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Beauty Standards Around the World

You might know what is considered to be beautiful where you live, but how does it compare to beauty standards around the world. The definition of “beauty” is a little different in each culture, whether it means wearing makeup, eye color, or the body type that is preferred. Here are ten different beauty standards.

United States


The preferred look in the United States is a Barbie doll and Ken kind of look. Lighter hair is preferred with one study showing men found women with blonde hair to be younger and healthier.[1] In general, Americans prefer lighter blue eyes and arched, groomed eyebrows in women. Women want straight, white teeth, and a makeup look they may incorporate some color.[2] Skin that is either fair skin or tan is more preferred in the United States. Tanning beds and at home tanners as an alternative to sun tanning are popular in the United States.[3]

In the United Stars, a tall and slender body that compares to a model is preferred with an “hourglass” curvy shape. The American woman is supposed to be flawless, skinny but still fit and healthy with a small waist.[4] Men are expected to be more muscular. Fair or tan skin in males is preferred like with a woman. The preferred look is becoming more rough and loose with jeans favored instead of suits and a beard instead of clean-shaven.[5]



French women are fashion-forward, but embrace a natural “girl next door” kind of look. They don’t want to look like they are trying too hard. They may emphasize quirky physical traits to show unconventional beauty and prefer a minimal makeup look.[6] Skincare is vital to French women. French women want their “base” to be focused on and think makeup is second to skincare. When wearing makeup, the look to go for is long lashes and rosy lips.[7] They like their hair to be effortless and have an unwashed bedhead kind of look. They go for haircuts that don’t need much styling, like long lengths and textured fringe.[8][9]

The French ideal body prefers a thin body, but smaller breasts than other countries and a more natural look. Some French women choose not to shave and leave their body hair. They like the approach of getting used to something instead of changing it. Men are expected to be well dressed and classy. For men, someone young with a beard is a standard, similar to the United States. Brown hair and eye are preferred. The body standard is thin and athletic. Men should be not too muscular but not overweight.[10]



Italians want an effortless beauty but may enjoy a bit of color in makeup. Italians, in general, prefer thinner eyebrows and smooth, flawless skin. They may want to look more made up than French girls, but they still want to look natural. Dark hair and brown eyes are preferred. The latest trending haircut is a choppy shag style cut that is razor cut. Even though Italian women are more pear-shaped on average, the smaller bottom half is preferred. Italians prefer busty women like in the United States but think of a heavier bottom as less attractive. They even have butt and thigh slimming lotions to encourage women to slim down in these areas.[11]

Italian men care about fashion and appearance. Men are expected to be muscular and not too thin. Short and thick brown or black hair is preferred. Unlike the undone rough look with a beard for men from the United States, Italian men like neat and shaven facial hair with maybe a little stubble. Italians like to take good care of their appearance and are always stylishly dressed. Men may know about the latest trends and may wear jewelry. They may even steal beauty tricks from women to look more attractive like tweezing eyebrows and getting a manicure.[5]



Minimal makeup is preferred in Vietnam. Like in the United States, lighter blue eyes are preferred. Pale skin is considered beautiful, which symbolizes purity, femininity, and high social class. Women often use umbrellas as an accessory and wear long gloves to protect them from the sun and prevent them from tanning. Skin lightening creams are often popular.[12] Tradition is often preferred. Vietnamese people often wear plain trousers in black, brown or blue. A shirt or blouse covers the neck. Dark-colored skirts are sometimes worn. Younger people might incorporate more color.

Less than 20% of Vietnamese women dye their hair. In 2004, the Vietnamese government banned actors and performers with colored hair, shaven heads, and “all hairdos they inflict horror” to preserve tradition. In Vietnam, cosmetic surgery among both men and women has been gaining popularity, with nose jobs and eye surgery to appear more “Western” among the most popular procedures.[13]



Brazilian women are known to be beautiful. The beauty industry has popularized beauty treatments from Brazil, such as the Brazilian wax, keratin hair treatments, and Brazilian butt lift.[14] The sun-kissed look is preferred. Brazilians have naturally darker skin, but lighter skin is becoming more popular. Less is more for makeup because of the hot weather in Brazil. Like with France, people in Brazil like to focus on the “base” by taking take of their skin and wearing sunscreen. The look is effortless and to be the best version of yourself.[15]

The body standard for women is a curvy body with a small waist like with the United States, but a larger backside is preferred. Plastic surgery is popular in Brazil, with breast implants becoming more popular.[16] For men in Brazil, “Germanic features” are preferred with tanned skin. Lighter eyes are preferred. Women prefer men with a well-built body. Plastic surgery is also becoming popular with men.[17]



Korea beauty standards prefer light skin over tan skin like in Vietnam. In ancient times, light skin signified wealth while tan skin signified a lower status since tan skin showed someone who worked outside. Women in Korea want porcelain-like skin appearance and have developed beauty regimes and skincare products for their complexion.[6] One person describes the ideal skin look as “clear” for any color of skin, which means clean and healthy not necessarily pale.[16] However, in Korea, many products will lighten skin instead of tanning them. At the beach, women will be sent in hats and long sleeve shirts to protect their skin from the sun.[3]

Koreans prefer a sharp and narrow jawline and a babyface or delicate features.[18] They prefer straighter eyebrows over a more arched look. Women in Korea also strive for more rounded eyes and will have surgery to achieve this look. Hair that is smooth and frizz-free and may include not a lot of hair products is preferred.[6] One person said long hair is preferred. In Korea, thin bodies with long legs are what is most preferred, and they will often go to extreme diets to get thinner.[16] Like with Americans describing an “hourglass” shape, Koreans prefer an “S-Line” body. The “s” describes the shape of the woman’s curves.[19] Men are fashionable in Korea, and their beauty standards differ from other cultures. Men want smooth skin and a stylish haircut that may be colored. A thin, fragile body is preferred over a masculine one. Plastic surgery in men is not uncommon, especially for the nose or eyes.[20][5]



Thailand has many spiritual practices with beauty norms that may be different from Western culture.[21] The Karen women in Thailand are known for stretching their neck. They wear heavy brass rings, up to 25 pounds, around their neck to lengthen the neck. Women start wearing rings st the age of around four or five. Elderly Kalyans are seen as more beautiful because their necks have stretched the most.[8] Cheek piercing is another spiritual practice in Thailand, which is a form of self-mutilation to the face. Blades, skewers, and swords are pierced in the cheek.[22] People who practice it considers it devotion to themselves. They may prefer the ritual during a ten-day vegetarian festival in Phuket.

However, in other parts of Thailand, beauty has become more about Western standards, which is different from the natural bodies and older traditions in Thailand.[23] The term “naa taa dii,” meaning ‘good eyes and face’ describes what people in Thailand define as beauty. Beauty is also thought of as good manners as well as physical attractiveness.[24] A woman in Thailand strives for pale skin, a narrow frame and pronounced eyes and nose as well as shiny hair. Dark hair with highlights is preferred.[6]

Double eyelid surgery is popular, like with Korea, to make Thai women’s eyes look larger. Many Thai women have naturally small eyes with “single eyelids.” The surgery gives “double eyelids” for a more Western look. Plus-sized contacts are another way Thai people make their eyes look bigger without surgery. For their bodies, a thin body is ideal like with the United States.[23]



Indian beauty is based on traditional culture but has taken a turn to Bollywood, the Indian movie industry. In traditional Indian culture, colorful adornments like henna, saris and jeweled bindis clothing represent femininity and are used st religious festivals and weddings. Henna is used as decoration as a non-permanent type of tattoo which often involves intricate patterns painted on the skin. Western countries have even begun copying this henna look as a tattoo alternative.[25] The women of the Apatani tribe used to be considered the most beautiful women of India. They are known for their nasal decorations where plugs are inserted into the side of their nose to decorate them. The nasal decorations were originally used so men from other tribes wouldn’t take away their women.[26]

The more modern approach to beauty in Indian is a Bollywood look that focuses on more Western ideals like a thin body and light skin. One study that averaged what different countries preferred by seeing what people searched for as a “beautiful” person on Google found that people in India preferred lighter skin.[27] Indian women are known for their hair with hair products and treatments being popular. They want to maintain beautiful glossy and thick hair.[17] Men are expected to be well built, but thin like with many other countries. Beauty products are often used by men such as styling gel in their hair, skin lightening cream, and being waxed regularly.[5]



African beauty is often tied to tradition and is less about taking on the ideals of Western culture. When getting dressed up, African women may highlight one feature, such as their eyes with intense colors. The skin should be dewey and natural. Hair may vary from showing off their natural texture to using braids or hair accessories like colorful scarves.[7] Fuller figured bodies are preferred in Africa compared to the thinner bodies in Western cultures. A body a little more overweight is considered fertile and represents wealth. In Mauritania, women who didn’t put on weight were sent to “fat farms” to be considered more attractive.[6]

Beauty standards may differ in different tribes since Africa is the most genetically diverse continent. Ear stretching may be used as a ritual. The Masai tribe use heavy jewelry to stretch their earlobes over time, which will increase their status. They decorate their stretched earlobes with jewelry such as beads.[28] In Ethiopia, there is more interracial mixing, so they take on more European beauty standards. Darker skin is less preferred. Women from Ethiopia are considered some of the most beautiful women in the world.[29]



Iran is a conservative culture with strict rules for women to wear hijab that covers most of their head and cover their arms and legs. Even without the same exposure to Western beauty ideals seen in the United States, this does not stop Iran from having beauty image issues and modern standards for women. Plastic surgery signifies higher status in Iran with rhinoplasty being the most popular. Iran has the highest rate of nose jobs in the world. After plastic surgery, people in Iran will leave the bandages on their nose or other areas of their face to show off their plastic surgery. Some will even wear a bandage on their face when they didn’t undergo any procedure to make it look like they had work done.[30] Light to tan skin is preferred for women in Iran with large eyes. Women like wearing makeup to express themselves and might wear bold makeup with eyeliner and mascara in dark colors.

Even though hijabs cover most of the hair, today they are worn pretty far back on the head and the front section of hair shows. Some women style just the front by teasing or curling it. Plastic surgery and heavier makeup may be popular in Iran because women’s bodies and hair are covered by hijab and they don’t spend money on expensive clothes.[31] The body standard in Iran is a slim body with a small backside. In traditional culture, people in Iran though a little bit of body hair was attractive and thought you were supposed to have thick eyebrows until you got married. Nowadays, people remove body hair or shape eyebrows by threading or waxing.

For men, one person described a “cool and chill” look being preferred with a little facial hair.[16] Eating disorders are also becoming more common in Iran. One study showed that Iran had an equal or higher prevalence of eating disorders than Iranian immigrants that lived in Los Angeles who had more exposure to western culture and media. One woman who grew up in Iran thought plastic surgery and eating disorders might be influenced by pressure from other women in Iran instead of the media. Even though what is considered beautiful changes from culture to culture, there is something to learn about beauty in every culture. Look at your own culture and see how your beauty standards compare.

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