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Evolution Helped Turn Human's Furless Skin Into a Canvas for Self-Expression

Evolution Helped Turn Hairless Skin Into a Canvas for Self-Expression

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Hairless skin first evolved in humans as a way to keep cool -- and then turned into a canvas to help them look cool, according to a Penn Stateanthropologist.

About 1.5 to 2 million years ago, early humans, who were regularly on the move as hunters and scavengers, evolved into nearly hairless creatures to more efficiently sweat away excess body heat, said Nina Jablonski, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology. Later, humans began to decorate skin to increase attractiveness to the opposite sex and to express, among other things, group identity.

"We can make a visual impactand present a completely different impression than we can with regular, undecorated skin," said Jablonski, who reports on her research today (Feb. 16) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.

Over the millennia, people turned their skin into canvases of self-expression in different ways, including permanent methods, such as tattooing and branding, as well as temporary ones, including cosmetics and body painting, according to the researcher.

Jablonski said both males and females use forms of skin decoration to become more attractive to the opposite sex. Women, for example, may use makeup to increase the size of their eyes, a cue that is considered attractive in most cultures. Males in some cultures also use skin decor