Rebecca Kamm
Poking a stick at ladies' issues, pop culture, and other cutting-edge curiosities.

Rebecca Kamm: Science finds the most beautiful face

18-year-old Florence Colgate has won the title of the most beautiful face.
Photo / Facebook
18-year-old Florence Colgate has won the title of the most beautiful face. Photo / Facebook

Forget beauty and eyes and beholders, just for a second. Let's hold a competition to see who has the best face of all.

That's what TV channel ITV and pharmacy chain Superdrug have just done, anyway.

In what was essentially a giant ad campaign for the latter, a televised contest has been held to find "Britain's most naturally beautiful face".

The key word being "natural": so no make up, Botox or plastic surgery allowed.

They eventually found her in Kent: Florence Colgate, an 18-year-old chip shop worker and student who beat 8000 other hopefuls to the pip with her pleasing visage. Thanks to great genes, 6000 public voters, and expert judge Joanna Hutton, a "senior Superdrug skincare buyer".

As the teen's reward, she's now set to appear in Superdrug posters, as well as Superdrug's snazzy in-house magazine, Dare. And best of luck to her, she looks very sweet.

But why did she win? Like, scientific 'why'?

Well, thanks for asking, because it turns out scientists are really strung out these days, working tirelessly on quandaries like, 'What does the most mathematically beautiful female face look like?'

They can therefore tell us why in much detail.

To start with, if you're thinking "symmetry", that's part of it, but not all. The real answers lie in all manner of angles and ratios between this facial feature and that.

It's all part of a terrifying thing called the Fibonacci sequence, a series of golden proportions that determine facial perfection - or lack thereof.

(Does your ear "reflect the shape of a fibonacci spiral"? Check here.)

For instance, the distance between the eyes and mouth should ideally be a third of the overall length from hairline to chin. (Florence's face has a 32.8 per cent ratio.)

And the 'perfect' face has a distance between the pupils of just under half, or 46 per cent, of the width of the whole face from ear to ear. (Wouldn't you know it, Florence's ratio is 44 per cent.)

What's more, the teen's "classically beautiful features" - big eyes, thick hair, and a pouty mouth - beam out 'Fertile!' to all dumbstruck sods within a 50 mile radius.

So, post competition, and definitely not nudged by any PR elbows, Perfect-Face Florence then emphasised the whole point of the campaign by declaring:

"Women should not have to feel that they have to wear make-up; I hope people will look at me and think they don't need to. I'm very happy with the way I look and I would never have any plastic surgery or Botox."

Which is where the whole thing comes apart at the seams, because clearly that makes no sense whatsoever: "I hope people will look at me and think they don't need to" - What? Exactly.

The thing is, you can't stick to the well-trodden path of shoving perfection in women's faces, then get all greedy and hop aboard the self-acceptance wagon, too, hoping no one will notice you sitting there.

You have to choose - one or the other.

And that's the bind perturbing cosmetic companies today, you see. (Demonstrated in full force by Florence, who thought she'd just got a prize for being pretty.)

In advertising, when an ad is particularly patronising or blatant, they say you can still "see the brief". As in, the initial client dilemma is still poking through the campaign for all to witness, like a noncompliant petticoat.

The Superdrug brief, then, might have looked like this: how can we push the unattainable, but stick a smiley face on it?

For the average stressed out marketing manager with sales on the brain, this is a dilemma. After all, the perfection model has been around forever, and it works. But audiences are savvier now; more cynical.

Dove has perhaps taken the biggest marketing risk so far, with its use of more realistic body shapes and digital enhancement awareness. (That last one never gets old.)

But this?

This, at best, is an old-fashioned beauty pageant, given a lick of paint and shunted onstage as a whole new act. I'm not buying it.

What makes someone beautiful? Do you think science can explain why we find certain people attractive? How can cosmetic companies steer away from images of unattainable perfection, yet still sell their goods?

Follow Rebecca Kamm on Twitter.

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