Asian Beauty vs. the American Standard

eauty matters. Ask any Asian American who has spent hours in front of a mirror tormenting herself with the question “Am I beautiful?”

     Beauty is one of those things that's easy to spot but hard to define. That's why lazy thinkers of the past have gotten themselves off the hook with the breezy "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

     Copout. That old saw begs the question, why does Ms Beholder think I'm a total hottie and my pal has a great personality.

     The whys and wherefores of beauty aren't any more difficult to understand than, say, organic chem or quantum mechanics. It's a matter of applying the same analytical tools with the same rigor.

     What's really going on when we perceive someone to be hot? How does Asian beauty rate against white beauty in American minds? Are our faces beautiful or merely exotic. These are the questions on our minds.

     All meaningful discussions begin with fundamentals. Let's not confuse personal attraction with a society's beauty standard. As an example, most guys at the office may fantasize about that certain marketing assistant but you may avoid her because she reminds you of a teacher who traumatized you in the third grade.

     That brings up a key concept: that beauty comprises both a physical base and a social overlay. For any given individual the social overlay plays a much bigger role than it does for society as a whole. In other words, even though a society's beauty standards do incorporate a large social component, it tends to average out endlessly variable individual biases into a collective social overlay.


     So how do Asian beauties like Vivian Lai, Song Hye-kyo or Sonohara Yukino compare on the beauty scale against the likes of Kate Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Reese Witherspoon? (We're saving Asian male beauty for a later article.)

A Universal Beauty Standard

Evolutionary psychologists have concluded that humans have an innate attraction to beautiful people. Various studies have produced some obvious conclusions: that lateral symmetry and a healthy appearance rate high on universal concepts of beauty. Another universal seems to be the waist-to-hip ratio in women which converges around .7 (e.g. 36-25-36).

     One of the most important, however, is a study conducted by Judith Langlois of the University of Texas. It suggests that even 3- to 6-month old babies who haven't been media-conditioned show a distinct preference for faces that conform to a narrow range of facial proportions. Interestingly, these proportions vary little across racial lines. They are uniform enough to have allowed a company called MBA to derive blueprints showing the proportions and angles that make up ideal beauty.

     To help ensure that our species survives and continues up the evolutionary ladder, we are genetically coded to be drawn to people who possess traits suggesting health and strong survival and reproductive abilities. These include wideset eyes, high cheekbones, large eyes, full lips, clear light skin, a short nose and a relatively small lower face. The majority happen to be traits that Asian women are more likely to possess than women of other races. Below is a chart showing each feature as embodied in an attractive Asian and caucasian face and a score reflecting how the typical features of that race would rate. Asian women can rest assured that their faces aren't at a disadvantage when judged against deeply held notions of feminine beauty. PAGE 2

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MBA has distilled blueprints for faces of ideal beauty in both straight and smiling configurations. The blueprints are good fits when superimposed over beautiful faces of every race.

“Where Asian beauty encounters resistance is more often on the level of the associations that their features evoke in American minds.”

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Features Asian Discussion White
Proportions A key feature of beautiful female faces is the quality known as neoteny, or youthfulness. The eyes of adolescent women appear wider set relative to the distance from the brow to the tip of the nose. High cheekbones are also an important factor, as cheeks and eyes tend to droop with age. Asian women are favored with rounder faces that are more likely to possess these features, though a significant minority have faces that would be deemed overly broad. On the other hand many white women possess neotenous features, especially those of nordic, slavic or germanic ancestry.
Skin Asian women are generally blessed with fine skin with small pores. Many also have light skin when not tanned. While the majority of white women have light skin with the pinkish hue considered universally appealing in females, many are freckly, and hairier.
Nose On average Asian women have shorter noses but some are broad and fleshy. White women generally have longer noses though a significant minority have the small delicate noses universally admired in women.
Lips Asian women tend to have full lips while white women tend to have thin lips. On the extremes, some Asian women can have lips that are too thick and coarse while many white women have lips that are too thin, creating a prissy look.
Eyes Asian women tend to have smallish eyes that are generally upslanted. White women have larger eyes that are often downslanted. White women are more likely to have the larger eyes considered generally desirable in women. Also, the broader color palette of caucasian eyes allow for attractive hues not found in Asian eyes.