• Busting the “Beauty is Skin Deep” Myth

    by Sky and Sea
    on Oct 25th, 2016

When we think beautiful people, most of us immediately think of gorgeous people in show business at the moment.  Unfortunately, this can be a dangerous standard to look towards as this can leave us with very unrealistic beauty expectations.

Luckily we live in a time where there are some great movements changing our perception of who and what is “beautiful”. With campaigns like #AerieREAL challenging supermodel standards and models like Ashley Graham promoting a healthy body as opposed to only “skinny” bodies as being beautiful, we’re definitely heading into a better and healthier state of mind.  Not to mention the fabulous Alicia Keys showing up the VMAs makeup free and setting an example for women that makeup is not a requirement for being beautiful and glamorous.

We are in a time where the media is starting to realize how important it is to set realistic expectations for beauty. Yet, with all these wonderful steps we still have highly ingrained ideas about what beauty is. Why is that and what is it that attracts one person to another? Is it deeper than what we see on the surface? The answer is quite fascinating when you take a closer look at the science of “looks”.

Beauty and attraction is a well-researched field with some interesting conclusions when it comes to the science of attraction. We all know that symmetrical faces are generally considered more attractive. What is not as well known is that they are associated with good health and genetic quality. This may sound bizarre  but there is actually some evidence to back this theory of symmetry and good health being connected. Gillian Rhodes, an Australian psychologist, co-authored a study comparing people’s facial symmetry with their medical records. The study concluded that the people with the most beautiful faces actually did have the cleanest bill of health. I think this one can be filed under the “stranger than fiction” category!

Studies done by Germany’s University of Leipzig found that both humans and animals were more physically attracted to symmetrical faces, while less symmetrical faces are perceived as correlating with ill-health and lack of fitness. According to evolutionary psychology this attraction is a subconscious way to evaluate fertility potential in a prospective mate.*

In 2009, a team from Osaka University in Japan studied what the most important factor for facial beauty was. Their conclusion was that a perfectly beautiful face was both symmetrical and average. What is this “averageness” about? Studies from the University of Oslo indicate that people tend to be attracted to partners that look like themselves. The familiar = average.

Now let’s go beneath the surface. The theories above may explain why we find certain physical traits attractive, but in dealing with individual attraction, a lot of other factors come into play as well. Cultural conditioning, psychological and familial influences as well as an individual’s personal preferences and temperament. And one very important factor….inner beauty.

In a series of studies conducted by Kevin Kniffin and David Sloan Wilson, inner beauty and/or positive social traits significantly increases one’s attractiveness. The researcher’s advice:  “If you want to enhance your physical attractiveness, become a valuable social partner.” How’s that for a beauty tip?!?

It seems from looking at all these studies, that the question of what attracts us to one another is complex, but there is one thing we can definitely learn. Beauty is NOT only skin deep.

*Buss, David (2003) [1994]. The Evolution of Desire (second ed.). New York: Basic Books. pp. 51–4.

Author Sky and Sea

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