Aesthetic Dermatology Update

A novel method for assessing attractiveness and beauty


While Phi (or the Golden Ratio) and Leonardo da Vinci’s neoclassical canons have been used as traditional mathematical approaches to assess and calculate beauty, there may be more than meets the eye.

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A novel model to describe or measure attractiveness has been described by Chicago plastic surgeon Steven Dayan, MD, whereby attractiveness is defined as a 3-dimensional model defined by beauty, genuineness, and self-esteem.1 This model was created to denote “natural beauty,” both at baseline and after cosmetic procedures, which is what many physicians and patients ideally want to achieve after any aesthetic procedure.

In this model, when all three variables are at a maximum, a desirable attractive appearance is achieved that can be interpreted as “natural.” In his paper introducing this novel model, Dr. Dayan wrote that similar to the time-space dilemma, attractiveness “is relative, dynamic, and highly dependent on the position of the projector and the interpreter.” The 3-D cube of attractiveness “is therefore contained within a fourth dimension that takes into account the perspective of the judger.”

Dr. Naissan O. Wesley, a dermatologist who practices in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Dr. Naissan O. Wesley

Similarly, in a pilot study,2 Dr. Dayan and colleagues also demonstrated that visually blind individuals can detect beauty. “This study further isolates the nature of beauty as a primal form of messaging that is subconsciously appreciated via embodied senses other than vision,” he and his coauthors wrote.

This observational study consisted of 8 blind and 10 nonblind test subjects and 6 models who were categorized into predetermined beauty categories. Test subjects were blindfolded and unblindfolded during their assessments. All groups rated those models, who were preselected as more beautiful, higher, except for the blindfolded, nonblind group – demonstrating a primal or neural pathway ability to perceive attractiveness in blind individuals. The study, “revealed that beauty is not only detected by visual sense but also through embodied senses other than sight,” the authors commented.

Dr. Lily Talakoub, McLean (Va.) Dermatology and Skin Care Center

Dr. Lily Talakoub

It should be noted that sometimes ethnic features and features that are unique outside of the neoclassical canons or golden ratio can also uniquely make people look more attractive. Ethnic variations in beauty standards exist and need to be further studied and celebrated. There is certainly high expertise and an art required to perceiving aesthetics and performing aesthetic procedures, further exemplified by the complex nature of the different models and mathematical approaches of assessing it. These newer models account for attractiveness that may also start on the inside or beyond purely visual perception.

Dr. Wesley and Dr. Talakoub are cocontributors to this column. Dr. Wesley practices dermatology in Beverly Hills, Calif. Dr. Talakoub is in private practice in McLean, Va. This month’s column is by Dr. Wesley. Write to them at [email protected]. They had no relevant disclosures.


1. Dayan S, Romero DH. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2018 Oct;17(5):925-30.

2. Dayan SH et al. Dermatol Surg. 2020 Oct;46(10):1317-22.

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