Discussing Beauty Standards in Spanish-Speaking Countries

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

Do you want to know the basic vocabulary to discuss beauty standards in Spanish-speaking countries? This lesson gives you the basic terms you need for practical conversation.

Beauty Standards Vary

What type of woman or man do you consider exotic? Probably, the type of woman or man that is not very common in your home town. However, we can say that just about anyone can be considered exotic!

A blonde woman with white skin may be normal to you, but if she goes to work as a volunteer in the Amazon, she will be considered exotic by the people there, as those are not typical body traits there.

Beauty standards vary across Spanish-speaking countries, let alone from person to person. Therefore, we will learn some vocabulary that concentrates on just the general standards that people in Latin America and in Spain consider as the basis for beauty.

The topic, then, is los estándares de belleza (lohs ehs-TAHN-dah-rehs deh beh-YEH-zah), which means 'beauty standards'. Some people refer to them as los parámetros de belleza (lohs pah-RAH-meh-trohs deh beh-YEH-zah), which is 'beauty parameters'.

Women's Beauty

Obviously,los estándares de belleza vary in Spanish-speaking countries for women and for men, so let's learn them separately. After each set of new words, we'll read a short passage sent by Eduardo, a make-up professional who works for a fashion magazine in Spain. The passage allows you to see how Eduardo uses these words. Let's begin.


Generally speaking, we can use the following words to refer to los estándares de belleza femeninos (female beauty standards) in Spanish-speaking countries:

  • el cabello largo (ehl kah-BEH-yoh LAHR-goh): long hair
  • el busto grande (ehl BOOS-toh GRAHN-deh): big breast
  • las caderas anchas (lahs kah-DEH-rahs AHN-chahs): wide hips
  • la cintura pequeña (lah seen-TOO-rah peh-KEH-neeah): small waist
  • la nariz fina y respingada (lah nah-REEZ FEE-nah): fine nose
  • las piernas torneadas (lahs pee-EHR-nahs tohr-neh-AH-dahs): toned legs
  • las curvas (lahs KOOR-vahs): the curves (refers to a curvy body)
  • la piel tersa (lah pee-EHL TEHR-sah): silky skin

Note that these first seven words refer to the traditional 'ideal' things that a woman's body would have. Now, we have some words that refer to things women can use/wear to enhance their beauty as society generally considers them part of los estándares de belleza.

  • el maquillaje (ehl mah-kee-YAH-heh): make-up
  • el peinado impecable (ehl peh-ee-NAH-doh eem-peh-KAH-bleh): impeccable hair-do
  • el perfume (ehl pehr-FOO-meh): perfume
  • las uñas pintadas lahs OO-neeah peen-TAH-dahs): painted nails


Now, let's see what Eduardo can say about this.

  • Tradicionalmente, en América Latina y en España, cabello largo se considera como un estándar fundamental de la belleza femenina. (Traditionally, in Latin America and in Spain, long hair is considered a basic standard of feminine beauty.)
  • Igualmente, la mujer bella ideal tiene el busto grande, las caderas anchas, la cintura pequeña y las piernas torneadas. (Similarly, the ideal beautiful woman has big breasts, wide hips, small waist, and toned legs.)
  • Sin embargo, actualmente las sociedades en América Latina y en España han cambiado mucho. (However, currently we see that societies in Latin America and in Spain have changed a lot.) Los parámetros de belleza son variados. (Beauty parameters vary.) Una piel tersa, por ejemplo, puede ser suficiente para que otras personas consideren bella a una mujer. (Silky skin, for example, can be enough for other people to consider a woman beautiful.)
  • A pesar de todo, el maquillaje es un aspecto que sigue siendo parte fundamental de la vida diaria de las mujeres. (Despite all this, make-up is an aspect that continues to be a basic part of daily life for most women.)

Translation: The plastic surgery industry in Latin America is successful because many go after physical perfection.

Men's Beauty

Here are some common words to refer to los estándares de belleza masculinos (masculine beauty standards) in Spanish-speaking countries:

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