What is beauty?

What is beautyA friend recently asked me if some of my clients features were more difficult to beautify than others.  When I responded “No.  Why do you ask?” she said, because she felt that some people “have more to work with” than others.  That statement really got me to thinking.

 How do we define beauty?

As a make-up artist I have trained my eye to make sense of the structure of the face relating the singular features through the use of color, emphasis and de-emphasis to reflect harmony resulting in personal beauty.  A stroke of the brush here or a stroke of the brush there…it is the same number of strokes on each person…but all are aimed at “balancing the face” to a proportion that we perceive to be beautiful.  But why do we consider this proportion beauty?

We recognize beauty in the familiar.

This mathematical proportion that we recognize occurs throughout our universe.  We see this Golden Ratio in the way leaves of a plant relate to their stem or the gradation of color in the rainbow and also in the construction of the healthy human body.  Because it is who we are and what we subconsciously recognize as familiar, we see those proportions as perfection and therefore beautiful.  Ask someone to walk into a room organized in a way that does not bear these proportions and they will immediately feel uncomfortable.  Look at a face that does not bear these proportions and we think it is unusual.

Dr. Stephen R. Marquardt of the Marquardt Beauty Analysis Foundation has been able to demonstrate this by creating a “beauty masque” using the Golden Ratio proportions that can be laid over a face as a measurement.  Faces that fall within the confines of this mathematical proportions we tend to see as classically beautiful.

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However, we also recognize subconsciously that there are imperfections in nature including the human face.  In a recent On Being NPR broadcast, the astrophysicist Marcelo Gleiser    stated that the more we study physics the more we realize that “imbalance is life and that symmetry is stale”.  Artists know this; the painting that is slightly off-balance is more appealing that the one that is perfectly aligned.  An asymmetrical furniture arrangement is more inviting than those lined up symmetrically.

A natural, healthy face is not even side to side.  Even in a classically beautiful face that “fits” the Golden Ratio proportions, comparing side to side, one brow is lower than the other, one jaw is more protruding then the other and smiles are crooked.  Which of course is the problem with most plastic surgery or filler injections; they create symmetry where asymmetry is more natural.

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It seems then that we recognize true beauty as some slight variation of the norm and that, as seen in nature, imperfection is the acknowledgment of life.

So this make-up artist cautions us all against the relentless striving to “correct” our features through injections, surgery or the over-use of cosmetics and instead learn to embrace that…

…IMPERFECTION IS BEAUTY.

This interesting video demonstrates the Golden Ratio principle applied to a woman’s face.  Note that while the proportions fall exact in her face, there are still symmetrical imperfections.

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