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June 2001

On Beauty: Evolution, Psychosocial Considerations, and Surgical Enhancement

Author Affiliations

From Skin Care Physicians of Chestnut Hill, Mass (Drs Alam and Dover); Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY (Dr Alam); and Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH.

Arch Dermatol. 2001;137(6):795-807. doi:10-1001/pubs.Arch Dermatol.-ISSN-0003-987x-137-6-dre10010

Beauty, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is "a combination of qualities, including grace of form and charm of coloring that delights the sight or other senses."1(p8) In practice, beauty may be easier to recognize than to define. We may each know it when we see it, hear it, or smell it, but to accurately describe beauty or the features that impart it to a face, song, or scent can be daunting. Aaron Spelling, the Hollywood producer, explains that he "can't define it, but [he] know[s] it when it walks into the room."2(p8) Physiological reactions may be triggered by the sudden apprehension of the beautiful object, as one modeling agent has noted: "It's when someone opens the door and you almost can't breathe."2(p8) In narrow usage, as applied to persons, beauty may be characterized as an individual or societal assessment of attractiveness influenced by cultural standards (Figure 1).

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