Monty's wife, Carlene, sees beauty better than her husband, as seen when she and Kiki discuss the painting of the 'Maitresse Erzulie,' "Black Virgin" (pg 174–175). Carlene does not love the painting because of the price but instead because of what it means to her and what it symbolizes, "She represents love, beauty, purity, the ideal female and the moon.." as well as the contradiction of representing "jealousy, vengeance and discord" (pg 175). Giving insight into what Carlene herself sees as beautiful in what makes the people she loves. The painting later becomes a controversial matter between the families when it is left to Kiki by Carlene while Monty and the Kipps only see the price of the painting for its value and not how much it mattered to their loved one (pg 277–280).
Beauty is a central theme within Zadie Smith's novel. Beauty is expressed both non-physically and physically throughout the main characters and it also holds the most weight for how the characters assess their values. Many women like Kiki, Victoria, and Carlene struggle to understand what beauty is to them due to the perception that other people have on them. This is common seen through black women in society as well. Kiki, for example, was known to be once very physically attractive during her younger days when she is smaller and less aged, but due to her physical maturity, her husband Howard has a continuous affair with another woman. Howard’s infidelity is driven through his perception of beauty, which is only through physical attraction. This forces Kiki to further question her beauty. Eventually, Kiki is able to realize that her definition of beauty comes from an internal sense, and although she may not look the same as she did before, she realizes that she is beautiful and no one can define what that looks like for her. On the contrary, other female characters are seen in different light, such as Victoria who is sexualized due to her physical appearance. She allows herself to only interpret beauty through her sexuality. This is much different than Kiki’s experience. The conflicts between physical and non-physical beauty plays throughout the entire novel, but in the end non-physical beauty is given worth and Furth more, the idea remains that beauty comes in different forms.
A strong indicator of physical beauty is "averageness". When images of human faces are averaged together to form a composite image, they become progressively closer to the "ideal" image and are perceived as more attractive. This was first noticed in 1883, when Francis Galton overlaid photographic composite images of the faces of vegetarians and criminals to see if there was a typical facial appearance for each. When doing this, he noticed that the composite images were more attractive compared to any of the individual images. Researchers have replicated the result under more controlled conditions and found that the computer-generated, mathematical average of a series of faces is rated more favorably than individual faces. It is argued that it is evolutionarily advantageous that sexual creatures are attracted to mates who possess predominantly common or average features, because it suggests the absence of genetic or acquired defects. There is also evidence that a preference for beautiful faces emerges early in infancy, and is probably innate, and that the rules by which attractiveness is established are similar across different genders and cultures.
Not only does Zadie Smith's work focus on physical beauty but it also looks at the concept of beauty itself and its value. Throughout the work many of the characters look at beauty in different ways or some, like Monty and Howard, fail to look at the beauty in anything. Even in the materials that they teach in their art history classes. Instead choosing to focus on politics. One character that only shows up once in the book is Katie Armstrong. It is through her view that the reader can see what Howard is missing in his classes. The material that he presents has such a high impact on her, is so beautiful to her, that she breaks down into tears (pg 250–253).
The concept of beauty in men is known as 'bishōnen' in Japan. Bishōnen refers to males with distinctly feminine features, physical characteristics establishing the standard of beauty in Japan and typically exhibited in their pop culture idols. A multibillion-dollar industry of Japanese Aesthetic Salons exists for this reason. However, different nations have varying male beauty ideals; Eurocentric standards for men include tallness, leanness, and muscularity; thus, these features are idolized through American media, such as in Hollywood films and magazine covers.
Standards of beauty have changed over time, based on changing cultural values. Historically, paintings show a wide range of different standards for beauty. However, humans who are relatively young, with smooth skin, well-proportioned bodies, and regular features, have traditionally been considered the most beautiful throughout history.
Beauty standards are rooted in cultural norms crafted by societies and media over centuries. Globally, it is argued that the predominance of white women featured in movies and advertising leads to a Eurocentric concept of beauty, breeding cultures that assign inferiority to women of color. Thus, societies and cultures across the globe struggle to diminish the longstanding internalized racism. The black is beautiful cultural movement sought to dispel this notion in the 1960s.
The characterization of a person as “beautiful”, whether on an individual basis or by community consensus, is often based on some combination of inner beauty, which includes psychological factors such as personality, intelligence, grace, politeness, charisma, integrity, congruence and elegance, and outer beauty (i.e. physical attractiveness) which includes physical attributes which are valued on an aesthetic basis.
Exposure to the thin ideal in mass media, such as fashion magazines, directly correlates with body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and the development of eating disorders among female viewers. Further, the widening gap between individual body sizes and societal ideals continues to breed anxiety among young girls as they grow, highlighting the dangerous nature of beauty standards in society.
In East Asian cultures, familial pressures and cultural norms shape beauty ideals; professor and scholar Stephanie Wong's experimental study concluded that expecting that men in Asian culture didn't like women who look “fragile” impacted the lifestyle, eating, and appearance choices made by Asian American women. In addition to the male gaze, media portrayals of Asian women as petite and the portrayal of beautiful women in American media as fair complexioned and slim-figured induce anxiety and depressive symptoms among Asian American women who don't fit either of these beauty ideals. Further, the high status associated with fairer skin can be attributed to Asian societal history; upper-class people hired workers to perform outdoor, manual labor, cultivating a visual divide over time between lighter complexioned, wealthier families and sun tanned, darker laborers. This along with the Eurocentric beauty ideals embedded in Asian culture has made skin lightening creams, rhinoplasty, and blepharoplasty (an eyelid surgery meant to give Asians a more European, "double-eyelid" appearance) commonplace among Asian women, illuminating the insecurity that results from cultural beauty standards.
Massage for the body is a popular beauty treatment, with various techniques offering benefits to the skin (including the application of beauty products) and for increasing mental well-being. Hair removal is offered at some beauty salons through treatments such as waxing and threading. Some beauty salons style hair instead of going to a separate hair salon, and some also offer sun tanning. Other treatments of the face are known as facials. Specialized beauty salons known as nail salons offer treatments such as manicures and pedicures for the nails. A manicure is a treatment for the hands, incorporating the fingernails and cuticles and often involving the application of nail polish, while a pedicure involves treatment of the feet, incorporating the toenails and the softening or removal of calluses.
The prevailing eurocentric concept of beauty has varying effects on different cultures. Primarily, adherence to this standard among African American women has bred a lack of positive reification of African beauty, and philosopher Cornel West elaborates that, "much of black self-hatred and self-contempt has to do with the refusal of many black Americans to love their own black bodies-especially their black noses, hips, lips, and hair." These insecurities can be traced back to global idealization of women with light skin, green or blue eyes, and long straight or wavy hair in magazines and media that starkly contrast with the natural features of African women.
In 2015 South Korea exported more than $2.64 billion of cosmetic goods compared to around $1.91 billion in 2014. Some of the most popular products used in Korean beauty are blemish balm (BB) creams, color correction (CC) creams, serums, essences, ampoules, seaweed face masks, and scrubs. Korean beauty products contain ingredients not commonly found in Western products such as snail extract. In 2011, BB cream, which was previously only found in Korea, hit the shelves in America, and by 2014, the US market for BB cream was around $164 million.
These mathematicians believe that the detailed and precise results of mathematics may be reasonably taken to be true without any dependence on the universe in which we live. For example, they would argue that the theory of the natural numbers is fundamentally valid, in a way that does not require any specific context. Some mathematicians have extrapolated this viewpoint that mathematical beauty is truth further, in some cases becoming mysticism.
Some mathematicians see beauty in mathematical results that establish connections between two areas of mathematics that at first sight appear to be unrelated. These results are often described as deep. While it is difficult to find universal agreement on whether a result is deep, some examples are more commonly cited than others. One such example is Euler's identity:
Rota, however, disagrees with unexpectedness as a sufficient condition for beauty and proposes a counterexample: "A great many theorems of mathematics, when first published, appear to be surprising; thus for example some twenty years ago [from 1977] the proof of the existence of non-equivalent differentiable structures on spheres of high dimension was thought to be surprising, but it did not occur to anyone to call such a fact beautiful, then or now."
Interest in pure mathematics that is separate from empirical study has been part of the experience of various civilizations, including that of the ancient Greeks, who "did mathematics for the beauty of it". The aesthetic pleasure that mathematical physicists tend to experience in Einstein's theory of general relativity has been attributed (by Paul Dirac, among others) to its "great mathematical beauty". The beauty of mathematics is experienced when the physical reality of objects are represented by mathematical models. Group theory, developed in the early 1800s for the sole purpose of solving polynomial equations, became a fruitful way of categorizing elementary particles—the building blocks of matter. Similarly, the study of knots provides important insights into string theory and loop quantum gravity.
As of July 2019, the most subscribed beauty YouTuber in the world was Mexico's Mariand Castrejon Castañeda, popularly known as Yuya. The following table lists the 10 most subscribed beauty and style YouTube channels, including country, language, and subscriber count, as of July 2019.
The Monroe piercing has gained popularity in recent years as a flexible way of approximating a beauty mark.
Artificial beauty marks became fashionable in sixteenth-century France, and the fashion persisted into the eighteenth century, applied to the face as a form of make-up. They were often in fanciful shapes such as hearts or stars. Besides their decorative value, they could hide smallpox scars or syphilis sores. They could be purchased as silk or velvet patches known as "mouches" (flies). Alexander Pope's 1712 poem The Rape of the Lock mentions such patches as indicators of "secular love":