Richard Branson. File picture: Lucas Jackson

London - Tall, handsome and... red faced.

Men with ruddy complexions are apparently irresistibly attractive to women.

Rather than pale and interesting, they prefer their chaps to be rosy and glowing, research has found.

In a study, women were asked to manipulate pictures of men’s faces to make them more attractive. The first thing they did was make their skin tone redder.

It is thought that rosy cheeks are a sign of good circulation and therefore an indication of good health.

Richard Branson, Brad Pitt and former US president Bill Clinton all have the ruddy look that scientists say are common to alpha-males with high levels of testosterone.

The researchers, from St Andrews, Nottingham and Durham universities, showed 45 women computerised photos of 21 young men and asked them to manipulate their complexions to make them more attractive.

The women, who had the choice of adding red or yellow tones, tended to plump for a degree of pinkness.

They added even more red when asked to make the men look as dominant as possible.

However, pale-faced men shouldn’t reach for the blusher. The study also found that the women associated very red faces with aggression.

‘We have shown that increased redness enhances the appearance of dominance, aggression and attractiveness in men’s faces viewed by women,’ said St Andrews researcher Professor David Perrett.

‘This is something we share with many other species. For example, the bright yellow beaks and feathers of many birds can be thought of as adverts showing how healthy a male bird is. What’s more, females of these species prefer to mate with brighter, more coloured males.

‘But this is the first study in which this has been demonstrated in humans.’

The research has been published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology.

Samantha Mann, a psychologist at the University of Portsmouth, agreed that a man’s complexion can colour a woman’s judgment.

At the extreme end, she said a very red face may be sign of alcoholism, while a pale face can signal fear or sickness.

‘Hence, it figures that a healthy pink is found to be most attractive in a potential mate,’ she said.

Clinton and Branson have faces that are dominant without being aggressive, while Brad Pitt has an attractive slightly rosy hue, she said.

On the other side of the coin, separate research has shown that men really do prefer a lady in red.

Not only is she sexier, but she is more likely to be asked out on a date – and have more money lavished on her during the outing.

The effect also works on football teams. Those in red kit tend to win more matches. It is thought that the colour’s association with dominance and aggression enhances the game of those wearing it while creating unease among their opponents.- Daily Mail