Why we are so obsessed with beauty

Updated: May 7, 2020

It is impossible not to judge somebody based upon their physical appearance. Upon first glance, we use the presentation of a person’s face and body to determine their individual hierarchy of beauty, health and sexual orientation, intelligence, current state of well-being and general capabilities, within milliseconds.

But what is it, that helps us decide if a person is beautiful? And why are we so obsessed with chasing beauty?

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GIF: https://giphy.com/ilkafranz

Interpreting beauty is human nature.

Darwin’s theory refers to ‘sexual selection‘ when explaining the human reproductive process. Sexual selection is an ancient system, that has evolved over thousands of years with one goal in mind; to enable human beings to find a healthy mate to produce healthy offspring.

Human beings have been able to flourish over time, by following a simple set of biological knowledge. To reproduce successfully, men need a healthy, fertile, female partner. To reproduce successfully, women need a a man is of optimal health, that can protect her and their potential offspring.

There are a particular set of qualities that help us identify the probability of a person because of sexual selection, which contributes to the natural beauty-grading system of others, that we all seem to share.

It starts with great-looking skin.

Have you ever wondered why we are all so obsessed with glowing, wrinkle-free, healthy-looking skin?

Giant companies want to earn money and self-care is fun, but there is another significant reason as to why the global skincare industry is worth $134 billion.

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GIF by L’Oréal Paris USA

Our skin is the largest secretory organ in the body and therefore reflects all of our lifestyle habits, decisions and how we generally take care of ourselves. Nobody wants to appear unhealthy, and so, it is only natural to prefer the appearance of good skin.

Women with facial acne are often associated with hormone imbalances of oestrogen and testosterone, indicating lower chances of fertility. Damaged skin can easily be correlated with bacterium and illness, presenting a first impression of poor health.

Equally, our skin also gives a clear indication to how old we are, which can have a dramatic influence on how we feel about our and everyone else’s general potential. This is why ‘anti-ageing’ is such a commonly used phrase, and why many of us find it difficult to accept  the natural process of ageing. 

Great skin is the epitome of great health and fertility; the two ultimate qualities desired when seeking a potential mate. For these reasons, perfect skin will always be considered a beautiful, and therefore one of the most desired features of the human body.

Modelling beauty head shot

Cecile Lavabre/Getty Images

Why are we so obsessed with women’s bodies?

In both men and women, there is a collection of characteristics that we look for in the body, in order to identify it as ‘beautiful.’

Some might say it is the consumer market, our media and culture, that influence our decisions and social norms but our perceptions are also a result of something significantly deeper than that.

Body fat ratio gives a clear measure of how healthy person is, fertility and age. Following puberty, women’s waist-to-hip ratio increases, adding voluminous contours to areas like the hips, butt and breasts. With Darwin’s theory in mind, plump, voluminous breasts represent a greater chance of a woman being able to successfully breastfeed.

Marilyn Monroe resembles an ‘attractive’ waist-to-hip ratio. Photo: http://www.sweetemelynes.com

These desirable characteristics are evident in modern-day western culture; presented in the photo angles we choose, the plastic surgery appointments that are made and the undergarments we wear. 

The most common plastic surgery procedures have the sole intention of maintaining a youthful appearance, in the form of butt and face lifts, breast lifts, and liposuction to maintain that delicate waist-to-hip ratio.

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GIF by @digijing

How neotenous features define our judgement of beauty

You may have read about neoteny on aestheticsurge before, in a previous post discussing why we find full lips and high cheekbones attractive.

Neoteny is the delaying or slowing of a physical development of an organism (basically, the reduction of the effects of ageing). Neotenous features include big lips and eyes, high cheekbones, a flat face and smaller-than-average limbs like the arms and legs.

Humans consider these beautiful features because they are aspects associated with a young child, making the person seem less threatening and more trustworthy ( -facial features that are soft and delicate, are not as threatening as a face with a broad and harsher structure.) 

Proof of this is shown in the faces we see regularly, in the media and entertainment industry. Scarlett Johansson, Gigi Hadid and Rihanna all share ‘baby-face’ features.

Sexual selection is arguably the main reason as to why we are forever obsessing over our own beauty and those around us. We will continue to seek beauty ourselves and notice elegance when we see it, as a consequence of human reproductive process. 

Neotenous features like large eyes and full lips, healthy looking skin and the hourglass figure create a heightened sense of fertility, youth and good health…a significant requirement when interpreting overall beauty. Particular body fat ratio, such as wide hips and plump breasts, a person’s age and condition of skin are also factors in the game of judging someone’s attractiveness. 

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GIF: https://imgur.com/

Did you learn anything new from this article? What do you consider beautiful? Comment your thoughts below or find me on Instagram. 

#whywefindpeoplebeautiful #neoteny #sexualselection #beautyperception #highcheekbones #humanbehaviour #attractiveness #whatmakesusattractive

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