For decades, it has been understood that facial symmetry plays a huge role in beauty and what we find attractive. Perhaps this is because we have a built-in sense for proportion, for symmetry, and for what feels right. But is a perfect symmetrical face really the tantamount of beauty? And what other key factors are there in facial attractiveness? Dr Xenephin Ludick provides the answers.
What does an attractive man make? Is it his height? Perfect smile? Or his bulging muscles (Vin Diesel style?) Well, according to the La-La-Land of Hollywood, it’s none of the above.
Instead, the Los Angeles media has a different, more sophisticated method of deciphering the code of beauty. And it’s this very unique method that singled out the very charismatic George Clooney as sexiest man, followed by the enigmatic Bradly Cooper in 2nd place – and lastly (but not surprisingly), the beautiful Brad Pitt coming in at 3rd.
But let’s face it: while no-one can deny that all three of these men are good-looking, are they’re really the MOST attractive? It seems like a bit of a stretch, especially in a place where there is a McSteamy around every corner… but there is a method to this madness.
In a nutshell, the code of beauty that was utilised is based on a highly scientific technique, one where a “perfect ratio” is used to determine who would be crowned king of the hotties. And the result: Mr Clooney came out tops as the proud owner of a face that is 92% perfect (how’s those odds?), with Bradley Cooper and Brad Pitt following close behind at 2nd and 3rd place.
But wait a minute…isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder? I reckon so – especially when you consider how many people would disagree with Mr Clooney holding the sexiest man title. After all, what about all the Idris Elba’s of the world? The Chris Hemsworth’s and the Hugh Jackman’s (a.k.a Wolverine)? Surely, they should get a sexy crown as well? Or at least a medal…
Needless to say, this got us thinking – what makes us attractive? Youth? Symmetry? The golden ratio of Leonardo da Vinci? Let’s have a look at a few of the reasons:
This is a very important determining factor of beauty as it largely involves in what we see: Architecture, Nature, Art. Although ironically, while a perfect symmetrical face has been identified as the ideal beauty for years now, there are many A-listers who prove the contrary: striking individuals who ooze sensuality yet have very asymmetrical features.
So, what does mean? Well, for one thing, a very symmetrical face will certainly be more attractive than a very asymmetrical face to most of us, but symmetry on its own isn’t enough. For another, it appears some celebs just have that X-Factor – we can’t quite explain it, we just find them stunning (despite them not being truly symmetrical). Symmetry and the love thereof, might be an inherent trait in humans as we will learn later in this article.
2. Averages and Nature vs Nurture
Say what?! An average face is pretty? Yes. It can be. But we are not referring to an average looking face here. We are referring to the sum of all we see as an average. This means that a type of face we see often, would be perceived as “prettier” than a random facial structure.
The above theory can be verified by a study that was done by the University of Texas, where photos of faces were shown to a group of Europeans as well as an isolated hunter-gatherer tribe in Tanzania called the Hadza. The faces they were shown were a mixture of male, female, Caucasian and black African.
The participants were then asked to identify which faces they perceived as beautiful. The European participants chose faces from across the board: male, female, Caucasian and not. The Hadza, however, predominantly chose faces of colour as this was consistent with what they would see every single day. Caucasians are not people they get exposure to, and therefore, is not deemed as pretty to them.
It’s not their “average”. This shows us that learnt opinions regarding beauty determine what we like and dislike. We aren’t born with perceptions of beauty, it is learnt. What was very interesting in this Hadza tribe study though, was that they still preferred symmetrical faces versus asymmetrical. This suggests that our preference of symmetry is part of our nature, not nurture.
Meanwhile, social media and our constant exposure to perceived beauty is also massively influencing these learnt perceptions, with social media being the biggest driving influence behind the current shift in lip shaping and other facial procedures – but this is a story for another day.
A few studies have shown that signs of virility can often be seen as beautiful. We are pre-programmed to like fertile and virile mates. In men, a square jawline, thin lips, broad nose and being bald can hint towards a virile male – while broader hips, fuller lips and larger breasts in women can have the same effect.
Now we can take it one step further: we are definitely seeing an overlap starting to occur between masculinity and femininity. Women with stronger jawlines and more prominent cheek and eyebrow structures are becoming more attractive to us, as are fuller lips and arched eyebrows in men.
Princeton University might have the answer why: As woman start becoming more empowered globally and are climbing the ladders of success, more and more females are becoming CEOs and respected business leaders.
Princeton has thus proven that many of these attributes above are, sub-consciously, linked to people we believe to be more successful. We have known for decades that we sub-consciously believe that more attractive people have a higher likelihood of being successful, but this has always been gauged mainly in men. But we are now starting to see the perception extend to women, and that some of these features are linked to success and, therefore, beauty. Social media is also massively changing our perception of beauty in this regard, as previously mentioned.
4. Clear skin
This is the one attribute that trumps all. If we could choose one aspect to be perfect, it should be this one. Clear and healthy skin is a sign of beauty everywhere in the world. If I consult on a patient and they request a lip procedure or a frown treatment, yet their skin is blemished and/or she has acne, I will explain to her that the lips might be fine to treat, but the skin health will have a much larger impact on her total beauty. Doctors should treat the aspects that would have the greatest impact on the total appearance of the patient. Not only what is a trend.
So, I suppose we will allow George his seat on top of the throne… for now. After all, we can see that he has most of the attributes mentioned above – science backs his beauty. However, sometimes we just need more of an artistic approach with patients. Aesthetic practitioners can’t rely solely on science, as the X-factor plays a massive role too. We need to be able to determine what treatment will offer the most with regards to total beauty on a given face.
On a personal note, I’m more of a Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis fan.
- Facial averageness and attractiveness in an isolated population of hunter-gatherers. Apicella CL, Little AC, Marlowe FW Perception. 2007; 36(12):1813-20.
Written by Dr Xenephin Ludick MBChB
- General Practitioner with a special interest in aesthetic and anti-ageing medicine
- Co-owner and Director of medical aesthetic affairs at Longevity Centre in Fourways www.longevitycentre.co.za
- Member of the Allergan Medical Institute Faculty
- Adv Dip in Aesthetic medicine (Cum Laude)
A2 Disclaimer: This article is published for information purposes only, nor should it be regarded as a replacement for sound medical advice.
This article was written by Dr Xenephin Ludick and edited by the A2 team EXCLUSIVELY for the A2 Aesthetic & Anti-Ageing Magazine Dec 2019 Edition (Issue 32).
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