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Basic Beauty Tips

In creating a site about beauty, I think it best to begin with a simple definition of the term.

Beauty is the phenomenon of the experience of pleasure, through the perception of balance and proportion of stimulus. It involves the cognition of a balanced form and structure that elicits attraction and appeal towards a person, animal, inanimate object, scene, music or idea.

Beauty and Aesthetics

Understanding the nature and meaning of beauty is one of the key themes in the philosophical discipline known as aesthetics.

The composer and critic Robert Schumann distinguished between two kinds of beauty, natural beauty and poetic beauty: the former being found in the contemplation of nature, the latter in man's conscious, creative intervention into nature. Schumann indicated that in music, or other art, both kinds of beauty appear, but the former is only sensual delight, while the latter begins where the former leaves off.  

A common theory says that beauty is the appearance of things and people that are good. This has many supporting examples. Most people judge physically attractive human beings to be good, both physically and on deeper levels.

"Beauty as goodness" still has whole classes of significant counterexamples with no agreed solution. These include such things as a glacier, or a ruggedly dry desert mountain range. Many people find beauty in hostile nature, but this seems bad, or at least unrelated to any sense of goodness. Another type of counterexample are comic or sarcastic works of art, which can be good, but are rarely beautiful.

It is well known that people's skills develop and change their sense of beauty. Carpenters may view an out-of-true building as ugly, and many master carpenters can see out-of-true angles as small as half a degree. Many musicians can likewise hear as dissonant a tone that's high or low by as little as two percent of the distance to the next note. Most people have similar aesthetics about the work or hobbies they've mastered.


Theories of Beauty

The earliest theory of beauty can be found in the works of early Greek philosophers from the pre-Socratic period, like Pythagoras. The extant writings attributed to Pythagoras reveal that the Pythagorean school, if not Pythagoras himself, saw a strong connection between mathematics and beauty. In particular, they noted that objects proportioned according to the golden ratio seemed more attractive. Some modern research seems to confirm this, in that people whose facial features are symmetric and proportioned according the golden ratio are consistently ranked as more attractive than those whose faces are not.

Different cultures have deified beauty, typically in female forms (the reason for which is probably that most well-known mythologies were conceived of and standardised by heterosexual men). Here is a list of the goddesses of beauty in different mythologies.

  • Aphrodite - Greek mythology  
  • Lakshmi - Hindu mythology  
  • Venus - Roman mythology  

Even mathematical formulae can be considered beautiful. eiπ + 1 = 0 is commonly considered one of the most beautiful theorems in mathematics.

Another connection between mathematics and beauty which played a prominent role in Pythagoras' philosophy was the way in which musical tones can be arranged in mathematical sequences, which repeat at regular intervals called octaves.

Beauty contests claim to be able to judge beauty. The millihelen is sometimes jokingly defined as the scientific unit of human beauty. This derives from the legend of Helen of Troy as presented in Christopher Marlowe's The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, in which her beauty was said to have launched a thousand ships. The millihelen is therefore the degree of beauty that can launch one ship.


Physical Attractivenessphysical attractiveness

Physical attractiveness refers to the perception of an individual as physically beautiful by other people. Some aspects of how a person is judged beautiful are universal to all cultures, whereas others are restricted to particular cultures or time periods.

Physical attractiveness can have a huge effect on how people are judged — people tend to attribute positive characteristics such as intelligence and honesty to attractive people without consciously realizing it.

Physical attractiveness is distinct from sexual attractiveness. For example, people often regard children — both human and animal — as being highly physically attractive or 'cute' because of their relatively large eyes, but without sexual attraction.

Judgment of Physical Attractiveness

One's own culture has a strong effect in determining who a person considers as physically attractive. As children grow up, they learn what their culture considers attractive. Movies and cartoons, frequently portray the villain as being ugly, whereas the protagonist is depicted as attractive. Children are shown examples of what is considered as beauty, in the form of dolls and pictures on magazine covers. Perception of what is considered as attractive and appealing is also very heavily influenced by other dominant cultures and the impact of its value system.

Universal Correlates of Beauty

That said, cultures tend to agree on what is attractive. There is a strong correlation between judgements of attractiveness between cultures. Furthermore, infants, who presumably have not yet been affected by culture, tend to prefer the same faces considered attractive by adults. This implies that a large part of attractiveness is determined by inborn human nature, not nurture.

Waist-Hip Ratio and Female Attractiveness

Strong correlations between attractiveness and particular physical properties have been found, across cultures. One of the more important properties is symmetry, which is also associated with physical health. Large clear eyes are also important.

In women, a waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) of about 0.7 (waist circumference that is 70% of the hips circumference), is typically considered very attractive. Physiologists have shown that this ratio accurately indicates most women's fertility.

Proportion of Body Mass to Body Structure

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is the most important and most universal determinant of the perception of beauty. The BMI refers to the proportion of the body mass to the body structure. However, in various cultures the optimal body proportion is interpreted differently due to cultural learnings and traditions. The Western ideal considers a slim and slender body mass as optimal while many ancient traditions and Asian societies considers an embonpointor plump body-mass as appealing. In either case the underlying rule applied in determining beauty is the BMI and hence displays how cultural differences of beauty operate on universal principles of human evolution.

The slim ideal does not consider an anorexic body as attractive just as the full-rounded ideal does not celebrate the over-weight or the obese. The cultural leanings are therefore just social emphasis on specific phenotypes within a parameter of optimal BMI.

The attraction for a proportionate body also influences an appeal for erect posture.

Proto-typicality as Beauty

Besides biology and culture, there are other factors determining physical attractiveness. The more familiar a face seems, the more highly it is judged, an example of the mere exposure effect. It is seen that when many faces are combined into a composite image (through computer morphing), people find the resultant image as familiar and attractive, and even more beautiful than the faces that went into it.

One interpretation is that this shows an inherent human preference for proto-typicality. That is, the resultant face emerges with the salient features shared by most faces and hence becomes the prototype. The prototypical face and features is therefore perceived as symmetrical and familiar. This reveals an "underlying preference for the familiar and safe over the unfamiliar and potentially dangerous" (Berscheid and Reis, 1998). However, critics of this interpretation point out that compositing computer images also has the effect of removing skin blemishes such as scars and generally softens sharp facial features.

Classical conceptions of beauty are essentially a celebration of this prototypicality. It celebrates the extra-ordinary (from the latin root meaning over or extremely-ordinary  ) as the prototype or most beautiful.

The phenotype of ones own mother during the early years of childhood, becomes the basis for the perception of optimal body mass index (BMI). This shows the importance of prototypicality in the judgment of beauty and also explains the emergence of similarity of the perception of attractiveness within a community or society, which shares a gene pool.

Other Determinants of Female Beauty

Although it is said that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, studies have shown that there are many other universal or near-universal qualities which make human females attractive to males. In addition to the predictors of good health and reproductive fitness, these include facial features which may stimulate the male sexual response by their resemblance to aroused female genital areas, and features which resemble those of human infants, who are universally appealing to both sexes of a species. Among these other determinants are:

  1. Symmetry of features: an indicator of lack of disease or injury  
  2. Clear complexion: indicator of health  
  3. Contrasting colors and features: such as well-delineated eyebrows, dark lashes, dark eyes/light face or light eyes/dark face; these heighten the features of attraction, perhaps a holdover from primitive forebears with less acute vision  
  4. Large, symmetrical, white teeth: indicator of reproductive vigor and ability to defend young; also health and contrast  
  5. Prominent zygomas (cheek bones), especially with a blush of color: paired, rounded forms, especially if pigmented, stimulate the same male response as the flushed buttocks of simian females in mating position  
  6. Thick, vivid lips: as for #5, the genital parallel is inescapable  
  7. Large, widely spaced eyes: paired, rounded forms; also similar to a baby’s appearance  
  8. Upturned nose revealing nostril openings: combination of paired, rounded forms with resemblance to baby’s appearance  
  9. Ovoid face, small chin, lack of facial hair: similar to a baby’s appearance  
  10. Thick, lustrous hair: except as indicator of health, a poorly understood determinant  
  11. Soft, higher pitched voice: indicator of non-maleness; submissiveness  

Determinants of Male Physical Attractiveness

In the perception of male attractiveness by the female amongst humans, the single most important aspect determining physical attractiveness across cultures is the physique of the male. For the woman, the man should have slight to pronounced muscles in order to be perceived as handsome. It would be preferable if the man is at least a little above the average in height in the given population of males. A strong jaw, non-feminine hands and feet, and a deep voice are as important as the physique. Women look for signs of ability to take on multiple tasks, and strength as factors that determine male beauty.

Other properties that enhance perception of male attractiveness are a slightly larger chest than the average, and an erect posture. Women seem more receptive to an erect posture than men, though both prefer it as an element of beauty. In Western cultures, too much body hair can seem effeminate, while in other cultures it is seen as a boost to a masculine appearance.


Social Effects of Beauty 

beautyWhen a person is seen as attractive or unattractive, a whole set of assumptions are brought into play. Across cultures, what is beautiful is assumed to be good. Attractive people are assumed to be more extroverted, popular, and happy. There is truth in this — attractive people do tend to have these characteristics. However, this is probably due to self-fulfilling prophecy; from a young age attractive people receive more attention that helps them develop positive characteristics.

Physical attractiveness can have very real effects. A survey conducted by London Guildhall University of 11,000 people showed that physically attractive people earn more. Less attractive people earned, on average, 13% less than more attractive people, while the penalty for being overweight was around 5%.

Interestingly, cultures differ in the details of how attractive people are seen. In capitalist cultures that value individuality, attractive people are seen as assertive and strong, while in some more collectivistic Asian cultures, attractive people are seen as being more sensitive and understanding.

Both men and women use physical attractiveness as a measure of how 'good' another person is. Typically men tend to value attractiveness more than women, and for some women personality can be more important. But in terms of behavior, most studies have shown very little difference between men and women.

Because so much importance is attached to 'looking good,' especially for women of all ages, they will go to just about any length to achieve the cultural ideal of perfection. One of the most important attributes a woman can have, in any culture, is flawless skin. That is why skincare is, and will always be, a booming industry in this country and every other -- to learn more about it, click here.


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