The Body
Jenny Galvao

An experiment led by Rachel Grillot of the University of California and her associates has found that the presence of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone in women can influence their perceived level of attractiveness.

Certain ovarian hormones influence women’s body shapes. Usually, higher concentrations of estradiol and progesterone are connected to larger breast size and a smaller waist-to-hip ratio.

“Both estradiol and testosterone independently predicted body attractiveness ratings after controlling for the effects of BMI, which suggests that preference mechanisms may indeed track cues of fecundity in young women’s bodies,” say the researchers.

In this experiment, female participants provided saliva samples each day during stages of their menstrual cycles, and along with this they had their weight, muscle mass, water percentage, and body fat measured (height was also recorded). Breast size and circumference was also measured along with waist-to-hip ratio.

Each woman was photographed during the first cycle from all 3 perspectives (back-facing, front-facing, and side-facing). Men and women then rated these photos on their attractiveness on a scale of 1 to 7, and then rated either long-term or only short-term attractiveness.

There was a strong inter-male and inter-female correlation between rating of perceived attractiveness. That is, men and women tended to rate attractiveness the same way and find specific body types attractive or not attractive. Additionally, BMI accounted for the majority of variance in women’s body attractiveness. After BMI was controlled for, it became clear that hormone concentrations playe a partial role in the perceived attractiveness ratings.

“Estradiol was consistently higher across the entire cycle among women who were rated more attractive than predicted by their BMI alone; this pattern was less consistent for testosterone, but still visible across broad regions of the cycle; whereas the curves were very similar across the entire cycle for progesterone,” the researchers specify.

It turns out that the perceived attractiveness may have some physiological rationale behind it; there seems to be hormonal cue that conveys fertility among women. People are generally attracted to similar ideals, especially when it comes to body type. Studies such as this one prove that although we feel physical attraction, there are deeper, physiological reasons (often relating back to evolutionary roots and the search for a fertile partner to reproduce with) as to why we feel attracted to people.

Sometimes, hormonal imbalances cause us to act out; we feel irritable or even overly emotional, but could this also be reflected in our physical appearances? Further research would need to be carried out to examine this, but it looks like humans have an eye for hormones, at least when determining potential attractiveness.

Jenny Galvao_smallAbout the Author: Jenny Galvao is an undergraduate student at the University of Guelph studying psychology.





Grillot, Rachel; Zachary Simmons; Aaron Lukaszewski; and James Roney. Hormonal and morphological predictors of women’s body attractiveness. Journal of Evolution and Human Behaviour. 2014. 35:176-183. DOI: