Is there a universal ideal of physical human beauty that crosses cultural, moral, aesthetic, religious and ethnic lines all over the world?

I believe there is a “Human Universal Beautiful” that goes beyond mere plastic surgery and into the genetic origins of life and organic myth where physical beauty has the power to create attraction, pull attention and foster desire.

I also believe the rest of us are programmed — on a cellular level — to favorably react to those rare male and female Beauties and then willfully follow them and do their bidding. Here are the seven, non-gender specific, hallmarks of The Human Universal Beautiful:

1. Big eyes.

2. Tall and lean.

3. Symmetrical face and body.

4. Well-defined musculature.

5. Thick, wavy, hair.

6. Large hands.

7. Glowing skin.

Those who are born with all seven of the beautiful, universal, hallmarks are inherently adored and ethereally anointed from the moment of their conception to lead us — but perhaps not righteously — and to have dominion — but perhaps not thoughtful kindness — over the lives of the millions beneath them.

38 Comments

  1. I love your seven hallmarks David! You are right, it is universally true!
    Beauty, as a whole has an eternal attraction regardless of gender. It has a pleasant effect till people get wrapped up in their own good looks.
    There are certain attributes that can be acquired to make a human being ‘beautiful’ – not in the sense of looks but in terms of humanity. Probably ‘modesty’ is one of them.

  2. I remember seeing a program about human beauty that made the point that symmetry is something that we are genetically encoded to observe and adore, even without knowing why we find it to be attractive.
    I found an article that makes the same point:
    Writes Charles Feng:

    The rationale behind symmetry preference in both humans and animals is that symmetric individuals have a higher mate-value; scientists believe that this symmetry is equated with a strong immune system. Thus, beauty is indicative of more robust genes, improving the likelihood that an individual’s offspring will survive. This evolutionary theory is supported by research showing that standards of attractiveness are similar across cultures.
    According to a University of Louisville study, when shown pictures of different individuals, Asians, Latinos, and whites from 13 different countries all had the same general preferences when rating others as attractive — that is those that are the most symmetric.

    I wonder if “lean” as our beauty industry defines it is the same as our innate notions of beauty. The supermodel “lean” standard always strikes me as being unhealthy and unattractive — no matter how much someone tells me it’s beautiful.
    Seeing models and actresses with protruding ribs or shoulder bones has never been attractive to me.
    There is an evolving standard of beauty within some groups in America and world-wide that prefers a curvy “hour-glass” shape featuring wider hips, derrerier and a little body fat.
    Think of Ashanti or J-Lo.
    It seems to harken back to earlier days when women were unashamed to be fuller-figured and we featured in many great painters’ works.

  3. Hi all!
    I have to disagree with the seven hallmarks and the entire notion of “Human Universal Beautiful.”
    Once again this can be identified as a simple human response and desire.
    These are all “personal” likes and/or dislikes that are definately weighted in society, yes. However! Society promotes these in a sexual way, that leads us to the desire portion of my previous paragraph.
    Is “Human Universal Beautiful” an overtone to conceal the fact that we simply desire what we do not or cannot have? As you list yourself David, “attraction, pull attention and foster desire.” All sexually charged.
    I must honestly say, I adore my wife and love her to death. She is smart and beautiful and when peers ask me if I’d sleep with (you pick the female celebrity) I laugh. Then they ask me about some part of the body. Well i’m sure you’ve all heard it before. Yea it’s nice looking, butt!

  4. Chris!
    Thanks for the excellent link! Here’s more from that page:

    Aside from symmetry, males in Western cultures generally prefer females with a small jaw, a small nose, large eyes, and defined cheekbones – features often described as “baby faced”, that resemble an infant’s. Females, however, have a preference for males who look more mature — generally heart-shaped, small-chinned faces with full lips and fair skin. But during menstruation, females prefer a soft-featured male to a masculine one. Indeed, researchers found that female perceptions of beauty actually change throughout the month.

    Then go to the URL provided at the end of that article:
    http://www-psych.nmsu.edu/%7Evic/faceprints/
    Do that test as both “male” and “female” and learn how we perceive each other’s masks!
    A good female friend of mine in college was what we would generally call today “overweight” — but her boyfriend thought of her as “Rubenesque”– and while he found sexual attraction in that painter’s ideal within her not many others shared his view.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Beautiful_Woman

  5. Hi David,
    I found another interesting article, in Gene Expression, that suggests people from various different cultures like the same features:

    People in all five cultures were attracted to similar geometric proportions in the face. They liked female faces with small lower faces (delicate jaws and relatively small chins) and eyes that were large in relation to the length of the face. Jones called these “exaggerated markers of youthfulness”, and they are similar to the features mentioned in other cross-cultural studies of beauty. For example psychologist Michael Cunningham found that beautiful Asian, Hispanic, Afro-Caribbean, and Caucasian women had large, widely spaced eyes, high cheekbones, small chins and full lips.

    I do think that there is a different beauty standard between caucasian women and African-American women. African-American women held up as standards of beauty are often heavier and have wider-hips than many caucasian models. See Buffie Carruth, Melyssa Ford, and Esther Baxter for examples. They aren’t fat, but they are heavier and curvier than many caucasian models and actresses.
    Only 6% of African-American women have plastic surgery. This seems to indicate that there isn’t the same pressure to meet the beauty standard that caucasian women feel.
    See excerpt of “Do Racial Minorities Respond in the Same Way to Mainstream Beauty Standards? Social Comparison Processes in Asian, Black, and White Women?”

    It was hypothesized that although Black women would find these comparisons irrelevant, Asian women would see these targets as relevant for their comparisons, reflecting their striving for mainstream beauty standards. The results indicated that Black women did not find mainstream standards as relevant to themselves, and reported positive self-evaluations generally and about their bodies in particular. Asian women, on the other hand, responded differently than Black women and were more likely to endorse mainstream beauty standards in a similar fashion to White women. As predicted, Asian women also experienced greater dissatisfaction with their bodies than did Black women.

  6. Chris!
    Yay on your Wifi! And Bigger Yay on being in Panera! Yes, your fabulous comment was Akismetted — but we have no reason why! Thanks for alerting me so I could rescue it back out here!
    I think it’s interesting how we universally do seem to wish to find youth in faces we find attractive — almost baby-like features seem to be the most popular — and I guess that’s why so many people go under the knife to look YOUNGER not necessarily better!
    I wonder if the reason more Black women don’t get plastic surgery is because of keloid scarring? Who would want that kind o scarring on their face or nose or chin or brow?
    Black skin is especially susceptible to that kind of nasty healing and that’s why very few Blacks — both men and women — are able to get laser eye surgery. The first question a good eye surgeon will ask you when you want the surgery is to show a healed scar on your body. If you have any sort of keloid scarring or even a slightly raised scar the proper surgeon will deny surgery because there is a risk the eye will heal with the same intemperance and cause blindness.

  7. Really? Large hands? Even for women?
    Curly hair also surprises me. Some groups have very straight hair, and some very tight curly hair. Do they all prefer wavy?
    I would think defined musculature would be dependent in time and culture. When having a “Rubenesque” body was an indicator of wealth, it was fashionable. Having defined muscles could indicate one has to labor manually and would not be as desirable, as opposed to our current culture, which indicates one has the money and leisure time to work out.

  8. Ms. Antoinette —
    Are you a lawyer? You’re are twisting my words and my intent!
    😀
    For women I would say “long fingers” instead of large hands. Women who have long, tendril-like wispy fingers enchant the misbegotten.
    I didn’t say “curly hair” I was very specific in choosing “wavy hair” instead! There is a difference with a distinction… with all due respect.
    :mrgreen:
    If you look at sculpture and painting and other pieces of art celebrating beauty throughout history you won’t see many fat people remembered in marble or pigment.
    The lean and the muscled are chiseled into our consciousness forever for a reason because they remind us of Gods who walk the earth and that is why we follow and admire them.

  9. I think the standard concept of beauty changes with time. In fact it changes with market demand.
    The points of beauty-check in India will be something like this:
    1. Big, expressive eyes.
    2. Tall and well proportionate.
    3. Symmetrical face and body.
    4. Well-defined musculature (not applicable for females).
    5. Thick, wavy, hair.
    6. Large/ tapered hands.
    7. High nose-bridge
    8. Glowing skin.
    9. Lighter skin tone
    I also think we are programmed to like these universal features beyond race and regions.
    Beauty radiates sexual aura – that’s natural and universal but that doesn’t always lead to bed.
    Appreciating something beautiful/ gorgeous/ magnanimous doesn’t mean to be sexual with the object. Some might fantasize about it, but that’s their personal choice.
    When we appreciate the grandeur of Victoria Falls, Niagara, (I find it a bit touristy though…) Grand Canyon or Yosemite National Park or something else we not necessarily plan to put up a tent there to live – we just appreciate it aesthetically.

  10. Thank you for your insightful and wonderful message, Katha!
    I appreciate the time and thought you put into transforming my post today into some original and telling thoughts of your own. Well done!
    Your arguments are tantalizing and right on target.

  11. Just stumbled onto your site, excellent content!
    I once read that people are more attracted to those who most resemble them. So yes, I think there IS a universal standard of beauty, but people gravitate more towards those with similar physical features to themselves.
    Also, have you looked at this site?
    http://goldennumber.net/face.htm
    It only talks about facial beauty, but it’s still a very interesting concept.

  12. Katha –
    I adore big expressive eyes!
    It appears I misunderstood the original intent of this post and I appologize, David. Although my arguments still have merit, I’m going to separate my original comments into 2 sections.
    1. I do agree that there are cross cultural and “Human Universal Beautiful” traits that are formed at the cellular level.
    2. My argument was not necessarily against the listed traits but against the idea that we as a society are programmed to inherently adore and ethereally anointe these individuals from the moment of their conception so they may lead us. I’m having a dificult time recounting such a leader from various points in history. The only such leader whom I would place in this category would be Cleopatra. The Romans were “cheruby,” The Hun’s were hairy and monsterous, and the Kings and Queens of England were all, Err.. well fed.
    Also, your response to Ms. Antoinette somewhat missplaced as society celebrates acheivements as much as beauty. If I’m not mistaken, marble is used to celebrate strength and acheivement as oil paintings celebrate beauty. Julius Caesar was not the most attractive person, yet there are numerous monuments celebrating his reign as Czar.
    Instead I submit to you that it is my belief that certain individuals were/are natural born leaders and it is that which we gravitate to.
    Excellent column and outstanding thoughts on all of this everyone!

  13. I took a look at Yvonne’s link, then when over to Wikipedia to learn more about Phi:

    Shapes proportioned according to the golden ratio have long been considered aesthetically pleasing in Western cultures, and the golden ratio is still used frequently in art and design, suggesting a natural balance between symmetry and asymmetry.
    The ancient Pythagoreans, who defined numbers as expressions of ratios (and not as units as is common today), believed that reality is numerical and that the golden ratio expressed an underlying truth about existence.

    I never realized the the “Golden Ratio” was at play in our notions of beauty, but now that I’ve been made aware, I’m going to keep an eye out for it.

  14. Cryptic, thanks for the explanation!
    Beauty in general (as recognized socially) and leadership are two different concepts altogether.
    I find Audre Hepburn beautiful.
    I find Mother Theresa beautiful too; but probably that’s a completely different topic.

  15. David,
    The sense of morality/right, wrong doesn’t work when you are starving or dying in a footpath.
    Food and shelter are the two basic needs of a living human being which she provided to thousands homeless/orphans/sick…etc; yes – she converted people into Christianity.
    Hunger doesn’t listen to anything or anybody.
    Every leader under the Sun had some kind of agenda in mind throughout the civilization, if nothing – they wanted to come in limelight by leading….
    At least Mother Theresa did something tangible which I witnessed, because I was from the same city and I couldn’t do it.

  16. Initially, after reading your seven indicators of beauty, I generally agreed with them. My only correction would be that clear skin with no acne, scars, etc. is what is most favorable (not really sure what “glowing” skin really is) and hair does not have to be wavy at all, but thick. Long straight thick hair is very attractive in women for most people, as is “big” hair like afros or very curly hair. It’s the thickness of it that is beautiful and appears healthy.
    This leads me to another problem I have with your findings. They excluded many cultures where it is almost impossible to find these traits. There are certain peoples that are generally shorter and will never be but so tall on average. Height would have to be relative, but there is no defination for “tall” really. It is extremely rare for East Asians to have curly or wavy hair at all, and big eyes are a given. Their thin, dark eyes are one type of beauty of many. Also, those of African decent rarely have straight or wavy hair either. Instead, they have tightly curled hair. As with all hair types, the thickness and fullness of any hair type is what makes jaws drop. And of course, their skin will never be but so light.
    “Gene Expression” was also troublesome to me as well as many other articles that focus on Caucasian, Latin, and Asian cultures’ preferences for beauty. Even in this article, African-American faces were seen as the most unnattractive; if this is the case, it disproves the case that beauty is universal. From what I’ve read so far over the years, this is true only for select cultures. Others are totally ignore or even excluded as being a part of recent findings. I am speaking mainly of the exclusion of Africans. Why is it that so many in general do not see them as attractive?
    I agree with the Human Universal Beautiful, but am well aware that this is likely an effect of my Western societal upbringing.