manAre you a woman who’s attracted to men and consider yourself someone who has a physical “type”, for instance, you know you’ll go ga-ga over a rough-and-tumble-looking guy with sexy stubble and a strong jaw or you prefer a sweetie who exudes sensitivity and softness?

Not so fast! Turns out, the hormones your body produces and hormones you take can play a key role in who you find date-worthy–and it can change depending on your hormone status.

How so? Well, let’s begin with a study you’ve probably already heard about: This research from 1999 published in the journal Nature found that heterosexual women are more attracted to masculine-looking men during the fertile phase of their cycle and are more attracted to feminine-looking men during other menstrual cycle phases. As the researchers reasoned, masculine facial attributes (such as a well-defined jaw and small eyes) denote higher testosterone, health and virility, which women are naturally wired to prefer during ovulation so we have a better shot at conceiving and having a healthy baby. By contrast, more feminine facial attributes in a man (such as big eyes and a softer chin) are cues that he’s more empathetic and supportive, which are traits we’re wired to seek out after ovulation in case we got pregnant and need a mate who’d stick around and lend a helping hand.

Since the release of that study other research has confirmed these findings, but they’ve discovered a few other face-related findings you might find interesting, too:

Women who take hormone birth control are more attracted to and likely to partner up with men who have feminine-looking features, according to a study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.  It may be because the progesterone in hormone birth control is preventing ovulation–the key trigger for a desire for more masculinity. But, once you’re off the hormone birth control, more than likely you’re going to go back to preferring macho-looking guys–at least during the fertile phase of your cycle.

A 2015 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine shows that heterosexual women in the last trimester of pregnancy are more attracted to male partners with feminine-looking faces than women who are in non-fertile phases of their menstrual cycle and who are taking hormone birth control. Researchers speculate it’s because expectant mothers perceive mates with softer features as being more gentle, cooperative and loyal, which would be important during this critical phase of pregnancy.

A little off-topic, but still face preference-related, during the second half of your cycle you tend to prefer the company of women who resemble what you look like, reports the journal Hormones and Behavior. The researchers’ theory: During this menstrual cycle phase, your body thinks there’s a chance you could be pregnant, so you seek out people who look like they could be related to you since it means they might help support you and your baby.

[Photo: Caroline]
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