Beauty And Ethnicity: Embracing Our Individuality

Cape Town-based aesthetic and general practitioner, Dr Joseph Huskisson, says our ethnicity is etched onto our faces. It’s time that we stopped trying to change our looks to suit the accepted Western norm of beauty, and instead focus on enhancing what nature has given us.

They say that looks do not define a person, but the reality is that physical appearance is the primary differentiating factor between different ethnicities. While it is true that geographics, language, religion and custom are far more critical in terms of limiting mutual understanding, the differences between cultures is quite literally etched into our faces.

More than skin deep

Beyond the glaringly obvious differences in skin colour, there are differences in skin texture and, as a result, differences in terms of how these skin types respond to aging and exposure to the elements. The actual structure of the face also differs, with a variety of international studies concluding that there are over 50 documented skull shapes, and massive variation in orbital, nasal and oral structure. There is no need for complex medical language to gloss over the obvious: Caucasian people tend to have oval-shaped faces with high cheek bones and narrow, prominent chins, compared to African people, who have more rounded faces with broader noses and prominent lips, and those of Asian descent, who have more flattened facial structure and less prominent chins, further characterised by higher eyebrows with fuller upper eyelids, which result in the more slanted eye shape.

Unfortunately, history has dictated an ideal form of female beauty, which is based prominently on European Caucasian facial structure. Extensive research over the years has shown that all of us have very similar subjective ideas of what constitutes an attractive face, and this can generally be described as more oval-shaped, with high cheekbones, high eyebrows, a small nose and a narrow chin. We have been seeing a shift in terms of acceptance of the different facial structures, due in part to the increased visibility of models such as Alek Wek, and Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai; however, I often find myself faced with patients striving towards a beauty ideal that is removed from their cultural identity.

Embrace what is naturally yours

I believe the best results are achieved not when we introduce features that the patient might feel are lacking, but when we enhance natural features. In this way, we can improve overall appearance without altering ethnic traits, those small identifiers which often define us as individuals. I am a proponent of facial fillers, such as the  Juvéderm range from Allergan South Africa, which provides a non-surgical and minimally invasive solution to patients who want to soften unappealing features or enhance appealing ones, resulting in subtle change for a more natural appearance. The range includes products specifically created to smooth out fine lines and wrinkles, and provides maximum results with minimal fill, and thus less swelling.

Fillers allow aesthetic practitioners to soften facial features that patients find too prominent, without altering actual facial structure. They can be used to create shadow in more rounded faces, giving the illusion of a thinner face, or alternatively to fill a very thin face to make it appear rounder, or even to rejuvenate the eye area, thereby making eyes appear more open. Jawlines can also be extended or narrowed through the clever use of fillers and shadows. Juvéderm can even be used to sculpt a more defined nose, or change the angle of the nose tip or nasal flares, but this should be done only by experienced injectors, due to the complexity of the anatomy surrounding the nose.

Different cultures age differently

Generally speaking, Caucasian women tend to age in the mid-cheek area, so they quite often require cheek volumizing to prevent a sagging face, while black women tend to require more work on the nasolabial lines, which can help to balance the nose and make it appear more aligned with other facial features. Indian women tend to require lip enhancement at an earlier age, and women of Asian descent often require fillers to enhance their chin area, as this is sometimes lost in their more rounded faces. These days, doctors even have skills in their aesthetic arsenal to thin out a rounded face, due to more pronounced muscles in the lower face.

Most importantly, aesthetic practitioners should assess and treat every patient individually. Nowadays our ethnicity is becoming less and less important, particularly as the global village has decreased distance between us and increased mixing between different cultures. For me, it is individual beauty that counts. Gone are the days when we all wanted to look alike; it’s time that we all start to embrace our individuality.

Race and ethnicity also has an influence on childhood obesity. Click here to find out more.

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