Women's attractiveness changes with estradiol and progesterone across the ovulatory cycle

David A. Puts, Drew H. Bailey, Rodrigo A. Cárdenas, Robert P. Burriss, Lisa L.M. Welling, John R. Wheatley, Khytam Dawood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

135 Scopus citations


In many species, females are more sexually attractive to males near ovulation. Some evidence suggests a similar pattern in humans, but methodological limitations prohibit firm conclusions at present, and information on physiological mechanisms underlying any such pattern is lacking. In 202 normally-cycling women, we explored whether women's attractiveness changed over the cycle as a function of two likely candidates for mediating these changes: estradiol and progesterone. We scheduled women to attend one session during the late follicular phase and another during the mid-luteal phase. At each session, facial photographs, voice recordings and saliva samples were collected. All photographs and voice recordings were subsequently rated by men for attractiveness and by women for flirtatiousness and attractiveness to men. Saliva samples were assayed for estradiol and progesterone. We found that progesterone and its interaction with estradiol negatively predicted vocal attractiveness and overall (facial plus vocal) attractiveness to men. Progesterone also negatively predicted women's facial attractiveness to men and female-rated facial attractiveness, facial flirtatiousness and vocal attractiveness, but not female-rated vocal flirtatiousness. These results strongly suggest a pattern of increased attractiveness during peak fertility in the menstrual cycle and implicate estradiol and progesterone in driving these changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-19
Number of pages7
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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