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What Does "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep" Mean?

By Felicia Dye
Updated May 23, 2024
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Beauty is only skin deep is a saying that means that a person's physical appearance does not determine who the individual is. The expression is commonly used as a reminder that a person may look attractive, but she may not have attractive inner qualities. It is also used to say that a person may not be the prettiest to the eyes, but she may be very attractive because of her personality.

It is common to hear the saying "beauty is only skin deep" in the United States. The saying exposes a tendency for individuals to judge one another primarily by their physical appearance. Doing this often leads to disappointment and surprise, as one person may judge another and be completely wrong. For example, a man may encounter a stunning woman in a bar, and he may draw a number of conclusions about the type of person she is. Upon getting to know her, however, he may find that her negative characteristics are so dominant that they overshadow her physical appeal.

The idea that beauty is only skin deep can also be used to the opposite extreme. There may be situations where a person's physical beauty is altered by aging, disfigurement, or other circumstances. Yet her positive inner qualities may remain the same. There may also be instances where a person may have never been physically appealing, but upon getting to know her it is discovered that her inner qualities are more attractive than her physical appearance.

This saying may be used when trying to communicate a number of lessons. In some situations, the person who says it may be trying to tell a person that his basis for judgment is flawed and he needs to look at qualities other than appearance. This expression may also be used when speaking to an individual who relies primarily on her beauty to attract attention. The lesson in this case may be that appearance will help a person to only a certain degree. Beyond that, if she does not have other qualities, she is likely to have opportunities that appear to be opening initially but that she is unable to sustain.

As beauty is a word that is most commonly associated with femininity, the expression "beauty is only skin deep" tends to be most commonly used when talking about females. It can, however, be used when referring to the differences between the outer and inner qualities of males. It is rarely, if ever, used when talking about animals or inanimate objects.

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Discussion Comments
By serenesurface — On Feb 29, 2012

@simrin-- I don't think of this quote as saying that at all. I think it's a saying similar to "beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

Many quotes about beauty have the message that physical beauty is misleading. I think this quote is also saying just that, that looks can be deceptive and we shouldn't depend on them to jump to conclusions about people's personality. So your opinions and this quote is saying the same thing.

Ideally this is how all of us should be thinking and acting but it's not so easy. I think that hormones and attraction cause us to jump to conclusions and like or dislike people based on their looks.

By SteamLouis — On Feb 28, 2012

@burcidi-- So wait, does "beauty is only skin deep" meaning say that beautiful people do not have a beautiful personality?

Isn't it wrong to generalize like that? I consider myself beautiful and I think I have a beautiful personality too. I'm a good person, I help others. I have a lot of friends who really like me and like to spend time with me.

Who says that pretty or handsome people have bad personalities and less good-looking people have good personalities? I don't agree with this at all. I think it can go either way.

I agree that we shouldn't judge people based on how they look. My mother taught me this from a young age, she always tells me "don't judge a book by its cover." But just as we shouldn't judge a less attractive person for their looks, we shouldn't judge an attractive person that way either.

By burcidi — On Feb 28, 2012

"Beauty is only skin deep" is a quote that we all learn the meaning of eventually in life.

I used to care about outer appearance a lot when I was younger. In fact, outer appearance was probably the main reason why I chose the people I dated. But after some time passed in the relationship and I learned more about the kind of people they are, I realized I didn't like their personality. The relationship ended and often on a bad note.

Just because someone is handsome or beautiful doesn't mean that they are a good person or that your qualities will match each others'. Like I said, I've met people who looked gorgeous on the outside but had bad habits and lacked the personal qualities I look for in friends. So beauty is only skin deep!

To really find people we are compatible with, we have to learn to look beyond appearance when we meet people.

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