Beauty is not always specific or easy to define – and we find people attractive for many different reasons. We choose our partners based on a multitude of factors. The reasons for finding someone attractive or not do vary tremendously from person to person. Additionally, if you ask people for their definitions of “beauty” you will get a lot of different answers. But scientists have discovered some scientific rules about what is considered beautiful across cultures and generations.
1: The Golden Ratio
Science shows us that we can actually analyse – or quantify – human perceptions of beauty. The elusive golden ratio has held steady in studies. But it may not be the highest draw card for beauty according to evolving research
Across all cultures, the leading indicator of a person’s beauty is often their face. The best-known global acceptance of ‘facial beauty’ is the golden ratio. It simply means that a beautiful face is seen as aesthetically appealing because it has certain proportions.
With the golden ratio, the distance between your eyes and mouth might be about 36 percent of the length of your face. Also, the distance between your eyes might be 46 percent of the width of your face for greatest visual appeal.
But one study showed that having a proportional face does not always equal beauty. During the study, an evaluation jury analysed the faces of 400 participants. They used a computer algorithm based on the golden ratio to assess the features across participants.
Next, they classified them into two groups, rating them as either attractive or not attractive. After that, the organisers of the study randomly chose a group of 60 participants. They asked them to look at the pictures and to make a personal classification.
The results were surprising to some. Most of the pictures that the participants chose were different from the golden ratio. Whilst this is still debated it essentially pointed to the concept that a face does not depend on the golden ratio to be considered beautiful or aesthetically appealing.
So what is involved in our perceptions of facial beauty?
2: Beauty is Symmetry
A common conception of beauty is the balance of the two halves of the face – or of the body. We often feel attracted towards people who have proportional and symmetrical features.
There is a lot more to it, of course. But this is a basic generalisation that is supported by a large amount of research across the globe. A possible explanation for this tendency has to do with our genetics, as well as genetics mixed with cultural ideals.
Genetics and Our Perceptions of Beauty?
During a human’s lifetime, cells divide, continuously. If these divisions spawned identical cells, it could, technically speaking, result in a very balanced body. But mutations and environmental factors hinder these divisions. And at some level, our brains think imbalances will impact longevity or other survival genes that we might pass along to the next generation.
That is why we perceive as more attractive the people who have managed to keep this symmetry. Symmetry is also strongly linked, at least in our brains, with partners that have strong immune systems. This way, we perceive people with a great deal of symmetry as able to provide better genes to our potential offspring.
At the end of the day, genetic drives for reproduction still drives what we find appealing. It changes, of course, over time – but not as much as we might think.
3: Self Enhancement Bias and Body Dysmorphia
A recent study indicated that we tend to think ourselves to look more attractive than we are. The organisers of the survey took photos of the participants. Then, they modified the photos to look more beautiful.
Next, they showed the participants both the original and edited pictures of themselves. The participants tended to choose the enhanced image versions of themselves. They were also shown pictures of the other co-participants, whom they had met 3 weeks before. In that scenario, participants tended to choose the unmodified variants.
We call this the “self-enhancement bias.” This happens when you overestimate your qualities whilst somehow underestimating those of other people.
And there is the opposite scenario, where you may view yourself as less attractive than how other people see you. Self-esteem problems can often be overcome with a combination of counselling, exercise and some medical supplement treatments.
Plastic surgery is also an option when a particular facial feature or correctable body proportion is impacting one’s self-esteem.
Most consumer sites indicate high satisfaction rates with a number of procedures. So with appearance being important not just to others but to ourselves surgery can give us a bit of external confidence. This in turn helps boost internal confidence levels.
4: The Infamous Waist-Hip Ratio
An important factor in establishing a person’s beauty is the waist-hip ratio. For women, the standard is a smaller waist and larger bust and hips. For men, narrow hips with a v-shaped chest.
Scientists also correlate the waist-hip proportions (the WHR) with fertility and perceptions of good health. Studies show that women with a waist-to-hip ratio of about 0.7 are less prone to some diseases. Men with a waist-hip ratio of 0.9 also seem to have improved chances of fertility and overall social well-being.
These days, you can often achieve a great body shape through physical exercise. But not if your weight has fluctuated greatly. There’s sometimes a desire for body shaping after weight loss by removing excess skin and fat stores that are resistant to diet and exercise.
5: How Far Do Looks Get You?
Vanity always gets a negative rap. However, healthy self-esteem means wanting to look your best, feel your best and do your best (for most people). There is a common perception that, the nicer you look, the more you’re likely to get ahead in your life. According to studies, people who are considered beautiful or attractive tend to have bigger revenues and career choices.
Aesthetically appealing individuals also have more choices in romantic partners as well as business partners. They may also be treated with more attention and respect than people who are considered less attractive (as a general rule only and not applicable to everyone or every situation). This is why some people who are ageing, who were very attractive and got a lot of attention when they were younger, feel ‘increasingly invisible’ as they get older and have less social attention.
This is one of the things that leaves people feeling better about themselves after a rejuvenation surgery such as a face lift, skin resurfacing or eyelid lift – they look better, feel better, and may gain more social attention or improved choices in their partners and social companions. A possible explanation comes from the idea that we innately judge a person by their external appearance.
It’s a visually based survival-oriented capacity that has primal mechanisms at its basis. It means our visually-focused brains try to evaluate others in many ways before we get close enough to them where they can potentially do us harm.
So for most people we encounter, this first impression is the precise thing we use to evaluate them. Sometimes that first impression sticks with us even when we our initial evaluation is wrong. In other words, we may subconsciously evaluate someone beautiful to be good or judge someone who’s less attractive as being ‘less good.’
Social Risks and Rewards of Beauty
Beauty is a number of things, then – and it does comes with social risks as well as social rewards. For example, if you are very beautiful or have very attractive features – others might fully ignore your talents and focus only on your appearance (or on certain aspects of your appearance).
Or you might feel that you must somehow live up to unrealistic beauty “standards” instead of focusing on whole self health and self-esteem.
The key is to feel confident in yourself across all aspects of your life, and to know that beauty is what you want to make of it – despite our genetic responses to certain traits or ‘golden ratios’. But at the end of the day, what counts is the harmony of what is inside and outside.
Body Contouring and Rejuvenation Procedures
So if you feel great internally but the external you is starting to sag or look tired and aged, book a consultation with Dr Geoff Barnett. Send an enquiry form below or phone (03) 8849 1467 during clinic hours for more information on our surgical and non-surgical facial enhancement and body shaping procedures.