The World’s Most Beautiful Woman, According to Science, Is Not Who You’d Expect

The saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” has long been accepted as subjective. However, British researchers aimed to quantify beauty scientifically.

In 2012, the U.K. competition “Lorraine: N@ked” invited individuals to submit photos showcasing their natural features, free from plastic surgery and makeup. From 8,000 entrants, 18-year-old Florence Colgate (featured in the video below) emerged as one of the three finalists and ultimately won the competition by popular vote, earning the title of Britain’s “most beautiful” face.

Upon closer examination, experts argue that Colgate’s beauty can be scientifically measured. Despite her victory being based on public perception, her facial features align closely with the optimal proportions of a “perfect face.”

What Defines the Perfect Face?

Defining the perfect face is a subjective endeavor that has intrigued artists, scientists, and philosophers throughout history. While societal standards of beauty vary across cultures and time periods, certain features are often considered universally attractive.

Symmetry is one such characteristic, as it reflects genetic health and developmental stability. Facial proportions, such as the golden ratio, are also associated with attractiveness. Well-defined cheekbones, balanced facial contours, and harmonious ratios between facial elements are highly regarded.

For example, the ideal distance between pupils should be 46% of the total face width. Colgate’s ratio is remarkably close at 44%. The distance from the eyes to the mouth should be one-third of the face length; Colgate’s features measure 32.8% of her total face length. Additionally, Colgate possesses other “classic signs of beauty” as defined by Carmen Lefèvre, PhD, including large eyes, high cheekbones, and supple lips.

The Science of Beauty

On social media, reactions to this scientific evaluation of beauty vary between intrigue and indifference. However, one question persists: what truly defines beauty? Can it be objectively measured?

Merriam-Webster defines beauty as “the qualities in a person or a thing that give pleasure to the senses or the mind.” Nonetheless, studies indicate a remarkable consistency in individual preferences for what is deemed “beautiful.” A 2009 study conducted by the University of Toronto asked participants to identify the more “beautiful” face from a range of photographs, and the results consistently aligned with the optimal proportions mentioned earlier.

 Evolutionary Perspectives

The most compelling explanations for these consistent preferences trace back to evolutionary motivations: we are naturally drawn to individuals whose appearances suggest reproductive success. Evolutionary theorists have identified a strong correlation between our perception of beauty and the genetic qualities that promote better reproductive capabilities. Symmetry in facial features, like what Colgate possesses, is desirable because it indicates strong genes. A study involving the Hadza group of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania revealed that women, particularly during vulnerable periods such as pregnancy or nursing, showed a preference for symmetric features in men.

Colgate’s Perspective

However, when asked about her perspective, Colgate dismisses these scientific theories with a laugh. When she gazes into the mirror, she simply sees herself, unaffected by the scientific evaluations. At the time of the contest, Colgate was a young lady preparing for university exams, with hopes of studying business. She successfully completed her degree at Canterbury Christ Church University in May 2015.

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