The evolution and science of generational ‘beauty’

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The common phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” continues to be more prominent than ever as fashion, hair, and makeup trends change at a whiplash-inducing rate. What was once considered “beautiful” in the 70s, 80s, or 90s may be a thing of the past, or is it making a comeback?

Data and scientific research have been done to determine general “ideal beauty” standards based on structural findings, however, some argue that the data is opinion-based.

Studies, such as the one conducted by Kendra Schmid at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 2013, used “geometry of the face” in celebrities and “real faces” to figure out the ratio of their beauty. This study is based on appearance along with the aura of celebrity attached to the individual. In most cases, the celebrity received a higher attractive ratio.

Is this enough to decide whether someone envelops beauty, or is adding up attractiveness simply absurd as most of the world cannot claim celebrity status?

Let’s take a look into the world of beauty and the analyzes that have dictated the trends spanning generations.

Generational Pop Icons

What makes an icon? Webster’s dictionary defines an icon as a “person or thing regarded as a representative symbol or as worthy of veneration.” The combination of fashion and overall performance can be seen as a sign of ultimate beauty even if the “conventional idea” does not exist.

Icons like David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Freddie Mercury are just a few names who have received legendary status because they have differed from other artists in their style choices and all-around performative presence. This combination can create a monsoon of stardom and, therefore, some data rResearch correlates beauty with fandom success.

A pop icon in the year 2022 is beyond measure as styles have morphed, makeup has transformed, and the concept of artistic expression has unlimited value; Despite any differences, putting on a rocking show will never lose peak excellence, and beauty becomes more of a varied concept.

The artistry of Lady Gaga, Harry Styles, Lizzo, and The Weeknd, just to name a few, are considered by many to encompass beauty and stardom as they often take beauty influence from predecessor artists.

Scientists at Tsinghua University took more of a conceptual approach to the conversation of beauty as they studied people’s “neural responses to visual art and faces.” The scientists branded an area of ​​the brain as the “capital-B beauty” region and based results on the response to common faces and visual art in the B-beauty region of the brain. According to the scientists, if the region was not found at all, the conclusion was that the faces and visual arts were “each beautiful in its own way.”

The modern view of beauty takes on an abstract link to success, with facial math equations excluded from the conversation and the morphing of the new and old creating a hybrid of beauty that the next generation will grab onto.

The Influence of Makeup

Makeup is a billion-dollar industry with celebrities like Selena Gomez, Rihanna, Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga putting out their own brands. These celebrities and their brands reflect the ever-changing beauty regime as the “go-to” makeup looks changes faster than Nicholas Cage changes his look in any movie he’s ever made.

Rresearch published by the National Library of Medicine proposed that women wear makeup for two reasons:

  • Camouflage to hide their “imperfections”
  • Seduction to appear more attractive and confident

The Association for Psychological Science has detailed that attractive people are treated more favorably in most areas of life, but it should be noted that this conclusion was reached in 2008.

The current view has shifted enormously as diverse individuals are finding their beauty in the artistic feeling of wearing the perfect nude lipstick or the most unicorn-esque shimmer highlighter. Beauty has become more than putting on makeup, but rather creating art. The face emulates a canvas to which abstract and interpretive images can be created. The new standard is often embraced by a constantly moving world full of life and color while social media has provided an immediate tool for discovery.

In 80s movies like “Working Girl,” “Scarface,” and “Labyrinth” modern-day inspiration can be seen and now pieces of vintage style and beauty pass the “cool” factor test.

Although the standard of beauty was in a different realm in the 80s and 90s, the generational gap between trends has become smaller. The bold eyeshadow, the pink perfection blush, and the bright lip are just some of the beauty inspirations that can fit in a modern-day makeup look.

(Photos: Gerard Julien/AFP via Getty Images, Pierre Guillaud/AFP via Getty Images)

So, why are beauty trends in the 80s and 90s returning? Trends were often influenced by the political and social culture that surrounded the times. Inspiration was found in the feathered eyebrows of Brooke Shields and Madonna, the neon eyeshadow of Cyndi Lauper, and the rosy cheeks of Princess Diana.

The internet has created a world in which millennials can see where their favorite stars began and thus discover the iconic 90s looks that Gwen Stefani and Julia Roberts rocked. These inspirations are dragged into the modern world, smashing together generational styles.

The Social Media Effect

Animals’ playful attitudes, teens throwing caution to the wind and jumping off anything, and 15-second jump cuts of funny lines in “that one” 2012 comedy that you can’t remember the name of, make up the juggernaut that is social media . Social media can be seen as one of the biggest influence changes in beauty when compared to vintage times.

Take for instance Instagram and the constant moving system of its discover page with hours of beauty tips and tricks at your index finger. Brands are constantly putting out different products and the old idea of ​​using blush for the lips, cheeks, and eyes is no longer necessary; although this creative concept has seen a comeback recently, this fast-moving landscape has created a limited amount of time.

A digitized world means the social media effect is greater than ever as demonstrated by the book Social Media and Its Effects on Beauty by Martha Peaslee Levine and Júlia Scherer Santos. Levine and Santos detail how social media portrays “ideal beauty” and how it can affect one’s physical and mental health.

The introduction of beauty filters and apps complicates the matter of beauty as it can create unrealistic standards and, according to the book, 72% of millennials “procure beauty products based on Instagram posts and other social networks.”

The altered beauty standards due to social media have been studied and dissected multiple times but it’s clear that beauty changes and grows and has become transformative and diverse. Who knows, maybe the next beauty trend will be adopted from the next James Cameron movie.

There will never be an exact science or math equation that will determine the correct amount of beauty as the concept is based on opinion and forever determined in one’s own eye.