Conference Coverage

Eurocentric standards of beauty are no longer dominant, experts agree



Addressing current standards of beauty at the Skin of Color Update 2021, dermatologists speaking about attitudes within four ethnic groups recounted a similar story: Eurocentric standards of beauty limited to light skin, straight hair, and White facial features have been replaced by far more inclusive tastes.

This change is relevant to dermatologists consulting with patients for cosmetic procedures. Four dermatologists who recounted the types of procedures their patients are requesting each reported that more patients are seeking cosmetic enhancements that accentuate rather than modify ethnic features.

Lips in Black, Asian, and Arab ethnic groups are just one example.

“Where several years ago, the conversation was really about lip reductions – how we can deemphasize the lip – I am now seeing lots of women of color coming in to ask about lip augmentation, looking to highlight their lips as a point of beauty,” reported Michelle Henry, MD, a dermatologist who practices in New York City.

She is not alone. Others participating on the same panel spoke of a growing interest among their patients to maintain or even emphasize the same ethnic features – including but not limited to lip shape and size that they were once anxious to modify.

In Asian patients, “the goal is not to Westernize,” agreed Annie Chiu, MD, a dermatologist who practices in North Redondo Beach, Calif. For lips, she spoke of the “50-50 ratio” of upper and lower lip symmetry that is consistent with a traditional Asian characteristic.

Like Dr. Henry, Dr. Chiu said that many requests for cosmetic work now involve accentuating Asian features, such as the oval shape of the face, rather than steps to modify this shape. This is a relatively recent change.

“I am finding that more of my patients want to improve the esthetic balance to optimize the appearance within their own ethnicity,” she said.

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Hassan Galadari, MD, an American-trained physician who is assistant professor of dermatology at the UAE University in Dubai, recently conducted a poll of his patients. In order of importance, full lips came after wide eyes, a straight nose, and a sharp jaw line. Full cheeks and a round face completed a list that diverges from the California-blond prototype.

Although Angelina Jolie was selected over several Lebanese actresses as a first choice for an icon of beauty in this same poll, Dr. Galadari pointed out that this actress has many of the features, including wide eyes, a straight nose, and full lips, that are consistent with traditional features of Arab beauty.

Perceptions of beauty are not just changing within ethnic groups but reflected in mass culture. Dr. Henry pointed to a published comparison of the “World’s Most Beautiful” list from People magazine in 2017 relative to 1990. Of the 50 celebrities on the list in 1990, 88% were Fitzpatrick skin types I-III. Only 12% were types IV-VI, which increased to almost 30% of the 135 celebrities on the list in 2017 (P = .01). In 1990, just one celebrity (2%) was of mixed race, which increased to 10.4% in 2017.

Among Hispanic women, the changes in attitude are perhaps best captured among younger relative to older patients requesting cosmetic work, according to Maritza I. Perez, MD, professor of dermatology, University of Connecticut, Farmington. She said that her younger patients are less likely to seek rhinoplasty and blepharoplasty relative to her older patients, a reflection perhaps of comfort with their natural looks.

However, “the celebration of Latinas as beautiful, seductive, and sexual is hardly new,” she said, indicating that younger Hispanic patients are probably not driven to modify their ethnic features because they are already widely admired. “Six of the 10 women crowned Miss Universe in the last decade were from Latin American countries,” she noted.

The general willingness of patients within ethnic groups and society as a whole to see ethnic features as admirable and attractive was generally regarded by all the panelists as a positive development.

Dr. Henry, who said she was “encouraged” by such trends as “the natural hair movement” and diminishing interest among her darker patients in lightening skin pigment, said, “I definitely see a change among my patients in regard to their goals.”

For clinicians offering consults to patients seeking cosmetic work, Dr. Henry recommended being aware and sensitive to this evolution in order to offer appropriate care.

Dr. Chiu, emphasizing the pride that many of her patients take in their Asian features, made the same recommendation. She credited globalization and social media for attitudes that have allowed an embrace of what are now far more inclusive standards of beauty.

Dr. Henry reports financial relationships with Allergan and Merz. Dr. Chiu has financial relationships with AbbVie, Cynosure, Merz, Revance, and Solta. Dr. Galadari reports financial relationships with nine pharmaceutical companies, including Allergan, Merz, Revance, and Fillmed Laboratories. Dr. Perez reports no relevant conflicts of interest.

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