GWS explores the connection between beauty and wellness

The latest GWS business session, with special guest Anjan Chatterjee, MD, focused on how beauty can meaningfully contribute to mental wellness


By Sarah Todd

12 May 2021

The latest in a series of Global Wellness Summit (GWS) business sessions dedicated to specific wellness sector topics has explored how beauty can meaningfully contribute to wellness.

The Wellness Sector Spotlight featured special guest Anjan Chatterjee, MD, chair of neurology at Pennsylvania Hospital and author of the Global Wellness Institute’s Beauty2Wellness study as well as The Aesthetic Brain.

The session examined the beauty-wellness connection as well as how it will potentially impact the $1bn personal care, beauty and anti-ageing economy.

"In some ways, we are preoccupied with physical beauty at the moment – so many of our meetings and even interviews are on Zoom. The way we look has taken on a disproportionate weight in people’s judgements."

Anjan Chatterjee, MD, chair of neurology at Pennsylvania Hospital

With an increased focus on diversity shedding light on age-old perceptions of self-image and beauty, the session explored how new understanding of the link between beauty and wellbeing are shaping and changing wellness trends.

“There is some new data which appears to show that good people are also viewed as being more attractive. Consequently, if you want to appear more attractive to other people, you need to be seen to be doing good things,” said Dr Chatterjee. 

Key takeaways from Dr Chatterjee's session

“Facial beauty is a big focus for the cosmetics industry”

Human brains respond to beauty automatically. The biological expression of facial beauty, when the visual parts of our brains respond to that stimulus, shape our experience of beauty.


“Ancient Greeks identified a link between the concept of beauty and goodness”

Often, people with minor facial anomalies, such as scars or blemishes, are regarded as less competent, or less truthful. Science has also shown that more ‘attractive’ people are given higher pay, higher grades and lower punishments. When our brains place value – and especially aesthetic value – this can be both a force for good and a force for bad.

“One of the features that is commonly cited for beauty is symmetry”

An explanation for this is that infection tends to affect symmetry, so symmetry is a signal for good health. People who preferred these have a tendency to pass their genes on.


“When we talk about beauty, the question really is, the beauty of what?”

The brain organises the visual world into people, places and things. We are interested in the beauty of people, places and things and the aesthetic experiences of them.


“Beauty can be approached in a variety of ways”

We often approach aesthetics through vision but you can also approach this in other ways – such as fragrance through sense of smell, perfumes and botanics, plus taste and food or sound and music.

Among the other interesting subjects outlined was how language plays into perceptions of beauty and ability.

“We looked at ten years of Google News headlines and asked the question, what are words that behave very similarly to beauty? We also looked at words that related to wellness and then those terms that co-occur. We then took the top 15 words associated with beauty and wellness to derive a set of correlations.

“Notable findings included that women appear to associate education with beauty and men don’t. Education is perhaps a proxy for intelligence. For wellness, one thing that particularly stands out is that men associate talent with wellness and women don’t.

“We found that, with semantic networks, women have more structured concepts of beauty and wellness than men. Also, older people have more structured concepts of beauty and wellness than younger people.”

Be inspired...

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