With the risk of sounding like Buzz Killington, here’s a little historical background on the etymology of the words cosmetic and cosmos.
According to MyEtymology.com, both cosmetic and cosmos orginate from the Greek word κόσμος (yep, me neither) or kosmos, meaning orderly arrangement or decoration.
Ancient philosophy geek Pythagoras is said to have been the first to apply the word kosmos to the universe (I know this sounds like we’re heading to Yawnsville, but stay with me.)
So there you have it – there’s a definite connection between the word cosmos and the word cosmetic, in that both are based on the concept of harmonious balance.
Speaking of the cosmos, and the balanced order of the planets and whatnot, I must admit that I don’t believe in horoscopes. Call me a sceptic, but I don’t think that a Solar eclipse determines how your career will develop this week, or that things will start to cool off with a crush from work just because Saturn’s feeling sluggish / Mars has a bad case of Solar Wind.
In fact, I find the concept of having star signs in modern day magazines somewhat outdated and even a bit bizarre (although admittedly I still like to read them from time to time, you know, just to check.)
But, while I don’t really believe that the arrangement of the planets affects your destiny, I do, sadly, believe that the arrangement of your facial features can affect your fortune. Take, for instance, Angelina Jolie. She is consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful women in the world. She is also one of the world’s highest earning actresses. Coincidence? I think not.
According to The Economist, scientific research shows that the better looking you are, the more favourably you’re looked upon.
Quelle surprise, I know, but you might be shocked to hear that apparently good-looking people are also more likely to have success in job interviews and earn higher salaries than their “less good-looking” counterparts.
The reason? A symmetrical and well-proportioned face signals good genes, both in terms of health and intelligence.
Of course it depends on what kind of career you’re aiming for, and good looks don’t automatically equate talent or brains. But, if the article in The Economist is anything to go by, the fact that Jolie has won the genetic lottery and earned more money than the actual lottery is by no means coincidental.
As The Economist points out, the rewards reaped by those with better looks may also explain why the cosmetics industry has global sales of hundreds of billions of dollars each year – people clearly recognize the benefits of looking good. Your future may not be written in the stars – but your fortune may be mapped across your face.
So what determines good looks?
The mask was devised by Dr. Stephen Marquardt, who believes that this archetypal structure of facial beauty is applicable to both genders and all races, cultures and eras.
Indeed, from Nerfertiti to Angelina Jolie, the facial proportions of those who have been ranked among the most beautiful individuals in the world are more likely to correspond to the measurements of this mask.
These individuals consequently tend to share very similar facial proportions, which probably explains the term ‘classic beauty.’ (It might also explain the recent explosion in cosmetic-surgery clones!)
The concept of the mask is derived from phi, otherwise known as the “golden ratio“ (an “irrational mathematical constant” equal to approximately 1.618. And no, I have no idea what that means.)
According to good old Wikipedia, Ancient Greek mathematicians first studied the golden ratio because of its frequent appearance in geometry, and often attributed the discovery of the concept to Pythagoras (aye, him again, the one who applied the word “cosmos” to the universe.)
Wonderful Wikipedia also highlights how, since the Renaissance, artists and architects have proportioned their works to approximate “the golden ratio” because they believe it to be aesthetically pleasing.
But not only does this ratio appear in art (e.g. da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man), or architecture (e.g. Egyptian Pyramids) but in real life too.
The golden ratio can be found in the arrangement of branches, the stems of plants, and the veins in leaves.
It’s also expressed in the skeletons of animals, the branchings of veins and nerves, and even the DNA molecule (which, in the context of this article, adds a whole new dimension to the phrase “DNA makeup.”)
For example, the Fibonacci spiral appears in shells…
In sunflower seeds…
And, lo and behold, in spiral galaxies!
Ah, the cosmos. Hey! This article has come full circle, leading me neatly back to the bond between cosmetics and cosmos, and the tie between the composition of biological features and the composition of the universe.
Whether or not these universal patterns are all symptoms of some greater perfect design is a theological debate for another time and place, so I’ll wrap up this article now before I begin rambling uncontrollably about make-up and the meaning of life.