This is how beauty standards have evolved over three decades

By Sarah Parsons 20-Oct-2017

A study of People magazine's 'Most Beautiful People' list reveals consumers are embracing diversity and ageing

Julia Roberts and Michelle Pfieffer on the cover of <i>People</i>

Julia Roberts and Michelle Pfieffer on the cover of People

Beauty ideals are getting older and more diverse, according to a new study from Boston University School of Medicine.

Researchers compared celebrities from the 1990 list of People magazine's ‘World's Most Beautiful’ list with celebrities from this year’s list.

A 49-year-old Julia Roberts is on the cover of 2017’s ‘Most Beautiful People’ issue, while a 32-year-old Michelle Pfieffer graced the cover in 1990.

To assess how beauty standards have changed, the researchers compared age, sex, race, skin type, hair colour, eye colour and visible dermatologic conditions.

Researchers originally hypothesised that the standards of beauty have not changed in the last 27 years, but in fact People magazine's 2017 list revealed that perceptions have changed to be more inclusive.


A post shared by Viola Davis (@violadavis) on

Pictured: Viola Davis, at 52-years-old, was included on this year's list, and is an example of two trends noted by the study: the inclusion of more people of colour and more older celebrities.

In 2017, darker skin represented nearly 30% of people on the list compared with only 12% in 1990.

This year also included 14 people of mixed races, as compared to just one in 1990.

The average age increased from 33 in 1990 to 39 in 2017 and the proportion of celebrities of non-white races also increased from 24% in 1990 to 40% in 2017.

In 1990, People magazine chose 50 men and women to represent what consumers see as beauty.

But now, that list is much longer – with 135 celebrities named.

The internet and mass media has been attributed to the shift in beauty ideals, as consumers are becoming more exposed to different cultures.

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“This exposure makes us realize that beauty can be so many different things, and can change and evolve,” the report said.

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