Is Beauty More Than Skin Deep?

Beautifull is a common misspelling of beautiful. Both words have the same meaning: a pleasing quality that delights the senses or the intellect. A field of wildflowers, a sunset, or an abstract sculpture can all be described as beautiful. People can also be beautiful, which means they are very pretty or good-looking. Other similar words include gorgeous (feminine), stunning, marvelous, dazzling, and spectacular.

But what about the idea that beauty is more than skin deep? Is it true that attractive faces really reflect underlying qualities indicative of our fitness as mates and friends? And if so, what are those qualities? A study of facial characteristics suggests that attractiveness is largely determined by genes, rather than by external features. Faces that are closer to the average tend to be perceived as more attractive than faces that are more distinctive.

Those who are more genetically beautiful tend to be more empathetic and less judgmental. They also have better memories. In contrast, those who are less genetically beautiful have difficulty empathizing with others and have poorer memories. This is especially true for women, who can spend their lives in a never-ending competition to outdo one another. They diet together, dye their hair light then dark again, and dress for each other’s bodies. They race to become girlbosses, then ditch their old girls in droves. They find taken men more appealing than free ones, and spend their lives in a fog of comparisons, accusations, and expectations.

Beauty can be seductive, but it’s also dangerous. In the Neapolitan quartet, Elena Ferrante reveals that beauty’s higher highs are matched by lower lows. Lila’s virtuosity, for example, leads her to get special treatment from men, but it also sets her up for catastrophe. And plain Lenu, who studies and applies herself to an uphill climb, ends up being subdued, but she does end up, on the whole, better off.

When it comes to describing people, beautiful often carries the connotation of “delicate, graceful, or exquisite.” It is more likely to stir emotional response than the word pretty, which can be seen as more superficial or insubstantial. The word handsome has a similar effect, although it is more masculine in tone.

Using beautiful in this way is an attempt to evoke a deeper sense of wonder and gratitude for life, much like the feeling you get when you wake up just before dawn to walk through wet grass covered in early spiderwebs while half the world falls back into sleep. If we can learn to appreciate the small things in life, maybe we can see a little more beauty in our daily existence. This is not to say that we should ignore the ugliness of our times, but that we should look for beauty in it, too. And perhaps, if we’re lucky, we will be able to find it even in the most unexpected of places.