What is beauty isn’t a question that most of us think about; we just know it when we see it. A “young” face, a “fit” body, these are words we use to describe beauty, but what do they really mean?
The term” Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” attempts to sum up the idea that, what one person finds attractive, another may not. However, everything is plotable on a bell shaped curve and the majority of people tend to agree in the middle of the curve. Differences between the sexes and across racial/ethnic lines can be dramatic.
Female beauty seems to center around the eyes. Large, clear female eyes are perceived as feminine. Plastic surgeon’s evaluate a woman’s eyebrow to see if the outside 1/3 arches up over the bone of the eye socket. This is thought to be ideal, letting light bounce off this bare skin over the bone to make the eye appear larger. If you look at a model’s make up, this area usually has a light colored eye shadow to extenuate the eye’s size. Male brows are ideally flatter with more of a bony protrusion across the brow to appear masculine. Another gender specific area of the face is the jaw line. In ¾ view the contour of the female jaw is seen as a convexity melting into the hollow concavity of the cheek then swinging out again over a high cheek bone. In a man a strong, well defined jaw line is ideal.
In both sexes beauty is played out by the amounts of symmetry and proportion. Most people think that beauty stems from perfect symmetry, however plastic surgeons know this is false. We demonstrate this by showing patients what they look like in reverse mirrors. These devices flip ½ your image around to show what you would look like with perfect symmetry of your left face vs. your right. Surprisingly to two faces are very different and strange looking. This is because we’re not used to seeing perfect symmetry in a face. It’s these small differences in our facial symmetry that make us look human, and bring out our “character”. Proportion is an unconscious way that we compare certain parts of the body, for example in profile we compare the size of the nose to the chin. Also the projection of a woman’s breasts to the siluette of her abdomen. Men and woman exercise this rule of proportion every time we suck in our gut in front of the mirror. In the frontal view body proportion is seen in terms of height, this is why high heels are slimming. Plastic surgeons divide the face into equal 1/3s; from the hairline to the brow, the brow to the bottom of the nose, and from the nose to the chin. When one of these is too long or short our facial harmony can be distorted. Sometimes these norms can be distorted and also appear attractive, for example Jackie Onassis Kennedy had a trait called telecanthus. This has to do with the eyes being too far apart, however most agree that she was a very beautiful woman.
In summary beauty isn’t really definable. There are some rules of proportion that pertain to beauty, but in the final analysis it’s more about the impression of someone’s looks more than their specifics. So beauty really is in the eye, and mind, of the beholder.