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Tarnishing Their Own Beauty

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It's true that beauty isn't untarnished, but when it's considered a burden by those who possess it, sometimes they take some drastic measures to not have it anymore. For whatever reason (the most common one is to avoid unwanted attention, but this can vary) a beautiful character (usually female) takes measures to make themselves less attractive than normal. This can range from simply wearing a mask, choosing plainer looks, cutting their hair shorter to performing plastic surgeries to outright disfiguring or mutilating themselves, the latter of which being treated as a extreme and desperate measure since it's considered a great sacrifice and can be easily Played for Drama.

Depressingly, the latter is also Truth in Television; throughout history in any society where slavery was practiced, being a beautiful slave has never been a desirable position since they were often lusted after by their masters, and rape was disturbingly common. Some women even resorted to scarring their own faces so they would turn away any possible abusers. Of course, the less extreme cases are way more common in normal society: not everyone who is naturally attractive wants to be the center of the attention so they want to downplay their beauty just to fit in better.

For the inverse, see Looks Worth Killing For.

Compare with Life-or-Limb Decision, Evil Makes You Ugly, and So Beautiful, It's a Curse. Extreme versions are considered forms of Self-Harm, though it may happen under Power-Upgrading Deformation (especially when the character in question is very attractive or considers themselves as such). Contrast with She Cleans Up Nicely.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Zarbon in Dragon Ball Z is a very Proud Beauty who is pushed into assuming a more powerful second form that leaves him fat and ugly, which he laments using as a matter of vanity.
  • Saki Satou in Interviews with Monster Girls is a succubus that wears tracksuits, glasses and uses an unflattering hairdo in an attempt to make herself more homely. Attempt is the keyword, since she is still considered very gorgeous by everyone she meets, much to her chagrin since she considers herself Blessed with Suck.
    • It's mentioned that Saki is extremely beautiful and would attract men by the dozens even without her uncontrollable lust-aura twisting the minds of every man around her.
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: Miu Furinji puts on glasses and wears her hair in braids to make herself look plainer because she used to get picked on at school because of her looks.
  • Mitsuba Higashikata of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: JoJolion starts off as a vain Jerkass who's going to a shady doctor to enhance her appearance. As it turns out, the doctor's been using her as a guinea pig for the Locacaca fruit, which can heal a damaged or missing body part but turns another part of that person's body to stone as an Equivalent Exchange—and to her horror, Mitsuba discovers that her latest treatment has partially turned her unborn child to stone. After kicking the doctor's ass, Mitsuba takes the fruit again to save her child. It succeeds in exchange for permanently marring her face with a stone nose, which she accepts.
  • Naru from Love Hina deliberately ties her hair into a braid and wears Opaque Nerd Glasses when she goes out in public to keep boys from hitting on her (since she wants to focus on her studies).
  • Mukuro from YuYu Hakusho is horribly scarred on half of her face due to having poured acid on herself when she was younger. She did so because she used to be a Sex Slave and was trying to dissuade her master from raping her.

    Comic Books 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Search, Ursa is offered a much less attractive face by the Mother of Faces to test her sincerity; she accepts the new identity because she's on the run.
  • In the world of Flashpoint, The Joker's Glasgow Smile is self-administered - She was Martha Wayne, but she went mad when her son Bruce died and her husband became the Batman.
  • In Secret Six, Junior disfigured her own body as a result of the sexual abuse from her father, the first Ragdoll.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In The Brothers Grimm's fairy tale "All-Kinds-of-Fur", a princess runs away from home when her father wants to marry her. She demands to have three beautiful dresses made, plus a cloak put together from a thousand kinds of pelts and fur. She thinks it will be impossible. The King delivers, so she puts on the cloak, blacks her hands and face with soot and runs away.
  • In the French fairy tale "Donkeyskin", the king's late wife asks that he only remarry to someone who's beauty equaled her own, who turns out to be his own daughter. The princess flees from this fate, using an enchanted donkey skin cloak to appear dirty and ugly.
  • In the Czech fairy tale "The Princess with a Golden Star on Her Forehead", princess Lada feels she must flee from home when her widowed father forces her to marry him. She's extremely beautiful but covers herself in a coat of mouse fur from head to toe. Nobody thinks her beautiful in that disguise.

  • In The Awakening of a Magus, Tonks, after puberty made her far more beautiful than she used to be, took a habit of maintaining an appearance closer to what she had before, to avoid both accusations of using her powers for personal purposes and unwanted stares.
  • Johanna Mason: They Will Never See Me Cry: After becoming a Sex Slave, Johanna doesn't sink far enough into despair to disfigure herself permanently but does sometimes goad johns into hitting her so the bruises will make her less appealing for the short-term.
  • Magical Puberty (NSFW) has witches and wizards undergo a second puberty before their seventh year, giving strong improvements in... certain bodily attributes depending on the person's magical power. Once Hermione sees the scale of Most Common Superpower and other changes she got overnight, she goes to Hogwarts and asks McGonagall to help hide them with illusions so as not to draw too much attention and let people appreciate her for herself. Turns out the Headmistress is using the needed spells herself for the exact same reason.
  • With Pearl and Ruby Glowing: Phillipe, after Lenny/Lenore confesses to being in love with him, takes a hammer to his face due to all the trauma his looks have caused him, with his first sexual assault happening when he was thirteen to thirty days old.

    Films — Animation 
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The evil Queen, who starts out fairly beautiful, creates a potion to transform herself into a hag so she can disguise herself and kill Snow White. During the transformation, she reacts with horror to the way she's losing her beautiful features.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 1935 short film Buried Loot, Joe, who embezzled $200,000 from his bank (and who is played by dashingly handsome Robert Taylor in one of his first film roles), sets off an explosion to deliberately mangle his own face, in hopes of hiding out from the law.
  • Played with in The Dark Knight, where Joker tells two different stories regarding the smile-like scars on his face (although they're both likely fake): one of them is him having scarred his own face to comfort his wife who was left disfigured after a car accident and couldn't afford plastic surgery.
  • Hellboy (2004): Karl Ruprecht Kroenen's revised origin in the movie explains that he used to have a beautiful face as a child, but developed an extreme form of body dysmorphic disorder (referred in the movie as "surgical addiction"). As a result, he butchered own body by removing his own eyelids, lips, toe, and fingernails. During the movie, he always wears a gas mask to filter out germs, and his real face is shown when he's found supposedly dead and taken to Professor Bruttenholm for the autopsy.
  • In Level 16, Vivian is said to be beautiful with pure skin that has not been exposed to the sun and has had a strict cleaning regimen for her entire life. At the end, she cuts up her own face so that her skin cannot be farmed for a face transplant.
  • The Mountie: After being raped on the ship to Canada, Amethyst scarred her own face so men would not find her attractive any more.
  • In The Film of the Book adaptation of The Princess with the Golden Star, princess Lada goes into hiding to run away from an Arranged Marriage with King Kazisvet. She's disguised in a short coat of mouse fur with a hood to cover her beautiful hair and her golden star.
  • In Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Nancy Callahan scars her own face in order to convince Marv that she got roughed up by Senator Roark, allowing her to enlist him in her campaign of vengeance against the old corrupt bastard.
  • In Snow White & the Huntsman, there is a tribe of women that deliberately scars their faces so that Queen Ravenna won't try to absorb their beauty for herself.
  • The World Is Not Enough: Elektra King cut off a piece of her own ear to make her kidnapping look credible when she had actually seduced her captor, who subsequently felt squeamish about hurting her. However, this disfigurement is hidden behind large earrings until she takes them off to show Bond.

  • Maomao of The Apothecary Diaries is ordinarily a pretty girl, but growing up in the red light district she realized it also meant unwanted attention from men. To save herself the trouble, she applies makeup freckles to her face and dresses in frumpy clothing, due to freckles being an undesirable trait in her time. Not that it saves her from being kidnapped and taken to the Emperor's palace, of course...
  • In the book Beauty by Nancy Ohlin aka Nancy Butcher (a loose retelling of Snow White), Princess Ana is resolved to make herself as unappealing as possible. She does so in order to please her mother Queen Veda, who despises any woman that could threaten Veda's title as "Fairest of Them All." Ana won't wash or brush her hair, she dresses in servant's clothes, and she only eats pastries and moldy cheese to give herself a sickly, blemished complexion.
  • Richard of The Case Files of Jeweler Richard finds his beauty unbearable enough that he considers scarring his own face. He also mentions looking forward to getting old so he will be seen as less attractive.
  • A female character in Dream Park: The Barsoom Project is extremely overweight due to this. She was a beautiful young woman who caught too much male attention and ended up sterile due to a botched abortion. She gained weight as a 'shield' against being pursued by men.
  • In The Dying Earth, Guyal of Sfere is forced to choose the most beautiful girl in the village; he's surprised to find that all the candidates have tried to make themselves look grubby and unkempt. Only when he's made his final decision does he discover why: the winner's prize is to be sacrificed to the demon Blikdak.
  • The Gray Sword series by Iar Elterrus has an extreme example: girls often pay surgeons to scar their bodies or straight up euthanize them because if they are raped in this setting, they are forced to become their abuser's sex slaves.
  • The Heroes of Olympus: Piper McLean is the daughter of Aphrodite, and therefore is very beautiful (to be expected of all her demigod siblings). To avoid attracting unwanted attention, she neglects taking care of herself by keeping her hair unkempt and wearing cheaper clothing.
  • John Carter of Mars: Tavia in Fighting Man of Mars is forced into Tul Axtar's Royal Harem, but manages to escape by disguising herself as a male warrior and cropping her hair short. When Axtar catches her up later, he considers her too masculine-looking for his tastes and leaves her alone, much to The Hero's relief.
  • In the first Rizzoli & Isles novel, Jane Rizzoli's partner notes that while she's not beautiful, she isn't necessarily bad-looking either and that her appearance suffers more from the fact that she deliberately downplays whatever attractiveness she does have—she doesn't wear makeup and dresses in drab, unflattering pantsuits.
  • Tobias Brogan from the third book of the Sword of Truth series has a plain looking sister named Lunetta. The ending of the book reveals that, in order not to distract people from her more important (in her opinion) brother, she was using a magical artifact to conceal her much more attractive real looks from everyone including Tobias - except for, it is implied, when she needed to help the little brother relieve some stress.
  • Tortall Universe: In the Trickster's Duet, aristocrat Aly never stops being proud of her looks, but quickly decides they'll attract unwanted attention when she's kidnapped and sold as a slave, so she deliberately disfigures herself while in the pens. An onlooker recognizes why she's doing it, but remarks that some people would prefer concubinage to the backbreaking lives of labor slaves.
  • The Wheel of Time: Lanfear is considered the World's Most Beautiful Woman by everyone she meets and being a Master of Illusion, she can make herself look like anything she wants. She appears to be a 20-year-old young woman, but it's revealed that her true form is slightly older and even more beautiful, so she uses her magic to actually tone down her good looks.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: In "Guide to Mentors", Moze is teaching a class of fifth graders who can't pay attention because each and every one of them is attracted to her. To get around this issue, she deliberately makes herself look and act disgusting, forcing them to stop looking at her.
  • Victorious: In "Freak the Freak Out", Tori disguises herself as an ugly girl, as a scheme to be picked to compete against two girls in a singing contest. Since she looked like a nerdy loser, Hayley and Tara thought they had a sure chance of beating "Ugly Betty". When Tori starts singing on stage, she slowly rips off her disguise and reveals her true self.
  • Batwoman (2019). In "Grinning from Ear to Ear", while as a teenager the Villain of the Week smashed her dressing room mirror and used the shards to inflect a Glasgow Grin on herself. Towards the end of the episode she willingly lets supervillain Alice remove her face to use as a disguise, declaring the end result as "I'm finally perfect".

    Myths & Religion 
  • There is a Buddhist parable about a woman who goes to join a monastery. She is told that she is too beautiful to join, as it would distract the men from their spirituality. Very calmly, she picks up a brick that was lying on the ground, puts it in the fire, and burns her face. Then, she says "I hope the burn doesn't distract you." In some versions, she also cuts her hair.
  • In the Books of Samuel, Tamar covers her face with ashes in complete grief after being violated by her half-brother Amnon.
  • There is the legend of Wilgefortis, who prayed for God to make her ugly so as to escape an unwanted marriage. She grew a beard overnight. Her father crucified her in anger.


    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • A Dance with Rogues uses it as a minor gameplay element. The Princess can do this (by wearing beggar clothes or rubbing her face with ashes) in order to be less noticeable by the locale male bystanders (and thus less likely to be molested), which in term of game stats results in a temporary Charisma debuff. One of the lessons during the thief training sessions at the beginning of the story actually requires to do this.
  • In Icewind Dale 2, there's a powerful two-handed sword you can find that has a backstory as having been given to a group of women when they prayed to the god of vengeance for something to keep them from being used as sex slaves. He responded by giving them a dagger that they used to scar their own faces. As each one was cut, the dagger grew larger until it finally became its in-game size.
  • One world in Final Fantasy Legend II is controlled by the goddess Venus, and she only allows beautiful people to live in her city. Near the climax of the world's plotline, a woman facing an Arranged Marriage gives herself a scar in order to force Venus to exile her instead of going through with it. (At which point your party decides enough is enough and ends Venus's reign by killing her.)
  • In Ensemble Stars!, Makoto does a very mild version of this as a general rule - as he is considered highly sought-after as a model due to his beautiful face, but modelling made him absolutely miserable, he wears glasses whenever he can. In the main story, after he is kidnapped my Izumi in an attempt to make him part of Knights and keep him from going back to Trickstar, he threatens a much more permanent version, telling Izumi he'll beat up his face so he's not beautiful anymore unless he releases him. He even starts to do it, but when it hurts even more than he anticipated, he switches to foley work making it merely sound like he's beating his face up. It's not entirely clear whether Izumi was upset that his face was being ruined or because Makoto was hurting himself, but he does release him as a result.
  • Blasphemous has a character in the backstory who was so beautiful the people of her town worshiped her instead of the Miracle. Horrified by their blasphemy, she poured boiling oil on her own face to destroy that beauty. The Miracle being what it is, her facial wounds never healed, leading people to canonize her in life as Our Lady of the Charred Visage.


    Western Animation 
  • Castlevania: Sypha Belnades wears very long and heavy robes and sports a Boyish Short Hair (in contrast to the games, where she had long hair) because it's safer to travel on the roads.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Mistmane willingly gave up her own youth and beauty in order to restore her friend, Sable, back to her former glory along with the rest of her home.
  • American Dad!: When Francine and Stan decide to renew their wedding vows, Stan makes it clear that the only reason he married her was that she was beautiful, and that he doesn't care about her personality and is not really interested knowing everything about her. When she leaves the house and stays with her parents, as per tradition, she comes back, unkempt and overweight, in order to teach Stan not to be so shallow. Stan counters by using CIA technology to make himself blind so he won't see her. Since his blindness will render him unable to work, Francine agrees to become better looking again because she doesn't work, being happy to be a good-looking housewife.
  • Inside Job: In the episode "Whoas-feratu," Reagan and Gigi find themselves needing to sneak into a red carpet event unnoticed, which Gigi protests as impossible for her due to her lacking Reagan's "frumpy privilege", leading Reagan to give her a "makeunder" to cancel her attractiveness out. It works.

    Real Life 
  • From a meta perspective, this trope is really egregious in acting where attractive performers of either gender are cast to play ugly, older, or monstrous characters; see Beauty Inversion.
  • Æbbe of Coldingham (also known as Æbbe the Younger to differentiate her from the one that came before) was an abbess at a Benedictine Abbey in ninth-century Scotland. According to legend, she cut off her own nose and instructed the nuns under her command to do the same in order to avoid rape at the hands of Viking invaders. Accounts of her actions might very well be the origin of the phrase "cutting off the nose to spite the face".
  • A Yazidi girl desperately burned herself to avoid being raped by ISIS terrorists.
  • Depressingly common in religious or cultural circles that practice purity culture and modesty doctrine. Women in these groups will sometimes stop eating so as to lose or better hide curves that men generally find appealing because they're terrified of accidentally "leading some guy on," or "causing him to fall from grace." Frighteningly, many of those same girls and women are praised for being models of self-control and respectability, thus reinforcing this behavior.
  • Sinead O'Connor shaved her head after being told she was only popular for her beauty. She kept it that way for the rest of her life.
  • The practice of breast ironing, which is the process of pounding or massaging a young girl's developing breasts with hot, heavy objects to flatten them out. This is almost always done with the intention of protecting these girls from rape.