Facial plast Surg 2006; 22(3): 163-174
DOI: 10.1055/s-2006-950173
Copyright © 2006 by Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA.

The Beauty Mystique

Anthony Synnott1
  • 1Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
26 September 2006 (online)


Physical beauty is symbolic, and a highly valued and powerful attribute, of the self. Yet it is also controversial-its value negated as a myth by many proverbs, religious authorities, and feminists alike. Here we explore some of the practices of beauty, from beauty competitions to cosmetic surgery, and also some of the thinking about beauty from Homer and Plato through Darwin and Freud to People magazine. The beauty mystique, defined here as the widespread equation of beauty with goodness, together with other virtues imputed to beauty, has the reverse application to ugliness. Both processes are evident in our literature, media, popular culture, and our attitudes and behaviors; both are applied primarily to the face-the principal locus of both beauty and character. The mystique and the myth have their value and their limits.