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Why Do Women Care More About Looking Younger? Look to Evolution

Updated on April 19, 2011

When’s the last time you heard about a man getting botox, or seen a commercial about Touch of Gray hair dye for women? I’m going to guess… never.  That’s due in part to the functions for which men and women evolved.

Evolutionary theory predicts that each species has evolved traits optimized for survival long enough to reproduce. Because humans are such advanced and complicated creatures that require a long period of development, human babies are particularly helpless. Our babies have prehistorically survived best when they were cared for by a pair: a woman to provide for their moment-to-moment needs and a man to bring back food and provide protection.

(Note: No, I am not necessarily an advocate of traditional gender roles, but evidence does show that this is how men and women lived for thousands of years.)

As will always be the case, conceiving a child requires a much larger investment on the part of the woman, who must be pregnant for nine months and give birth. The man, on the other hand, could theoretically conceive another child within minutes after conceiving the first. The woman will definitely be around when the child is born, but the man could potentially be long gone by that time. Thus, women have generally evolved a preference for sexual partners that demonstrate the ability to provide for a family (which often comes with age) and commitment, whereas men have generally had a stronger preference than women do for a partner that appears to be in her sexual prime, to increase the likelihood that she will be in better physical shape to birth and take care of the child herself.

(Another note: I am well aware that this is rather a crude generalization. It is only meant to demonstrate the basic principles that are at work.)

The children that were the most likely to survive long enough to reproduce had usually been raised by a pair who compromised and cooperated in childrearing. These children, in turn, passed the traits that they shared with their parents on to their own children, and these traits extended even as far as sexual preferences. This likely contributes to why women care more about looking young than men do, and our modern society has taken care of the rest.

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