The Unusual Beauty Standards of Women From Remote Corners of the World

Emma Smith | Thu Jul 13 2023

The Western world has a rigid and established idea of what beauty looks like. But all over the world, you can find beauty standards that totally go against what we’ve been brought up to believe. In all corners of the world, there are customs being practiced today that are unlike anything we’ve ever known about.

Image: Impact Lab

While some of them can be hard to wrap your head around, they’re all beautiful in their own right. Take a look at some of the most surprising beauty standards that this varied world has to offer and see where your own standard of beauty aligns. Who knows, you may realize that some of these seemingly unusual beauty standards have a lot to offer.

Face Tattooing In New Zealand

Even many people in the tattooing community believe that face tattooing can be a bad idea. But in New Zealand, the indigenous Māori tribe find value in applying ink to their visage. Their are a few reasons why this practice developed, but it is in a large part to do with how important and sacred the head is believed to be.

Image: Hawai News Now

Traditionally, you can find men with tattoos all around their faces and these are called Mataora. But women have their own tattoos for the sake of beauty called Moko kauae, but they have them applied around the mouth, chin, and lips. But sometimes tattoos were also extended to other areas of the body, such as the forehead, thighs, necks and backs.

Reddened Skin In Namibia

One particular tribe from the Republic of Namibia, located in Southern Africa, considers red skin to be a sign of great beauty. But their skin doesn’t naturally lean red, so they discovered an ingenious way of making themselves appear rosier to the human eye. They create a paste made from local ingredients and apply it to the skin.

Image: CNN

The Himba tribe concoct a paste called otzije made up of red ochre, oil, and fat and apply it to their skin and hair, which in turn leaves behind a reddish stain. It also acts as a skin protectant from insect bites as well as the sun’s damaging UV rays, making it a natural suntan lotion and insect repellent.

Gum Tattooing In Senegal

There’s been a huge rise in tattooing in recent years in the Western world. But the truth is, tattooing has been practiced for thousands of years by cultures all around the world. In the Republic of Senegal, for example, it’s traditional for women to get the inside of their mouths tattoos. Such a practice is almost unthinkable in the Western world.

Image: Tattoodo

But in Senegal, it is considered a sign of heightened beauty. Specifically, the upper gums are tattooed black or blue, which is said to give the women who bear it a more special smile. It may be surprising to hear that the practice is extremely common among women in Senegal, but not without a cost, as it’s a very painful tattoo to undertake.

Nostril Gauges In India

There is a tribe in India that values a very different type of piercing from the ones we see in the Western world. In the Apatani tribe, women are encouraged to get nose plugs, AKA nose piercings with a gauge inserted in the hole to stretch it. It can be anything from a small size gauge to a large one, but generally, the larger the better.

Image: Wikipedia

You can also choose to have both sides of your nose plugged, or only one side. Either way, you’ll be considered a great beauty by the tribe members. Historically, they believed that these nose plugs would stop beautiful women of the tribe from getting abducted, which they said would happen frequently as Apatani women were the most beautiful out of all the tribes.

Eyeball Implanting In the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, surgery on your eye would be required to meet these beauty standards. While not currently adhered to by the majority of the female population, eyeball implants, also known as extraocular implants, have been on the rise since it was first done in 2002. Now, 20 years later, it’s still being done.

Image: US News

Created at the Netherlands Institute for Innovative Ocular Surgery, it has been given the name JewelEye and is legally permitted as long as a licensed ophthalmologist carries out the procedure. You’ll then be able to slide in whatever platinum metal jewelry your heart desires… as long as you have the stomach for it.

Uncut Hair In India

In India, long, uncut hair is valued above every other type of hairstyle. It’s seen as the epitome of feminine beauty and as such, growing out your locks as long as possible has become a widespread practice among women of all ages. But it isn’t just about looking good, as long hair is also believed to hold a spiritual significance for some.

Image: Gulf News

Growing out long hair has significance in both Hinduism and Sikhism, as hair is said to have connections with the human soul. When hair is cut, it is believed that a person’s connection to their spirituality is blocked, and as a result they will attract more negative energy into their lives. Of course, many don’t grow their hair so long for these reasons – they simply find it beautiful to behold.

Stretched Earlobes In Kenya

The Maasai tribe in Africa views stretched earlobes as a sign of great beauty. It isn’t enough to adorn your ears with a pair of earrings, in the Nilotic African tribes of Kenya and northern Tanzania, it’s expected that women should change the actual shape of their ears. More specifically, their earlobes, which are stretched out with specific earrings.

Image: Travel Discover Kenya

It’s not just a thing of beauty in the Maasai tribe, but also a status symbol. Essentially, the larger the size of the earlobe, the higher the social status you are seen to hold. Aside from the size, ornate jewelry is hung from the oversized ear, further highlighting the area. To the Maasai, stretched earlobes denote intelligence and wisdom.

Elongated Neck In Burma

The Kayan people of Myanmar (AKA Burma) have taken to wearing neck rings from a very young age. It can start from as young as the age of two and will continue for the rest of their lives. A coil is wrapped around the neck and, as the neck grows longer and longer, the coil is turned more and more.

Image: The Guardian

The coils may look as though they are made from some lightweight aluminum, but in reality, they consist of heavy and rigid metal. As such, the weight of the neck rings on the collarbone slowly changes the shape of the neck, elongating it and allowing for more turns to be made. Amazingly, it’s possible for women to eventually wear a coil with 20 turns.

Bigger Noses In Afghanistan

Many people seek to change their natural nose shapes if they lean on the larger side. But in Afghanistan, a bigger nose is a thing of great beauty. In fact, it can be so sought after by some individuals that they are even willing to undergo plastic surgery to make their noses bigger, as one Afghani woman called Shaheda once did.

Image: Glamour

She explained the reasons for her decision to go under the knife: “My nose was too small and I wanted to look like other girls. At first when I saw it after the operation I was really horrified, but now I like it.” But Shaheda isn’t the only woman looking to get nose enlargement surgery, as many young brides have been looking to undergo the procedure before marriage.

Scarification In West Africa

People can find it hard to love their scars, seeing them as something that disfigures their appearance, or knowing that the sight of scars has been stigmatized. But many tribes in West Africa have a whole other perspective on scars, going so far as to adorn their bodies with them purposefully. To them, they are a sign of beauty.

Image: BBC

They are often etched purposefully into the skin in tribes in order to mark that a person has reached a milestone stage in their life. These types of scars are given to both men and women during occasions such as marriage. If someone should try to politely reject scarification, it is not uncommon for those people to be shunned by their society.

Body Hair In France

Forget shaving and waxing – in France, body hair has historically been seen as a thing of beauty in women. Unlike the rest of Europe, they have their own ideas about what makes a women’s body feminine, and body hair has a lot to do with it. These days, it has become less common with the global rise in removing body hair, but many still practice it.

Image: Fashion Industry Broadcast

The most beautiful thing to do is to leave the hair untouched and natural, growing out just as your body intends it to be. It’s not essential, like it is in most places, for women to hide their underarm or leg hair, either. It can be worn proudly and without shame in France, knowing that it only enhances a woman’s beauty rather than detracts from it.

Oversized Eyes In South Korea

In some parts of East Asia such as South Korea and Japan, extremely big eyes are seen as a sign of feminine beauty. While in many cultures, extra large eyes can be seen as undesirable, in places like South Korea it is appreciated for its other-worldly charm. Many women even wish to have large eyes and undergo surgery to try and get closer to that look.

Image: Pinterest / narcobvby

Naturally, it’s not easy to make your eyes look larger, but certain tweaks to the delicate skin around the eye can make the actual eyes appear larger. Often, these eye surgeries are tied to people wanting to look more like their favorite celebrities, who might have naturally larger eyes or who have also opted to go under the knife to create a big-eyed appearance.

Bigger Bodies In Mauritius

Maintaining a svelt or even skinny figure is highly important for many cultures. But Mauritians have a different perspective on carrying some extra weight. On this Indian Ocean island, having a plump and full figure is considered to be more beautiful and women are encouraged to gain weight. Here, you can truly eat to your heart’s delight.

Image: Facebook / Segatastic Fusion Dancers

That’s because very slim women are thought to not have enough access to good food. Therefore, the bigger you are, the more food and resources you and your family must have. Essentially, weight is equated with family wealth, and it’s very attractive to be seen as coming from a well-off family.

Filed Teeth In Bali

It can be hard for us to imagine, but filing your teeth in Bali has caught on as a trend for achieving heightened beauty. They forgo the natural shape of someone’s teeth in favor of a more pointy and sharp look. But it doesn’t come easily, as the process of sharpening the teeth can be a painful one.

Image: Reddit / Bleeedorange

The reason why they choose to file down their teeth is both symbolic and spiritual. It is believed that by having sharper and pointer teeth, negative or even “evil” traits are being discouraged, such as greed or rage. That way, by filing one’s teeth, you are balancing out their character traits and allowing for more positive ones to come through.

Joined Eyebrows In Tajikistan

Unibrows are a total no-go for most people. But the central Asian country of Tajikistan actually looks upon them favorably on women. Particularly for the Baloch people, a Western Iranic ethnic group, unibrows are so desired that they even drawn on by women who aren’t luckily enough to grow them naturally.

Image: Izismile

Rather than be seen without a unibrow, these women choose to take black kohl to join both of their brows together as part of their morning routine. And yep, you guessed it, the bigger the unibrow, the more beautiful the woman is considered to be. The same goes for Baloch men and children, too.

Stick Piercings In Brazil

Deep in the Amazon Rainforest of Brazil and Venezuela, you can find women of the Yanomami clan sporting a very unique look. Like many today, they choose to adorn themselves with face piercings. But instead of inserting a metal stud or a hoop in place of the hole, they choose to use long and thin wooden sticks.

Image: Survival International

It can be hard to imagine what life must be like to constantly have sticks protruding from your face, but women of the Yanomami clan have grown accustomed to it. Often, they will sport several sticks at any one time, usually around the noses, lips, and lower cheeks. It’s also not unusual for children to sport such piercings.

Nose Job Bandages In Iran

This unusual beauty standard has grown in popularity over the years. In Iran, it is a sign of beauty to show the world that you have had plastic surgery! While many people around the world try to hide the fact that they’ve gone under the knife, many Iranians would actually rather everyone knew about it.

Image: AriaMedTour

Therefore, it’s common to see people walking around with nose bandages in particular. Surgeons suggest that their patients stay indoors for a few weeks as their new noses heal, but in Iran, people would much rather show off their surgery bandages. They have even been nicknamed  “bandages of honor” by women who wish to show their world that they’ve made changes.

Cheek Piercing In Thailand

The Phuket women of Thailand have grown accustomed to piercing their cheeks. In fact, there is even a festival every October that celebrates cheek piercing and sees people putting all manner of objects small and large through the holes in their cheeks. Generally, it is a practice undertaken by religious members of society.

Image: Mirror

During the annual festival, it is not uncommon to see swords inserted through the piercing holes by women wearing white and walking barefoot. The cheek piercings are considered to be a thing of art as well as a thing of great beauty and are said to be a purifying and not-too-painful experience.

Pear-shaped Bodies In Brazil

Many people in the West who have naturally pear-shaped bodies dislike the way they look and try to switch it up. But in Brazil, a pear-shaped women’s body is considered to be very attractive. It is also known as the guitar shape as it generally consists of having a smaller chest area and a larger lower region.

Image: SF Gate

In Brazil, being a pear shape is more attractive than anything else, and many women try to attain this look if it doesn’t come naturally. Importantly, the lower half of the body is encouraged to be larger as similarly to the people of Mauritia, being too thin is seen as a bad thing.

Crooked Smile In Japan

Crooked teeth are certainly stigmatized all around the world. People get braces from a young age in order to correct crooked teeth, preferring a straighter and more uniform appearance. But Japan has gone against the grain and believes women who have crooked-looking smiles to be the most beautiful.

Image: HuffPost UK

Crooked teeth are considered to be a cute physical feature, and are therefore prized in Japanese society. For those who have naturally wonky teeth, they are in luck. But some people who have a naturally straight set of pearly whites are opting to misalign their teeth surgically to achieve the desired look.

Big Foreheads In Kenya

Many people feel self-conscious about having a larger forehead. But for the Kikuyu tribe in Kenya, a larger forehead is a sign of beauty. In this African tribe, a receding hairline wouldn’t be something to fear or hide, but rather celebrate. That’s because having a larger, more prominent forehead is thought to be better than the rest.

Image: USA Today

Having a large forehead is such a highly coveted look that many women of the Kikuyu tribe will remove much of their front hairline to make their foreheads more prominent. Generally speaking, women with bigger foreheads are the most coveted for marriage and are subject to a lot of male attention.

Red Eye Bags In Japan

In recent years, Japan has popularized a new beauty trend, characterized by a reddish color underneath the eyes. While most people wish to remove their under-eye bags or hide them completely, in Japan, it is common practice to actually highlight them instead with a deep pink or rosy red hue.

Image: Nestia

It’s simple enough to create, as all one needs to do is take an eyeshadow brush and gently swipe a reddish eyeshadow color or cheek blush onto the area directly beneath the eyes. The result makes you look as though you’re blushing, and it’s considered to be beautiful and enhancing of a woman’s looks.

Teeth Blackening In Japan In Southeast Asia and Oceania

Forget pearly white teeth – many cultures throughout Southeast Asia and Oceania have taken to dying their teeth the exact opposite color one might expect; black. Teeth blackening is a practice that starts in puberty to prevent tooth decay and was seen as a signal of a woman’s maturity and beauty.

Image: VOV World

There’s even evidence that tooth blackening has been practiced since around 300–538 CE, making it an ancient beauty custom. Japan was also practicing this custom widely during the late 19th century, but in recent years with the colonization of much of Southeast Asia and Oceania, the practice has dwindled in popularity.