Standards of beauty have evolved considerably between 1990 and 2017, according to analysis of People magazine’s World’s Most Beautiful People issues from those years.
Fifty celebrities were featured in the issue in 1990 and 135 celebrities in 2017. The researchers compared them to determine how beauty standards have evolved in that time. Factors that underwent analysis included age of the celebrity at the time of publication, sex, race, skin type, hair and eye color, along with visible dermatologic conditions, according to the findings.
In 1990, Fitzpatrick skin types I to III comprised 88% of the group, while Fitzpatrick types IV to VI comprised 12%; in 2017, Fitzpatrick types I to III accounted for 70.4% of celebrities in the issue, while types IV to VI accounted for 29.6% (P = .01).
The mean age of the group in 1990 was 33.2 years, compared with 38.9 years in 2017 (P = .003), according to the findings.
Women comprised 52% of the group in 1990 and 88.1% in 2017 (P < .001), while the proportion of people of nonwhite races increased from 24% in 1990 to 40% in 2017 (P = .04).
There was only one person of mixed race in the group in 1990, compared with 14 (10.4%) in 2017 (P = .07).
Of the 185 individuals featured overall, only 2.7% had any kind of visible skin condition or lesion.
“Human beauty is partially determined by a function of physical features, such as facial averageness, symmetry, skin homogeneity and sexual dimorphism,” the researchers wrote. “However, the perception of attractiveness is also influenced by more than these static physical characteristics. Ideals of beauty are often particular to the beholder and determined by the norms of a society, culture, or historical period.”
They concluded that the findings ran contrary to the hypothesis. “At present, a wider variety of skin colors and inclusion of older age groups are represented among those deemed to be the most beautiful,” they added, and suggested that the cosmetic industry has embraced a variety of complexions that may be deemed beautiful. It was also noteworthy that the mean age increased, according to the authors.
“The classic notion of beauty is a matter of mathematical conceptions and instantiating definite proportions,” they wrote. “However, with the advent of the highly-connected world that has exposed individuals to many forms of beauty, we still strive to understand what beauty entails.” – by Rob Volansky
Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.