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Editor's Note: Definition of beauty a changing thing

Published: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 10:33 a.m. CDT

Vanity was on my mind this weekend.

As I shooed a bee away from my head, my brother looked, then looked again, with a strange expression on his face.

“Is there a bee in my hair?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “But there are quite a few gray hairs.”

He’s my older brother. I think he relished this just a bit.

It may be time to break out the box of hair color, but that’s nothing new – I’ve been dyeing my hair since I was 15. No reason to stop now. It’s been dozens of shades, and not just to cover up grays. One stubborn streak of silver has so far proven impervious to my boxes of drugstore dye.

And so far, I’m surprisingly OK with that.

There was a time when I wouldn’t have left the house without a full face of makeup and about half an hour invested in my hair. If you had told me at that time I wouldn’t be upset over the idea of a few gray hairs, I probably would have been horrified.

But the older I get, surprisingly, the less makeup I find myself putting on, and the less I think about it once it is on.

It’s not that I don’t care about how I look. It’s more like I am comfortable enough with how I look that I’ve given up trying to radically alter it.

Apparently, I may be ahead of the curve. New research from Bangor University indicates that not only is our culture’s often-bemoaned standard of beauty all but unattainable, it may be completely imaginary.

Researchers gave 44 women a full complement of makeup and told them to apply it as though they were going out. The women were photographed before and after putting on the makeup, then the photos were altered to gradually remove some of the colors so researchers ended up with 21 photos of each woman, wearing different amounts of makeup.

Then they showed the photos to people of both genders, who were told to pick the photo they found most attractive, the photo they thought most men would prefer, and the photo they thought most women would prefer.

Both men and women thought men would prefer the photos with the most makeup, but that wasn’t true. In fact, the photos women picked as most attractive had more makeup in them than the photos men chose.

And overall, the photos chosen as the most attractive were the ones in which the models were wearing about 40 percent less makeup than they had put on.

The bite-size version of that, ladies, is that when we go out on the town we’re probably wearing a lot more makeup than we need to, assuming the goal of the makeup is to look attractive to others.

Maybe I’m just getting lazy as I get older, or maybe I finally got bored with thinking about my own face – there are so many more interesting things to think about.

Enjoy your MidWeek.

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