How People’s ‘Most Beautiful’ Reveals Changing Beauty Standards

By Claire Altschuler
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) While looks may still make a difference, a new study in JAMA Dermatology suggests that all of us can become more comfortable with aging, embrace racial diversity, and feel greater freedom to be ourselves.

Chicago Tribune

People magazine, which focuses on celebrities and personal interest stories, boasts the largest audience of any American periodical.

One of its most popular features is the annual Most Beautiful People list, which recently served as a tool for researchers trying to determine if beauty standards have changed over the last few decades.

Comparing the lists published in 1990 and 2017, they discovered significant differences in skin color, age, gender, race, hair color and eye color.

The study’s results, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Dermatology, came as a surprise to the researchers, who expected to find greater similarity between the two issues.

The 2017 list included more celebrities with darker skin, a jump in the average age from 33 to 39, and a greater number of mixed-race celebrities. The study concluded that, “contrary to our hypothesis … a wider variety of skin colors and inclusion of older age groups are represented among those deemed to be the most beautiful.”

The study also found that the gender balance had changed: women accounted for 52 percent of the list in 1990 but increased to 88 percent in 2017.

As a way to analyze society at large, the study has certain limitations, such as the possible biases of the People magazine editors who made the selections, says Gordon Patzer, a professor of business administration at Roosevelt University’s Heller College of Business and author of books on the social and economic effects of physical attractiveness. Nevertheless, he says, it “confirms that society is changing with the times” and that we have become “much more inclusive than ever before.”

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