Even though beauty is supposed to be subjective, there are many standards in our society that want to define exactly how it should be perceived. Among these standards, there is the golden ratio, a geometric criterion of universal beauty. But how reliable is this criterion?
The golden ratio: what is it?
The way we perceive beauty is very variable from one person to another. Indeed, everyone has their own beauty credentials based on their culture, tastes and preferences. But in the era of globalization, we want to impose more and more standards in society, and this is also valid with regard to the beauty of the face. While some rely on trends set by celebrities and the media, others refer to what is called the golden ratio of beauty.
Also known as the golden ratio, golden proportion, Fibonacci number or divine proportion, the golden ratio is primarily defined in geometry as two quantities whose ratio is the same as the ratio of their sum to the greater large of both quantities. Expressed algebraically, for quantities a > b > 0, we have: (a + b) / a = a / b = φ; φ (phi) designating the famous golden ratio. Solving this equation algebraically gives the irrational number φ = (1 + √5)/2; i.e. φ = 1.62.
It is this same number that is used to define the golden ratio of beauty, because this mathematical symmetry algorithm would be what fundamentally underlies our perception of attractiveness. Surprisingly, this famous golden ratio is widespread in natural geometry, in the spiral of flowers, pine cones and the spiral arms of certain galaxies. It is also said to be present on some human faces. This would be particularly the case for the face of Mona Lisa on the famous painting Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.
No number can universally define beauty
Thus, some people claim that the golden ratio is the supreme standard of beauty and provides an essential criterion for the attractiveness of a face. Among these people, there is the plastic surgeon Stephen Marquardt. Based on the golden ratio, Marquardt in 2002 created a geometric face mask that was supposed to represent ideal facial proportions. Marquardt claimed that this mask could be used to objectively assess the beauty of a person’s face.
This famous mask is very popular with lovers of cosmetic surgery and orthodontics in order to obtain a perfect aesthetic result. But despite the strong influence that Marquardt was able to impose with his golden ratio and his geometric mask, these tools are unreliable because they omit many parameters, including ethnicity, biology and culture. Indeed, studies have shown that the mask in fact only represents the proportions of the faces of women originating from North-Western Europe.
A study of contestants and winners of the Miss Universe pageant between 2001 and 2015 notably demystified the golden ratio of beauty in a striking way. The results of the study showed that there was no significant correlation between the proportions of the faces of these women and the proportions of the golden ratio of the mask. In other words, this famous mask is ultimately just a myth, at least as far as the perception of the beauty and attractiveness of a person’s face is concerned.
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