But we encountered no shortage of stunners when we put the call out for women who represent real beauty, inside and out.
More than 10,000 women submitted their photos to PEOPLE for our third-annual contest, and readers voted for their favorites in four age categories (20s, 30s, 40s and 50s). Meet your winners: Kimberly T., 22, Houston; Nazy M., 39, Los Angeles; Courtney M., 40, Chicago; and Elissa C., 55, Salisbury, Mass.
Each woman defined what it means to be beautiful on their own terms.
“Age is only a number,” says 50s category winner Elissa, who maintains her youthful appearance through yoga, weight-training, walking, cycling, snowshoeing, swimming and developing a community garden with her husband.
Adds Nazy, a wardrobe stylist who nabbed top honors in the 30s category: “The only beauty that lasts is inner beauty.”
But when it comes to looking good, 20s winner Kimberly has a simple but important tip that she makes time for, even though she’s busy studying for her nursing degree in oncology. “Take care of your skin when you are young,” she says. “You’ll thank yourself in the future!”
For the real beauties, a true glow comes from looking beyond their own mirrors. That’s what Courtney, the former marketing executive who won the 40s category, tries to impart to her two young daughters.
“Your body makes you sexy, your face makes you pretty,” she says, “but your mind makes you beautiful.”
See more Real Beauties in this week’s special issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday