Skip to main content

Improving Beauty

Improving Beauty

Improving Beauty

Improving Beauty

Improving Beauty

Is Beauty In The Eye Of The Beholder?


Short answer: Beauty is neither objective nor subjective but both. Some facial features are indicative of better health than others (objective) however our interpretation and appreciation of those features changes with culture (subjective).


Dr Mingma SonyMedical Doctor (MBBS)

What Is Beauty?


Aesthetics is the philosophical study of beauty and taste (Britannica). Philosophy, art, even human faces are all subbranches of aesthetics and so the philosophy of what makes something inherently beautiful, be it a face or a painting is one of immense size and difficulty to answer.


It is commonly, often stubbornly believed that beauty is 100% subjective. In theory this makes sense, as aesthetics is a very large school of philosophy it has been almost impossible to define what makes a good art-work, building, face vs a bad one, and thus it is fair to say that is is ‘subjective,’ being influenced by personal taste.
But in modern times, with more powerful statistical models, research methods and increasing globalization, we find that across the world there IS a trend towards similar taste, preferences and opinions across most humans. Could there be an element of objectivity that we are missing?


Something as ‘subjective’ as art can have objective qualities of beauty¹


In art, there are 3 types of aesthetic qualities. Imitationalism, Formalism and Emotionalism. Some argue that the best works of art are those that capture realism with good technique (Imitationalism). Others view aesthetic beauty as art that evokes an emotional response (Emotionalism), in fact if it cannot evoke emotion, is it even art? Art should be practical and based in design principles (Formalism).
Perhaps with this art example you can appreciate that even something as “subjective” to the lay-man as art has objective measures that only artists are aware of. We argue that the beauty of a human face can be understood in abstract, universal forms in a similar way. Are two noses more attractive than one?
“We asked the DALL-E AI engine to generate 4 images of beautiful women in Claude Monet’s style.”

Subjective, Objective or Both?

Is beauty subjective or objective? The final answer is both. Facial attractiveness is reliably linked to many health and evolutionary markers (objective), but conversely, current beauty trends and attitudes influence our interpretation of these evolutionary standards (subjective).

This means that you can reliably improve your looks upto an extent because there are objective standards, but it also means that reaching your fullest potential is limited by subjective and cultural conditions. You cannot be attractive to everyone, but you can be aesthetically beautiful, and this is where people wrongly mistake attraction as “eye of the beholder.”
Cultural standards build on biological standards.


Members of completely different cultures can agree on beautiful appearances²


Younger faces are viewed as more attractive for both sexes³ ⁴


Social media has shifted cultural beauty standards to more extreme features⁵


Beauty overstimulation has disproportionately skewed cultural beauty standards⁶

Cross-Cultural Beauty


Members of different (naive) cultures can agree on aesthetically pleasing landscapes, paintings and even faces. A naive culture is one that is not aware of the other’s beauty standards.⁸ ⁹ ¹⁰ ¹¹ ¹² ¹³

Biologically influenced factors such as hip-waist ratio for women and shoulder to waist ratio on men are strongly linked to attractiveness across the world. The more difficult a feature is to change (like facial proportion) the more important it is cross-culturally but lucky for us, modern medicine allows everything to be controllable to maximize beauty.
Play Video

Is Beauty Cross Cultural?

Psychological Illusions


Why do you look different in the mirror vs a photo? This is an example of the mere-exposure effect and it is one of many psychological effects that influence perception of beauty.¹⁴

Many cognitive illusions are documented to subjectively influence our perception of beauty. For instance we tend to see our family as more attractive than they really are due to the ‘familiarity effect,’ and on average most people rate themselves as 7/10 due to self-preservation biases.¹⁵ Presented the choice, we’ll  even choose the most attractive morph of ourselves.¹⁸
Play Video

Why You Look Different In The Mirror

Play Video

Everyone Rates Themselves As 7/10

Genetic Health


Most non-human species rely on external cues like feathers, fur and fins to attract mates.¹⁶ Humans do the same (minus the feathers and fins).


There are 4 main tenants of a universally attractive face¹⁷

  • Dimorphism | Masculine and Feminine facial characteristics
  • Symmetry | Equal halves of a face, free of deformity
  • Averageness | Closeness to an idealized face by phenotype
  • Proportion | Facial dimensions found to be desirable
Play Video

What Makes A Masculine Face

Play Video

Facial Neoteny & Baby-faced Features

Social Media


Have you noticed that most Instagram models are starting to look more and more like Kim Kardashian? Or that models in the West have very strong jawlines? Pop-culture representation influences cultural beauty standards.


Perceptions of self are closely tied to social media exposure.¹⁹ ²⁰ ²¹ ²² If social media becomes more and more extreme in its depictions, then our understanding of ‘normal’ too will shift to more strict beauty standards.

This is known as aesthetic labour, the amount of effort needed to adhere to a beauty standard, and this standard is creepily increasing.²³

Play Video

Instagram Vs Reality (Modelling Photoshops)

Play Video

Instagram Vs Reality (The Kardashian Effect)

There are many measurable ways to improve your looks

While beauty standards are influenced by both objective AND subjective standards, this is a controversial opinion to the “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” crowd. There are very real metrics that clinicians use daily to measure beauty that laymen don’t know about from skin porosity to the Sella-Nasion Angle.

1. Aesthetics: Thinking about a Work of Art. Accessed 22/8/22
2.Cunningham, Michael R.; Roberts, Alan R.; Barbee, Anita P.; Druen, Perri B.; et al, (1995). "Their ideas of beauty are, on the whole, the same as ours": Consistency and variability in the cross-cultural perception of female physical attractiveness.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68(2), 261–279. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.68.2.261
3. Ebner N C, 2008 “Age of face matters: Age-group differences in ratings of young and old faces”
Behavior Research Methods 40 130–136
4. Foos P W, Clark M C, 2011 “Adult age and gender differences in perceptions of facial attractiveness: beauty is in the eye of the older beholder” Journal of Genetic Psychology 172 162–175
5. Henriques, M., & Patnaik, D. (2020). Social Media and Its Effects on Beauty. In M. P. Levine, & J. S. Santos (Eds.), Beauty - Cosmetic Science, Cultural Issues and Creative Developments. IntechOpen.
6. Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life by Douglas Kenrick
7. Facial Aesthetics & Clinical Diagnosis by Farhad Naini
8. R. Bruce Hull IV; Grant R.B. Reveli (1989). Cross-cultural comparison of landscape scenic beauty evaluations: A case study in Bali. , 9(3), 177–191. doi:10.1016/s0272-4944(89)80033-7
9. Germano Vera Cruz (2013). Cross-Cultural Study of Facial Beauty University of Toulouse II, France
10. Ip FW, Lewis GJ, Lefevre CE. Carotenoid skin colouration enhances face and body attractiveness: A cross-cultural study. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. 2019;72(11):2565-2573. doi:10.1177/1747021819850970
11. Apicella, Coren L; Barrett, H Clark (2015). Cross-Cultural Evolutionary Psychology. Current Opinion in Psychology, (), S2352250X15002109–. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.08.015
12. Swami V: Cultural influences on body size ideals: Unpacking the impact of
westernization and modernization. Eur. Psycol. 2015 doi: 10.1027/1016-
9040/a000150, 20: 44-51
13. Devendra Singh; B.J. Dixson; T.S. Jessop; B. Morgan; A.F. Dixson (2010). Cross-cultural consensus for waist–hip ratio and women's attractiveness. , 31(3), 176–181. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2009.09.001
14. Zajonc, R. B. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology Monographs, 9(2, Pt. 2), 1-27.
15. Dubois, S (1999). Effect of Familiarity on the Processing of Human Faces. 9(3), 278–289. doi:10.1006/nimg.1998.0409
16. Andersson, M. 1994 Sexual selection. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 4 Møller, A. P. & Thornhill, R. 199
17. Rhodes, G., & Zebrowitz, L. A. (Eds.). (2002). Facial attractiveness: Evolutionary, cognitive, and social perspectives
18. Wen W, Kawabata H. Why am I not photogenic? Differences in face memory for the self and others. Perception. 2014;5:176-187. DOI: 10.1068/i0634
19. Meier EP, Gray J. Facebook photo activity associated with body image disturbance in adolescent girls. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking. 2014;17:199-206. DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2013.0305
20. Boyd D. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press; 2014
21. Mascheroni G, Vincent J, Jimenez E. Girls are addicted to likes so they post semi-naked selfies: Peer mediation, normativity and the construction of identity online. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace. 2015;9(1):5. DOI: 10.5817/CP2015-1-5
22. Engeln-Maddox R. Buying a beauty standard or dreaming of a new life? Expectations associated with media ideals. Psychology of Women Quarterly. 2006;30(3):258-266. DOI: 10.1111%2Fj.1471-6402.2006.00294.x
23. Warhurst C and Nickson D (2009) ‘Who’s got the look?’ Emotional, aesthetic and sexualized labour in interactive services. Gender, Work and Organization 16(3): 385–404