One of the most beautiful things about beauty is it isn’t one static concept or thing. Beauty is something that is ever shifting, always altering and is found in many different forms and in every corner of the world. Not only do perceptions of beauty in different cultures vary, but it also differs between individuals. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.
Perceptions of Beauty in Different Cultures
Whilst true beauty comes from within, external cultural beauty has different standards. What one culture finds most aesthetically pleasing, another culture will prefer the opposite…
In many western cultures it is seen as a sign of great beauty to have tanned skin and a ‘sun kissed’ glow. To achieve this, both women and men will use tanning beds, tanning enhancers, fake tan, bronzer and even use makeup technique to emulate freckles. However, this is a perception of beauty that is different in different cultures. Many Asian countries abhor the sun as lighter skin is more desirable and seen as a sign of beauty, youth and wealth. To achieve these beauty standards, many apply sunscreen religiously, use skin lightening creams, wear large sun hats, covering clothing and sport “ajumma visors” to prevent the sun from darkening their skin. Makeup is also used to further lighten their complexion to achieve the pale and youthful look.
For many it is common practice to cover up scars, encourage fast healing and use makeup to disguise their presence. Scars can often be associated with traumatic events and seen as an imperfection in the skin’s surface that needs to be covered. However, in many cultures such as Africa, South America and Wetern Pacific, body scarification is a long-standing tradition. They are not only proud of their scars, but actively create them on the skin. Scars on the body can tell a story about the individual's religious role, genealogy, social or political status. Women also scar their chest and torso as this is considered intriguing and sensual.
Makeup vs ‘Au Naturel’
Makeup is a fun and creative way to express yourself and your personality, as well as being a cultural beauty standard. Some cultures find the presence of makeup as a sign of being ‘well put together’, ‘professional’ and as a way of enhancing one's beauty. However the use of makeup is not a beauty standard that is shared across all cultures. In France it is seen as a sign of beauty to opt for a more natural and makeup free look. Instead of heavy coverage, French women sway towards using light coverage and warm tones to enhance their natural beauty. This results in French men and women putting a heavier focus on effective skincare and haircare to give them an ‘effortless’ natural look.
If you look back to as recently as the 90’s in the United States, the cultural beauty standards were to be fair skinned, tall and thin. Whilst this is still the beauty standard in cultures and countries such as China and Japan, the United States’s perception of beauty has shifted. Similar to the cultural beauty standards of places such as Brazil, the more fuller, curvy and hourglass figure is now seen as the ideal body shape. Accepting your more natural shape is seen as a sign of beauty, replacing crash dieting with self acceptance.
Regardless of where you are from or the culture you identify with, it is important to remember that no matter the beauty standards, there is nothing more beautiful than being yourself. With so many different perceptions of beauty, cultural beauty standards and ever shifting preferences, it is more important to be true to yourself. Being comfortable in your own skin, and confident in who you are will make you truly beautiful. Always embrace who you are, inside and out.