Steven Hoefflin, MD, FACS
For centuries, poets and artists have tried and failed to pinpoint the exact definition of “beauty”. While attempting to capture it, exhaustive attempts have not been successful in creating a uniform definition of beauty. Surely, a definition is justly due. Early attempts at doing so have left behind a montage of words and images for the rest of us to ponder and appreciate. Defining beauty is like defining love—one can bring many descriptive words to mind, yet be left as if one has not quite “explained it all.” It is clear that if something or someone is beautiful, the subject will be admired by the eyes of many. Surely then, there has to be a common denominator. There must be a consistent set of qualities or features that our aesthetic sensitivities automatically perceive as beautiful. Although Hungerford stated, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” a scientific and artistic definition remains a continuing challenge.
A beautiful face combines facial features that are attractive, shapely, balanced, elevated, symmetrical, and in volumetric proportion. These features are further enhanced by impressive, unified, and expressive harmony. These, in turn, are complemented by wonderful hair, teeth, and skin.
In short, I would define beauty as a highlighted and elevated image that catches and holds one’s visual and emotional attention, inspiring prolonged admiration, evaluation, and appreciation.
Exquisite beauty can be a rare but splendid experience. We have all witnessed the attentiveness true beauty commands. After all, wars, fortunes, lives and relationships have been won and lost over a beautiful face. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the qualities of true beauty are actively pursued. It has been the subject of many poems, songs, books, and movies. Obviously, like the poets and artists of the past and present, my own definition lacks a universal mathematical definition and guidance for plastic surgeons when attempting to transform an average face into a beautiful face. As noted, the artistic expression of describing beauty comes somewhat easy. The difficulty lies in being able to give a precise, objective scientific definition that does not leave room for subjective interpretation. Because today’s language of computerized communication is based on mathematical data, it is now possible to develop a mathematical equation that accurately assesses, defines and compares faces.
For over a century, the attractiveness of ones figure (chest, waist, thighs, etc.) has been based, arguably, on numerical measurements. Until now, this numerical classification has not been possible in assessing facial beauty.
The recognition, pursuit, and creation of beauty touches everyone’s life. Waking up to a beautiful sunrise, admiring a beautiful young child’s face, looking at a beautiful painting, flower, or antique, reading a beautiful poem or having a beautiful thought is a common experience we all enjoy. Truly a beautiful face, seen through the eyes of an attentive individual, often invites an enjoyable, yet unexplainable study. We all appreciate true facial beauty, but explaining “why” a face, sunset, or portrait is “beautiful” escapes a uniform definition.