The perception of beauty varies from person to person, nation to nation

View With Charts And Images

“The perception of beauty varies from person to person, nation to nation-Illustrate & explain.


Beauty (also called prettiness, loveliness or comeliness) is a characteristic of a person, animal, place, object, or idea that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure or satisfaction. Beauty is studied as part of aesthetics, sociology, social psyc[1]hology, and culture. An “ideal beauty” is an entity which is admired, or possesses features widely attributed to beauty in a particular culture, for perfection. [1]

Beauty is a subjective issue. The perception of beauty varies from person to person, nation to nation, land to land and time to time. But the standard of beauty has always been set by the nation in power. The Romans had their definition of beauty, the Persians then the Muslims and now the westerns are defining beauty in their own way. One thing can be said without much doubt that the discussion of beauty is always centered on women.

In today’s reality, the dominant international view that is propagated of what constitutes ‘The Beautiful Woman’ is that which was initially defined by the Western Capitalist nations. A woman that is tall, slim, and fair. [2] In this age of globalization where spread of products, lifestyles and ideas are taking place, with the help of global media and communication system like internet and cable network all the nations have got the western view of beauty. As a result of that beauty product manufacturers have got a wide market to promote their product. Because women from all over the world want to become fair and glamorous like the western women. Here the question of morality and business ethics comes. Is beauty really skin deep?

Now what should be the ethical practice for the businesses which are based on human beauty products and services? There are moral and ethical questions rose all around the world whether the companies through media should set the standard of beauty to deceive people to sell their products and services or it should be stopped by bringing the promotion of products under legal obligations.

1. Definition of Beauty; available at

2. Introduction, page 1, Western beauty myth; available at!/WesternBeautyMyth.pdf

The Media’s Perception of Beauty

Beauty is what every girl strives for. Is it putting on make-up in the morning? Maybe wearing a popular name brand or being that ‘perfect’ size zero. All these things fall under what the media teaches you about being beautiful. It has a certain perception of what beauty is and how to get it. What’s the first thing you see on the cover of a magazine? It’s usually a girl, with a killer body, clear skin and straight teeth. This is what the media portrays as ‘beautiful’ [3]

We are getting this idea of a certain way of looking beautiful from the media every day. This message by the media is occupying the mind of young and middle age women. They are concerned about their weight in fact most of the women are not happy with their body weight. They are striving to become the models shown on TVCs or posed on magazines. Media is fantasizing the concept of beauty among the women.

Local perspective and few examples

Our market can be considered as an international market because few cosmetic producing MNC’s have operations in Bangladesh and the consumers are well connected with the global change. They are coping up with the global trend and changes. New generation is busy picking up new fashions. The affect of Indian media has reached to every social class of the country. School, college and university students have access to internet and cable network. They are very much updated with the newest trends and styles. In terms of fashion and style we are thinking more and more global day by day. All of these factors have made Bangladesh a potential market for the beauty products manufacturers to exploit.

Fair and lovely, Ponds and Lux are few beauty products manufactured by Unilever.

Now the question of ethics come front when products are offered which nearly have any ability to do what the ads actually say. All the beauty products can be questioned regarding their ability to do what their commercials actually portray.

When the total concept of beauty is made up and the products available in the market

3. The Media’s Perception of Beauty; Available at

are giving false statement regarding turning a ordinary woman into a super model like kate Moss or heroine like Katrina Kaif or Karina Kapoor, it is really difficult to find out what kind of ethical practices are done by the companies and what ethical theory they are following while promoting their product.

The Concept of Beauty

The Western capitalist society in which she lives has set the standard of what constitutes ‘The beautiful woman’ as being tall, slim, fair, blonde and voluptuous. It is the image that confronts the woman every day of her life. This is the view of beauty that is glamorized in the thousands of beauty, fashion and lifestyle magazines sold daily on the streets of London, Paris, Rome, New York and Los Angeles such as Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Marie Clare. It is the look encouraged by the multibillion dollar beauty and cosmetic industry. This is the expectation of beauty that is presented to society by the various models used in the advertising industry and the personalities that are glamorized in the entertainment industry. The perfect figure and look bombards the homes of millions daily in the form of models such as Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell or personalities such as Britney Spears, Jennifer Aniston, Holly Valance or Victoria Beckham. They have become the standards for women to aspire towards. The exposure to this particular image of beauty begins at a young age from the ‘Teen’ magazines such as ‘Just 17’, ‘Cosmo Girl’ or ‘Sugar’ which discuss everything from beauty tips, to the lifestyles of the ‘rich and famous’. Everyone from ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ to ‘Miss Dynamite’ are pushed as role models. [4]

In order to get our perception about beauty two very general questions were put in the questionnaire. Specifically question 1 and 2 were asked to both male and female. Ironically the results showing how successfully beauty product manufacturers have been able to shape up people’s perception through their promotion in different medias. The question was “to men/women beauty means fair and spotless skin, nice face cut with beautiful lips, eyes and nose of women”. In response only 10% didn’t agree with the question, rest agreed on it. It shows that people’s perception regarding beauty goes with the statement “Beauty is skin deep”.

4. The Concept of Beauty, page 7, Western beauty myth;!/WesternBeautyMyth.pdf

Ethical questions in defining beauty

(What are the ethical concerns when it comes to the business of beauty?)

There are two ethical aspects come front when we are discussing beauty and the business of beauty. First is it ethically right to say “Beauty is skin deep” then based on that is it ethically right to ask people to become fair using beauty products as fairness is everything for a woman.

When we are saying beauty is skin deep we are keeping all other human characteristics far away from discussion. A big religious question also raises, that “is God discriminating while creating black and white people?”

And when businesses are promoting beauty products and using fair skin models and setting up a benchmark of beauty for the consumers are the saying the only value of a woman is her beauty? Is it how we should perceive women?


In our subconscious mind we believe beauty is skin deep but in our conscious mind we think it is unethical to perceive beauty just as skin deep.

Research Findings

General Perception of Beauty – beauty is skin deep

The first two questions were asked to get the general perception of both men and women. The percentage of agreeing with the question is 90%. The response is very much with the

Beauty means fair and spotless skin, nice face cut with beautiful lips, eyes and nose of women-

Agree 90% Disagree 10%

assumption. Because generally people perceive beauty as fair skin, nice face cut with beautiful lips, eyes and nose of women. This understanding of beauty is deeply rooted in our subconscious mind. But when they were asked specifically this question that- Beauty is skin deep it woke them up. Because people do not tend to believe in their conscious mind

Beauty is Skin deep- (Good looking, Skin color, Appearance are the scale to measure beauty)

Strongly Disagree 24% (7) Disagree 54% (16) Uc 3% (1) Agree16% ( 5) S A 3% (1)

that beauty should be regarded as outer appearance of a man or woman.

Compromise with beauty

Following two questions were asked to know the importance of beauty to both men and women. Here again the response is nothing unexpected. Women do not look for beauty in men but money and power of men does matter to them. 77% strongly agreed with the question “Men’s are not judge by skin color but through power and money”. All of them were women.

Men’s are not judges by skin color but through power and money-

Strongly Agree

77% (23)

Uncertain 3% (1) Disagree 20% (6)

Can intelligent of a woman be compromised by her beauty-

Strongly Disagree 50% (15) Strongly Agree 27% (8) Uncertain 23%

On the other hand when this question were asked that “can intelligent of a woman be compromised by her beauty?” All the male responded with strongly agree option.

This shows two things. One beauty is a concern of women and second thing beauty is perceived as skin deep.

Beauty Dilemma

The survey findings turns little interesting here. Most of the people are not certain about the effectiveness of fairness creams. A good percentage disagrees with the fact that fairness cream can help to become fair. But the dilemma is most of them are either using any kind of beauty product or taking some kind of beauty care.

Do you use any beauty product concerning your skin type? (Soap, face wash, cream etc)

Yes 84% (25) No 16% (5)

Fairness creams are helping us to become fair-

Uncertain 54% (16) Uncertain 6% Disagree 40% (12)

Are taking ‘any’ kind of care to make you look beautiful? (I.e. diet, exercise, leaser treatment, skipping meals etc)

Yes 90% (27) No 10% (3)

It is ethical to do product promotion undermining the God gifted skin color

Strongly Disagree 30% (9) Disagree 64% (19) Uncertain 6% (2)

These responses are supporting the hypothesis. Because when we are thinking about the reality of the beauty cream and beauty products promotion it is giving us a clear ethical and real picture. Neither beauty products can help one to become fair and beautiful nor it is ethical to promote the products undermining the God gifted or natural skin type. But again a lot of us are somehow provoked by the promotion through media and using or taking beauty care in order to look beautiful.

From my survey I found majority of the respondent perceives beauty as a matter of outer appearance of a woman i.e. skin color, body shape. This means generally people have no problem considering beauty as the outer appearance. But when the question is asked is it ethical to promote products undermining the natural skin color which someone have by birth- the response was as expected cause most went with disagreeing with the fact. But deep down inside everyone want to see a fair skin woman which they consider beautiful. And most of the respondents are not satisfied with their skin complexion and using beauty products to improve their skin condition.

Ethical Justification

In capitalistic system a person is free to exercise anything he wants as long as it doesn’t harm others. Now the way an issue become ethically right when mass people start to believe something is right.

Ethical relativism

Ethical relativism is the position that there are no moral absolutes, no moral right and wrongs. Instead, right and wrong are based on social norms. Such could be the case with “situational ethics,” which is a category of ethical relativism. At any rate, ethical relativism would mean that our morals have evolved, that they have changed over time, and that they are not absolute. [5]

In ethics, the belief that nothing is objectively right or wrong and that the definition of right or wrong depends on the prevailing view of a particular individual, culture, or historical period. [6]

According the ethical relativism theory states our moral changes over time and ethics is not objective rather subjective. So when we believe beauty is skin deep, it is deep rooted in our thoughts, it is ethically justified to say beauty is skin deep.


Following the theory of egoism an action is morally right if the decision-maker freely decides in order to pursue either their (short-term) desires to their (long-term) interests. [7]

Egoism theory is giving us the ethical right to say beauty is skin deep. As long as we are satisfied to judge beauty by skin color without harming others, there is no problem.

5. Ethical Relativism by S. Matt; available at

6. Ethical Relativism definition; available at

7. Slide5, Chapter 3

Cognitive moral development (CMD) refers to the different levels of reasoning that an individual can apply to ethical issues and problems. The important thing about CMD theory is that it is not so much what is decided that is at issue, but how the decision is reached in terms of the individual’s reasoning Process. [8]

Pre-conventional: individuals define right and wrong according to self interest and expected rewards and punishment from authority. [9]

People are willing to accept the fact that beauty means to be fair skinned. Through CMD process individuals reach in this conclusion.

Business organizations can use either of these theories to justify the promotion of beauty products where it is shown beauty is everything to a woman. When a large number of people have adopted the perception of beauty given by the media or west then why should not the business organizations capitalize this opportunity!


Beauty business is a multi billion dollars industry worldwide. The beauty industry in the UK secures revenue of £8.9 billion every year. The fashion industry has global revenue totaling $1.5 thousand billion every year, whilst diet items are a $74 billion a year industry in the US (Time Magazine 1988). Beauty industry is a money making opportunity for lot of business organizations. How much ethically sound these business is behaving? This will always remain a question till the day this industry survives.

8. Slide4, Chapter 4

9. Slide4, Chapter 4


1. Definition of Beauty; available at

2. Introduction, page 1, Western beauty myth; available at!/WesternBeautyMyth.pdf

3. The Media’s Perception of Beauty; Available at

4. The Concept of Beauty, page 7, Western beauty myth;!/WesternBeautyMyth.pdf

5. Ethical Relativism by S. Matt; available at

6. Ethical Relativism definition; available at

7. Slide5, Chapter 3

8. Slide4, Chapter 4

9. Slide4, Chapter 4

<href=”#_ftnref1″ name=”_ftn1″ title=””>