beauty is only skin deep

Physical beauty is superficial. It tells us nothing about what’s under the skin. Similar phrases are:

All that glitters is not gold.
Appearances are deceptive.
Internal reality is often different from external looks.
Never judge by appearances.
Never judge a book by its cover.
The cowl does not make the monk.

This proverb was first found in a work by Sir Thomas Overbury, 1613:

“All the carnall beauty of my wife, Is but skin deep.”

‘Skin deep’ is now also used to allude to anything superficial. An early use of this was also attributed to Overbury in 1613, in Ordinary Fencer Works:

“His wounds are seldome above skin-deep.”

There is an old jingle by Anonymous, which uses the famous beauty line. It reads: “Beauty is but skin deep, ugly lies the bone;/ Beauty dies and fades away, but ugly holds its own.”

An ugly, pock-marked skin often covers a beautiful character.

A beautifully wrapped Christmas or birthday present, with ribbons and bows, may hide a very boring gift. 

I have never been guilty of giving a beautifully wrapped gift. Mine are usually books (square things are so easy to wrap) and glued together with yards of transparent tape, which turns out not to be so transparent when it’s in layers. Somehow, though, people alway seems to know what’s inside. Books may be easy to wrap, but they’re also easy to identify by touch and weight. At least the title is a surprise.

Gift bags were made for people like me, and I’m grateful to whoever thought up that one.

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