An Evidence Based Overview
Having a personable disposition and maintaining good manners are all considered positive and desirable attributes in human beings living in a civilized society. A deviation from these desirable traits may result in a tipping of the balance of social acceptability, even hindering progress and social interaction. Other aspects that help people gain popularity and excel in their chosen life paths are pleasing physical appearances, a positive attitude, and yes, dare I say it, beautiful healthy glowing skin.
A healthy complexion conveys volumes about your personal outlook towards life. You start to exude a supernatural confidence that is electrifying and this positive karma reflects in your everyday life and activities. Studies have demonstrated that people with healthy skin are more likely to be happy and productive individuals. The skin, being one of the largest organs of our body is also involved in complex physiological pathways that maintain our internal health and warns us when something is amiss.
The quest for attaining beauty and perfect skin is not a new one, but one that is rooted in culture and history. Poets, artists, historians, writers and philosophers have been trying to capture that ideal equation of beauty because it represents a summation of the ‘perfect’ creation, which often seems more surreal than reality. Beauty, especially human beauty has captivated great minds since pre-Socratic times whereby scholars unanimously deduced that symmetry, facial harmony, clarity, and other more esoteric factors joined forces to create an ideal beautiful face, academically speaking.1 In fact, the puzzle to unravel the beauty code dates back to almost 40,000 years ago where it was discovered that ‘cosmetic or make-up’ usage existed even then, and people of that time were extremely concerned about their external appearances.1`2 For thousands of years of recorded human history, concepts of beauty have dynamically evolved and progressed but it is only in the past three decades that these concepts have been closely scrutinized by the scientific community and with good reason. Statistical cross- cultural and global analysis indicates that over 45 billion dollars are spent annually on the grooming, personal care and the cosmetic industry alone. The leaders of the pack are North America, Europe and Japan, with other countries forming a smaller yet statistically important component.3
The American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports that in 2001, approximately 8.5 million Americans have gone under the knife to retain youthful looks and maintain the status of beauty. This figure has tripled since then. The International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons reported almost 15 million people globally have resorted to plastic surgery to enhance their looks.
Now whether or not this is healthy practice depends upon where you stand on this much debated issue. Some schools of thought find this trend rather disturbing and unnatural whilst others simply view it as a ways of maintaining their overall looks and are willing do whatever it takes to achieve their goals.
Numerous psychiatric studies indicate that the number of ‘healthy’ individuals undergoing cosmetic plastic surgery or other beautification procedures has steadily increased over the years, indicating that the importance of looking good is very much booming. Psychiatrists propose that visually pleasing appearances enhance self-esteem, makes one more socially confident and increases the chances of job prospects due to the increased levels of self-confidence.
Therefore, as previously thought, trying to attain beauty is not a sign of vanity, because looking good makes you feel good and injects a positive dose of happiness and confidence that in turn leads to a positive outlook towards life. World opinions have drastically changed with regards to physical beauty. Whoever or wherever we are, we all want to look and feel beautiful.
The processes of beautification that were once scorned at by the scientific community are now being examined very closely. In fact, the beauty code is back with a Darwinian bang and as Etcoff suggests in her book ‘Survival of the Prettiest’ that the human response to beauty is automatic even though we are unconscious of it.1`3 The most interesting argument in our discussion is the one proposed through evolutionary psychology that states that the condition of beauty is a biological species-wide adaptation that elicits pleasure, ignites feeling of inner joy and demands attention, hence leading to a continuation of our species. Studies further indicate that the human brain is coded to appreciate smooth skin, thick shiny hair, curved waists and symmetrical bodies.1`3
Unfortunately mainstream media, has greatly exaggerated these physical attributes so that beauty has become more of a ‘plastic’, ‘unreal’ or ‘artificial’ image rather than the real image of beauty, which is a combination of many factors mentioned above. This propaganda and media frenzy has led to abnormal expectations and unreal visions of beauty that are not healthy but destructive. One should not give in to such false ideals and concentrate on both inner and outer beauty on a more holistic level. This is a healthy and more reasonable approach and will not lead to health issues such as Eating Disorders or Body Dysmorphic Disorders.
Balance is key to the harmonious attainment of real beauty. WHO (Word Health Organization) states:
‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’
Although every culture or society might have their own perception of beauty, it has been observed that the quest for it is undoubtedly a universal one and every culture in every part of the world will have their own standards and methodology of maintaining and attaining it.
On a different note, people who suffer from skin ailments such as Acne, Eczema, Hirsutism, Psoriasis, or any other chronic skin condition are more likely to suffer from depression, withdrawal from active social life, missing work hence jeopardizing their job status, and becoming suicidal. These documented facts highlight the direct psychological impact that the condition of skin has on the mind. Quality of Life Indexes suggest that skin conditions have a direct impact on social, personal interactive, academic and/or work life. Unfortunately, until recently, the disability caused by skin conditions was gravely overlooked. But thanks to continued research in this field the importance of skin health and its impact on the quality of life is now being addressed with more fervor by the scientific community.
When one looks good something happens at a deeper level. Let’s examine this look- good, feel-good phenomenon in a simplified manner.
- Noticeable improvement in levels of social activity and enhanced social interaction.
- Dramatic boost in self-confidence and self-esteem.
- Stimulates release of serotonin and dopamine from your brain that will elevate your mood and is the natural way to stay happy. Studies indicate that there is a link between happiness and extended life spans.
- Releases moderate to low levels of brain endorphins that will make your pain go away and relax you.
- Increase job prospects. Numerous surveys and studies indicate that when one looks good, one feels confident and that is definitely a morale booster.
- Increase your chances of positive interaction with the opposite sex.
- You start to exude natural charisma appeal and people are attracted to you, not only because of your personality, but also because of how you maintain yourself physically.
- When you look and feel beautiful inside and out, you will inspire others to do the same because it reflects your positive outlook towards life and it demonstrates self-respect.
Looking good, dressing well, and maintaining a certain level of fashion sense is quite important when it comes to securing a job. Various studies indicate that the first impression of a person occurs automatically, is not easy to overcome and influences the decision-making process. The adage ‘first impressions are the last impressions’ usually holds true. Therefore, your first job interview is one that will either compel attention or repel it. Perceptions of beauty are therefore a sum of genetic impulses coupled with conscious desire.‘|3 Complex studies have tried to analyze this interesting and innate phenomenon. The ‘what is beautiful is good’ effect has been proven statistically to be more relevant in job situations than any other factor.6 We now know why. Beauty ignites innate genetic feelings of joy and pleasure that in turn releases neurotransmitters that activate the pleasure centers of the brain.5’6|7’8|9
It is more than obvious that appearances do matter and they have a direct impact on our everyday life, social life, and productivity.5|2
The facts and findings I’ve presented in this article are derived from scientific studies and analysis, and are aimed to delve into the science of beauty and the condition of skin and its social, economic and psychological impact. However, they do not entirely represent a reflection of my own philosophy.
My personal philosophy is that every human being on this planet is beautiful in their own unique way. Perceptions of beauty vary greatly, and by no means is one human being less beautiful than the other. This is not an exclusive club where only the conditioned image of beauty reigns; rather one where every individual is beautiful as a whole. We might even have to strike a balance between the genetic beauty code and how society or we ourselves perceive it. This might be challenging, and often we give in to the stereotypic image of beauty, whilst neglecting the deeper aspects of it. We must strive to embrace all aspects of beauty holistically and not be tempted by the superficial image of it. All the facets of beauty maintain a delicate yet powerful balance of positivity that will enhance various aspects of your life. This holistic approach is definitively a healthier one.
Aging gracefully opens up a new portal to awareness. As we grow older, our bodies undergo various physiological, biological and physical changes. Often, especially in women, these changes are dramatic and sudden and require special attention. This can be challenging to deal with and more often than not depression ensues. This is a sensitive and critical phase of our lives and therefore, it is all the more essential to stay physically fit, maintain overall looks, and stay positive. This is not a trivial matter, because as we have seen from the evidence above, looking good injects a dose of happiness into your life and as we grow older this aspect becomes even more important.
You should certainly not feel guilty if you have the urge to improve the quality of your skin or your overall physical appearance. It is your birthright, just like freedom. We are coded to appreciate beauty and beautiful things, and it is our right to attain it whichever way we want. One should never be judged just because they want to look good. You are celebrating life and that is a positive thing. Beauty is a complex mix of multiple factors (cultural, religious, racial, societal, genetic, conscious and unconscious elements) as mentioned above. Not everything can be explained by science. There are factors that will always remain an enigma. Your perception of beauty may differ from another entirely, yet, if that standard is what allows you to stay happy and fit, so be it. You can’t ‘turn back time’, but you can certainly tune into it and accept the wisdom that is brings.
A beautiful human being becomes more alluring by balancing all aspects of the enigmatic beauty code and that includes working towards maintaining your overall health and your spiritual health. One cannot isolate one from the other.
Now we are back to the beginning- attaining beauty or wanting to look good is not a sign of vanity, rather a celebration of life.
What do you think?
Peace & Good Health
References & Citations:
- Baumann L: Cosmetic Dermatology: Principals and Practice. McGraw-Hill Companies, 2002, Page 214-220
- American Society of Plastic Surgery website: http//www.plasticsurgery.org
- Etcoff N: Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty. New York, Anchor Books.
- Ibid. Page 24
- Khan, A: Applications of IPL: A Critical Analysis. 2002. Cardiff University Press. Cuticonscious
- NIH website: http//www.nih.gov
- Rook, Wilkinson and Ebling, 6th edition of Textbook of Dermatology, Blackwell Scientific
- John A McCurdy MD, revised edition, The Complete Guide to Facial Surgery, Lifetime Publishing
- Sean W Lanigan, 1st edition, Lasers in Dermatology, Springer
- Web Resource, www.nih.gov
- Web Resource,http://www.ajcsonline.org/ American Journal of Cosmetic Surgery
- Web Resource www.bad.org.uk/, British Association of Dermatology
- World Health Organization. Constitution of the World Health Organization. In: Basic documents, forty-fifth edition, supplement. 2006. Available: www.who.int/governance/eb/who_constitution_en.pdf (accessed 2007 Oct 3).
- Kjaer TW, Bertelsen C, Piccini P, et al. Increased dopamine tone during meditation-induced change of consciousness. Brain Res Cogn Brain Res 2002;13:255-9. [PubMed]
- Web resource,https://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/m—p/melanoma