Matthew Bower used Image Atlas, a photo search tool that indexes “top image results for given search terms across local engines throughout the world,” to chart how beauty is understood around the world:
He’s struck by the fact that even in non-Western countries, the images of beauty reflect fair-skinned, Western-looking women:
There’s a staggering number of beauty products, makeup applicators, and spa treatments, all of which essentially suggest that beauty is something to be purchased and applied. Notice that a person living in Jamaica gets the same search results as a person living in the United States. Some of the anomalies are interesting as well: North Korea’s results are mostly nature scenes, Kenya’s results include a graphic of the world wearing a graduation cap, and Zimbabwe depicts more products than people.