15 Female Beauty Ideals from Around the World

As soon as children are born, we coo over their good looks and praise their qualities, even if all we can see is a splotchy red wrinkled face and tiny kicking feet. Praising a person for their physical attributes starts at birth and continues until the day we die. We quickly become accustomed to what it means to be beautiful in our culture, especially if you happen to be born female.

Each culture and ethnic group around the world defines beauty differently. For women, in particular, there are some very exacting standards to live up to if you want to be known for your looks. Here are a few examples of female beauty ideals from around the world. Many are contradictory, but all of them represent the values held by that culture.

1. Body Scars

In the Karo tribe, who hail from Ethiopia, the most beautiful woman is defined by the pattern of scars etched on to her stomach. These traditional scars, worn on the chest and belly, are thought to be sensual and are done so that the woman appears more attractive to future husbands. The scars aren’t all done at once. They are designed over a period of time so that their completion coincides with the time that the woman is ready to marry. The completion of the scarification announces that the woman is open to offers of marriage.

Vlad Karavaev / Shutterstock
Vlad Karavaev / Shutterstock

2. Stretched Earlobes

Although we’ve become accustomed to seeing the occasional gauged earlobe in our American culture, most people don’t know the origin of the practice. One of the cultures who views stretched earlobes as traditionally beautiful are the Maasai tribespeople of Kenya and Tanzania. In Maasai culture, women shave their heads and use various implements to stretch their earlobes, creating large holes where they either wear hoops or beaded jewelry.

Axel Bueckert / Shutterstock
Axel Bueckert / Shutterstock

3. Pale Skin

In many Asian countries, a woman with pale skin is seen as more attractive than someone who is darker. This stems from centuries of living in an agrarian society as having darker skin meant that you were often outside working in the fields. A woman with pale skin showed without speaking a word that she never had to work outside and was therefore more affluent. This beauty ideal is common across countries like India, China, and Korea. In each of those countries, you can find a huge market for skin creams that are prized for their bleaching properties.

iiiphevgeniy / Shutterstock
iiiphevgeniy / Shutterstock
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