Jul-Week1
Dr Ansul

The Beauty Code and the Psychosocial Impact: An Evidence-Based Overview

“Beauty awakens the soul to act.”
-Dante Alighieri-
(1265-1321)

Having a personable disposition and maintaining a good character are considered positive and desirable attributes of human beings in general.10 A deviation from these desirable traits will result in a tipping of the balance of social acceptability, thus alienating a person from normal society and hindering progress and social interaction. Other aspects that help people gain popularity and excel in their chosen life paths are pleasing appearance, good overall heath, and radiant, happy skin.

Beautiful, healthy, and vibrant skin can speak volumes about your persona. 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 warn 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 ideally beautiful face, academically speaking. In fact, the puzzle to unravel the beauty code dates back almost 40,000 years; it was found that “cosmetic” usage existed then, and people of that time were extremely concerned about their external appearance.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 cosmetic industries alone. The leaders of the pack are North America, Europe, and Japan, with other countries forming a smaller, yet statistically important, component.

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 that 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 way 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. Psychiatric specialists propose that a visually pleasing appearance enhances self-esteem, makes one more socially confident, and increases the chances of job prospects, due to the increased levels of self-confidence.

Therefore, contrary to what was previously thought, trying to attain beauty is not a sign of vanity; 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 opinion has drastically changed regarding the importance of physical appearance.

The processes of beautification that were once scorned 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, 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, which states that the condition of beauty is a biological species-wide adaptation that elicits pleasure, ignites feelings of inner joy, and demands attention, hence leading to the 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, art, literature, and popular media have 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, but rather 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. The World Health Organization (WHO) 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 may have their own perception of beauty and ideal physical features, it has been observed that the quest for them is undoubtedly a universal one, and every culture in every part of the world has its own standards and methodology for 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; absence from work, which may jeopardize their job status; and suicidal tendencies. These documented facts highlight the direct psychological impact that the condition of the skin has on the mind. Quality of life indexes suggest that skin conditions have a direct impact on social, personal, academic, and/or work life. Unfortunately, until recently, disability caused by skin conditions was gravely overlooked. Thanks to continued research in this field, the importance of skin health and its impact on the quality of life are now being addressed with more fervor by the scientific community.

As a scientist, it is these hardcore facts and findings that are of great significance to me. There is a commonly used adage in dermatological practice, which states that “skin disease will not kill you, but maim you.” Of course, this holds true, except for the fact that melanoma (which accounts for 2 percent of skin cancer) has a significant morbidity rate if not detected early; therefore, taking care of your skin, including regular self-checkups and early detection, is pertinent in catching malignant melanoma in the early stages, when cure rates are almost 100 percent.

Now back to our topic.

When one looks good, something happens at a deeper level. Let’s examine this feel-good, look-good phenomenon in a simplified manner:

  • There is noticeable improvement in levels of social activity and enhanced social interaction.
  • There is a dramatic boost in self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • It stimulates release of serotonin and dopamine from your brain that will elevate your mood — the natural way to stay happy. Studies indicate that there is a link between happiness and extended life spans.
  • It releases moderate to low levels of brain endorphins that will make your pain go away and will relax you.
  • It increases job prospects. Numerous surveys and studies indicate that when one looks good, one feels confident, and that is definitely a morale booster.
  • It increases your chances of positive interaction with the opposite sex.
  • You start to exude natural charismatic 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 toward life and 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 a person makes occurs automatically, is not easy to overcome, and influences decision-making. 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.1,3 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 than any other factor in job situations.6 We now know why. Beauty ignites innate genetic feelings of joy and pleasure that release neurotransmitters, which 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 lives, social lives, and productivity.2,5

The facts and findings I’ve presented in this article are derived from scientific studies and analyses; they aim to delve into the science of beauty as well as the condition of the skin, and its social, economic, and psychological impacts. 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 another. This is not an exclusive club, where only the conditioned image of beauty reigns, but rather one where every individual is beautiful as a whole. We might even have to strike a balance between the genetic code of beauty and the way society or we ourselves perceive it. This might be challenging, and often we give in to the stereotypic image of beauty, 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 remain positive. This is not a trivial matter because, as we have seen from the evidence above, looking good injects a dose of happiness into our 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 as freedom is. We are coded to appreciate beauty and beautiful things, and it is our right to attain it in whatever way we want. A person should never be judged simply for wanting 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’s 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 it brings.

A beautiful human being becomes more charming by balancing all aspects of the enigmatic beauty code, and that includes working toward maintaining your overall health and your spiritual health. One cannot isolate one from the other.

Now we are back to the beginning — attaining beauty and wanting to look good are not signs of vanity, but rather a celebration of life.

What do you think?

Peace and good health,
Dr. Ansul

 

References and citations:

  1. American Academy of Dermatology. Melanoma. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/m—p/melanoma
  2. American Journal of Cosmetic Surgery. Retrieved from http://www.ajcsonline.org/.
  3. American Society of Plastic Surgery. Retrieved from http://www.plasticsurgery.org/.
  4. Baumann, L. (2002). Cosmetic dermatology: Principles and practice. New York: McGraw-Hill, Medical Pub.
         Div.
  5. British Association of Dermatology. Retrieved from www.bad.org.uk/.
  6. Champion, R., Rook, A., Wilkinson, D. & Ebling, F. (1998). Rook/Wilkinson/Ebling textbook of dermatology.
         Oxford Malden, MA: Blackwell Science.
  7. Etcoff, N. (1999). Survival of the prettiest: The science of beauty. New York: Anchor Books.
  8. Khan, A. (2002). Applications of IPL: A Critical Analysis. 2002. Cardiff University Press.
  9. Lanigan, S. (2000). Lasers in dermatology. New York: Springer.
  10. McCurdy, J. (1992). The complete guide to cosmetic facial surgery. Hollywood, Fla: Lifetime Books.
  11. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from http//www.nih.gov
  12. Kjaer, T.W., Bertelsen, C., Piccini, P., et al.  (2002). Increased dopamine tone during meditation-induced
         change of consciousness. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11958969
  13. World Health Organization. (2006). Constitution of the World Health Organization. Retrieved from
         www.who.int/governance/eb/who_constitution_en.pdf
About Dr Ansul:
Dr. Ansul is our skin care expert with a passion for holistic methods of achieving and maintaining healthy skin. Her more specific interests include Laser Dermatology, non-invasive IPL systems, and her thesis is applauded for its bold new look at the future of non-invasive light based technology. Dr. Ansul’s expertise has allowed her to help individuals and companies alike, and has also garnered ample amounts of critical acclaim in her field. In her articles for the BoomSpot, the blog of the online store theBoomShop.com, Dr. Ansul offers insight on how to achieve and maintain healthy skin. You can learn more about her work by visiting her company’s website, Cuticonscious.
DISCLAIMER: The content of theBoomShop.com and BoomSpot is offered on an informational basis only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health provider before making any adjustment to a medication or treatment you are currently using, and/or starting any new medication or treatment. All recommendations are "generally informational" and not specifically applicable to any individual's medical problems, concerns and/or needs.