Paul Matts, Procter & Gamble’s skincare scientist knows all the signs of youth and beauty – and how to keep them. Below he answers frequently asked beauty questions.
Why do you think we are so obsessed with looking younger and healthier?
Our perception of attractiveness is highly correlated to age and health. From an evolutionary point of view, health is the dominant driver because it indicates that a person has good genes.
In terms of age, there is a continuous drop in fertility, particularly in women. Evolutionary psychologists argue that we therefore have a subconscious desire to have a partner who is healthy because they are young.
It is no secret that as we age our health degenerates. A flawless, clear, unblemished skin is an indicator of health and, consciously or unconsciously, we want to signal our health by looking attractive or beautiful.
Is there something the science of skincare can tell us about the biology of beauty?
In the past 20 to 30 years most of the research into attractiveness has centred on how the shape of the face - facial averageness, symmetry and male-female dimorphism - affects our perception of beauty.
There was no scientific focus on skin. I’ve looked at how to characterise skin condition using research from different industries: using methods derived from the car industry, for instance, to measure roughness, lines and wrinkles.
What stops us all looking young and healthy?
There is a lot more to ageing skin than wrinkles. Melanin and haemoglobin produce the brown and red coloration in human skin.
Sun damage causes uneven skin colour and this, along with shadows due to lines and wrinkles, is the key to our perception of age.
Are there ways of measuring this correlation between coloration and our perception of age?
We took high-resolution digital images of 170 girls and women between 11 and 76 years old. From these we created 170 identical virtual skulls with standard hair and bone structure, and then electronically draped our subjects’ skin over the skulls and showed these images to 430 members of the public.
They were all able to judge how old the people were from the evenness of skin coloration alone. It is known that we are drawn to faces that are evenly coloured.
Has research into skincare shown how we can look younger and healthier?
The sun damages skin. I’m not talking about spending time on the beach; this is the stuff of daily life. Sun damage is cumulative.
Skin never forgets. Moderating sun damage is the single biggest thing you can do, through changing your behaviour and using suncream.
Do any of the beauty products that you can buy over the counter really work?
Some products, like niacinamide, can reduce the amount of melanin expressed in age spots.
By reducing contrast with background skin, this produces a corresponding perception of a reduction in age.