Dr Ian Webster
Dr Ian Webster

Survival of the Prettiest

In the year 2000, Dr Nancy L Etcoff, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School wrote a book called Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty. In her book, she argues that appreciating beauty is not learnt but rather a biological adaption. According to Etcoff, beauty influences everything from our perception, our attitudes and our behaviour towards others.

She says: “Beauty is a universal part of human experience and that it provokes pleasure, rivets attention, and impels actions that help ensure the survival of our genes. Our extreme sensitivity to beauty is hard-wired, that is, governed by circuits in the brain shaped by natural selection. We love to look at smooth skin, thick shiny hair, curved waists, and symmetrical bodies because in the course of evolution the people who noticed these signals and desired their possessors had more reproductive success.”

Physical beauty is obviously very important for the initial attraction between potential mates. Flawless skin is universally the most desired physical feature in humans and healthy hair is a close second. Bad hair and skin during medieval life was a sign of sickness.

As with beauty we have an unconscious association between height, power and status as a measure of success.

Therefore, it is not unsurprising that skin diseases such as acne, psoriasis and eczema have been proven to have significant effects on the quality of life of patients with these skin diseases. I have certainly seen this in my practice, in young patients with severe acne, who become socially withdrawn, anxious and depressed. It is therefore very satisfying to successfully treat such patients and by improving the skin’s physical appearance, it also results in improving their mental well-being.

What defines modern day beauty? I think it is safe to say that increasingly beauty is not just skin deep and can be attained by leading a healthy lifestyle. This means following a well-balanced diet, regular physical activity, having a sense of purpose, being happy, mindful and connected to this world and those who live in it.

It can also be found in recognizing that a beautiful skin, even if you feel you are not physically attractive, will always elicit a positive comment or compliment – as noted previously, a flawless skin is universally the most desired physical feature in humans.

While not everyone can have a flawless skin, it is not impossible to achieve skin health with the correct lifestyle choices:

    • Eating a rainbow diet with many varied vegetables and fruits – they not only contain healthy vitamins but the more brightly coloured, the more antioxidant protection for the body.


    • Choosing good fats over bad as the body is not able to make its own essential fatty acids – it is therefore vital to take supplements like Omega 3 which will not only reduce inflammation in the body but will also slow down the ageing process and promote a healthy skin.


    • Not smoking which besides too much sun exposure is the most detrimental habit for optimum skin health.


    • Being sun-sensible and mindful of excessive sun exposure and always using a high factor, broad-spectrum sunscreen daily.


    • Use a topical antioxidant daily to prevent oxidative stress and slow down skin ageing.


    • Keep the outer layer of the skin (epidermis) bright and radiant with alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acids.


    • Stimulate collagen and elastin in the deeper layers of the skin (dermis) by using active ingredients like Retinol, Growth Factors and Peptides to prevent skin ageing and to also help reverse photo-damage.


    • Choosing the right skin treatments for your skin type and skin concern and more importantly, choosing the correct person to perform the treatment – experience counts for everything!


Posted in NEWS / Anti-Ageing on February 8th, 2018.

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