In today's world every judgment is made in a moment - depending on how beautiful one is on the outside.
There is nothing morally wrong with that - it's a basic reaction that's impossible to ignore: we're all hard-wired to sift, sort, pigeon-hole and put aside according to what first greets us, namely the physiognomy and physicality of a person.
Beauty today is looking like David Beckham or Cheryl Cole. The question is: how far have we realigned our notions of ugly? Is ugly now just normal - that is, simply not beautiful?
"There is a common consensus as to what constitutes beauty and this consists of certain feature proportions and properties of the face that can be measured," The Independent quoted Dr Chris Solomon of the University of Kent as saying.
A study of ugliness shows the progression of cultural attitudes far more clearly than merely observing the changes in what we deem attractive. Ideas of ugliness alter much more fluidly than classic notions of beauty.
"Although people do share a common consensus on beauty, this doesn't translate directly into attraction. A less perfect or beautiful face can often be considered more attractive than an 'unattainable' ideal beauty. For example, 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' is probably better expressed as 'attraction is in the eye of the beholder'," said Solomon.
And, while we remain in general quite some way off the beauty ideals held up for us by magazines and ad campaigns, we also recognise them to be unachievable - so we impersonate them through, say cosmetic surgery.
"I never, ever want to change someone's appearance. I want to improve what they have. People come in with their own expectations of ugly and beautiful, and they want to find a way to measure up to that," said cosmetic surgeon Roberto Viel.
To some extent, the power to be either beautiful or ugly now falls to the individual rather than to the gaze of others, according to how much they bother or, indeed, how much they even care.
"We can certainly make the best of our assets in a way that I suspect would have been more difficult 100 years ago, so ugliness probably exists less now," said Solomon.