Throughout all of human history, women and men have asked this question of themselves. Your personal, private answer to this question impacts your self-esteem, your confidence and your relationships throughout your life.
We have studied attractiveness and beauty extensively, and now know the answers to some of our questions, but certainly not all. We know that every human being is constantly scanning the faces of those around them, and each time they do so they make a mental image of that person’s looks and store it away. Studies suggest we store as many as 200,000 such images, and from them we create a composite image of all the faces we have seen. This represents our racial, cultural and social environment and it becomes the average, “attractive” face to us. Since we increasingly live in a global village, with travel, immigration and media images, we are seeing a globalization of this composite. In other words, the attractive person increasingly has a blend of Caucasian, African, Asian, Latino features. You can see this in international celebrity icons such as Beyoncé, Lucy Liu and Jennifer Lopez, whose appearances are considered attractive globally.
The term for this is “Koinophilia” – we are attracted to the average. If so, what is the face that takes our breath away? The face that is beautiful? Through Darwinian evolutionary theory we know that the extremes of the human population (for example, the tallest, the shortest, the darkest and lightest, etc.) are bred out over time. However, if a person has a very strong genetic line, they may be able to carry these genes forward and express them. This implies they have a higher fertility potential for a mate, and therefore are sought out as preferred mates. Such characteristics for a female are those expressed by estrogen – these include large eyes, small nose, large lips, narrow chin, high cheekbones, and a short upper lip. And… blondes – only 8% of Caucasian females are naturally blonde. The reason why “men prefer blondes.” For men, these features are those expressed by androgen – a strong brow, smaller eyes, larger nose, square jaw. Facial symmetry is also a sign of enhanced reproductive capacity, and so the 15% of the population that has symmetry has a biological advantage in the reproductive sweepstakes.
But, at the end of the day more of us are “average” than not. The good news is that people tend to see and select mates who have comparative attractiveness to them (there are exceptions!), and studies show that there really is someone for everyone. As in most things in life, we can all do our best each day to make the most of our life, and so positive attitude, good personality, good grooming and sometimes a little makeup can help us create a visage that others are attracted to. Beauty is an important part of our lives, but it’s not everything.