How European Beauty Standards Differ From American Ones

Although Europe and America are pretty much exposed to very similar if not the same beauty content — primarily through social media, streaming platforms, and beauty brands that are available worldwide — there are some obvious differences that deserve to be mentioned.

By Simone Sydel4 min read
How European Beauty Standards Differ From American Ones

Therefore, in this article, we’re going to discuss the differences between European and American beauty standards and what makes each one unique.

What's Considered Beautiful in Europe?

One thing all European countries have in common when it comes to what they consider to be beautiful is the classic natural look. This means that if you want to turn heads no matter which European country you visit, you need to wear (ideally) no makeup or as little makeup as possible.

Both European men and women enjoy natural features, nicely done hair with a color that complements the skin tone, short and clean nails, beautiful skin, and makeup that doesn't stand out too much.

The same can be said about style since Europeans prefer wearing comfortable clothes that look nice and polished and often like to invest in one or two expensive pieces like shoes or a bag to complement the entire look. Europeans would rather spend money on something that's expensive but worth it considering the quality of the item and how long they will wear it, instead of buying fast but high-ticket items just because they’re produced by a known brand, which is more of an American thing to do.

That being said, let's go ahead and compare some differences when it comes to beauty standards:

European Women Focus on Skincare over Makeup

Most women love makeup to a certain extent. Makeup is a quick and easy way to make us feel more confident by erasing features we’re not too happy about, such as dark undereye, an unwanted pimple on the day before an important meeting, etc.

But ultimately, European women like to focus on skincare over makeup for a few reasons. First, many European countries have a climate that impacts the skin in ways that can’t be covered by makeup. Scandinavian countries, for example, have an extremely cold climate, which is why people from Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland often have extremely dry skin that they have to moisturize all the time. Makeup can become a hassle in this instance, especially in winter when they have to reapply moisturizer constantly; therefore, they simply choose to wear a little bit of concealer, blush, mascara, and an eyebrow gel, which are all things that can be easily retouched.

Besides that, healthy skin will never go out of fashion here in Europe, and this is why many women enjoy having smooth, plump, and radiant skin that’s complemented but not completely altered or covered up by makeup.

And lastly, European women have other priorities than doing their makeup in the morning. They prefer waking up, having a morning coffee and reading some news, sorting through daily errands, or doing light exercise instead of spending an hour or more on doing makeup. Instead, they will just apply some moisturizer and concealer, and that's pretty much it most of the time.

American Women Prefer Fake Tans

...while European women enjoy a natural tan.

Even though I'm European, I’m definitely siding with American women on this one. 

Now, it would be wrong to put everyone in the same pot. I know many Americans love sunbathing, especially on the beautiful beaches of California and Florida. Still, it seems like the fake tan is so much more popular in America than in Europe (except for British women, who are notorious for using fake tanners).

Europeans are predominantly pale or light-skinned, and they go out of their way to change that every chance they get. Besides sunbathing relentlessly, Europeans also use tanning beds, which, as an esthetician, I cannot even begin to stress how dangerous that is. Sunbathing or tanning beds, although therapeutic, increase your chances of getting skin cancer, which is one of the most common and deadliest cancers. Therefore, fake tanning is a much safer option if you want to achieve that beautiful sun-kissed look without putting your life at risk.

I’m very happy that American women understand the dangers of sunbathing and are taking measures to protect themselves, so hopefully European women will also start doing this sometime soon.

Europeans Take a Holistic Approach To Resolving Skin Concerns

Whether you’re dealing with acne, skin aging, or any other concern, dermatologists and estheticians in Europe will likely advise you to take better care of yourself in addition to recommending a tailored skincare routine. It's not uncommon for skin professionals to advise their clients to be more active, drink more water, and make an effort to eat healthier. They will also probably advise you to cut down on alcohol and cigarettes because both of these habits can have a negative effect on your skin's health.

It's common for European skin professionals to advise their clients to be more active and drink more water.

In contrast, Americans tend to prefer a quicker solution, usually in the form of pills, such as isotretinoin or antibiotics, for acne and other more intense measures for skin aging, such as Botox or cosmetic procedures, that give instant and very obvious results.

Americans Are More Apt To Undergo Cosmetic Procedures

The U.S. has always held the number one spot regarding the popularity of cosmetic procedures, both surgical and nonsurgical. The most popular surgical procedures in the U.S. include breast augmentation, liposuction, and rhinoplasty, to name a few. American women also hold the number one spot for getting minimally invasive, nonsurgical procedures such as Botox and dermal fillers.

Injectables like Botox and fillers are also ultra-popular in Europe, and their usage has grown by over 8% since 2018 for Botox and over 15% for hyaluronic acid fillers. But there’s a huge difference in how injectables are used in the U.S. and in Europe, which is why European and American women look different even when doing the same procedures.

Lisa Goodman, the founder of GoodSkin clinics, notes that European women tend to get Botox to slow down the aging process while American women tend to get Botox to not have wrinkles, plain and simple. European women will still have those natural lines around the eyes when they smile, which looks more natural, so you can barely tell that they've had something done by just looking.

European women get Botox to slow down the aging process while American women get it to not have wrinkles.

Another important thing to note is that many American estheticians advise their clients to get Botox in their twenties as a preventative anti-aging measure. This is simply my observation from scrolling through social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram and seeing what estheticians post online.

Estheticians in Europe, however, urge their clients to focus on applying and reapplying sunscreen and anti-aging products such as retinol in their twenties, but we’re generally taught to recommend Botox to our clients who are well in their forties. For perspective, my esthetics instructor was 52 when she got Botox around her eyes for the first time, so it's safe to say European women prefer playing the long game with skincare products and using the least cosmetic procedures possible.

European Women Only Wear Makeup They Need

As I already mentioned, European women tend to wear minimal makeup, and they generally avoid doing anything too complicated and time-consuming. It’s rare to see a European woman in her thirties or older wearing a full face of makeup on a regular day out. Besides that, European women generally stick to products they’ve already used and loved, and they don't like experimenting with new stuff because they don't think they need them.

On the other hand, American women like to transform their look often using contouring techniques, and they prefer doing bold eyes and lips that often include a combination of a few different eyeshadow palettes and other products.

These looks demand immense talent, patience, and creativity, so while, as a European, I prefer wearing more natural and subtle makeup, I always admire the talent of some famous American makeup artists for managing to pull off such gorgeous looks.

American Women Have Lengthier Beauty Routines

Lengthy beauty routines are also something I've seen for a long time from American YouTubers, beauty/skincare influencers, and even celebrities.

European women, however, prefer high-quality products that contain more than one beneficial ingredient to target various skin concerns, instead of using separate products and layering them in the same routine to target each skin concern individually.

European Women Like Dainty, Feminine Nails

Something that you will likely notice about European women is how much we enjoy having our nails done in a dainty, feminine style. European women are generally not keen on having long nails, and we prefer to keep them short and classy. We also usually get them done in one color or the classic French tip that goes well with any clothing style.

European women are generally not keen on having long nails, preferring to keep them short and classy.

In contrast, American women prefer longer, more fun, and creative nails, usually done in different colors, as well as with various added accessories such as crystals, zircons, glitter, etc.

Closing Thoughts

There are so many more differences between American and European beauty standards besides those I mentioned in this article. But in general, European women prefer the classic, one-color, simple look that's been around for a long time, while American women strive for novelty, uniqueness, and individuality.

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