Over the past decades, automatic face recognition has become a highly active research area, mainly due to the countless application possibilities in both the private as well as the public sector. Numerous algorithms have been proposed in the literature to cope with the problem of face recognition, nevertheless, a group of methods commonly referred to as appearance based have emerged as the dominant solution to the face recognition problem. Many comparative studies concerned with the performance of appearance based methods have already been presented in the literature, not rarely with inconclusive and often with contradictory results. No consent has been reached within the scientific community regarding the relative ranking of the efficiency of appearance based methods for the face recognition task, let alone regarding their susceptibility to appearance changes induced by various environmental factors. To tackle these open issues, this paper assess the performance of the three dominant appearance based methods: principal component analysis, linear discriminant analysis and independent component analysis, and compares them on equal footing (i.e., with the same preprocessing procedure, with optimized parameters for the best possible performance, etc.) in face verification experiments on the publicly available XM2VTS database. In addition to the comparative analysis on the XM2VTS database, ten degraded versions of the database are also employed in the experiments to evaluate the susceptibility of the appearance based methods on various image degradations which can occur in "real-life" operating conditions. Our experimental results suggest that linear discriminant analysis ensures the most consistent verification rates across the tested databases.