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The closest thing I could think of was self-conscious. According to Wikipedia:

Self-consciousness is an acute sense of self-awareness. It is a preoccupation with oneself, as opposed to the philosophical state of self-awareness, which is the awareness that one exists as an individual being.

It doesn't seem to refer to one's physical appearance, though.

Is there a word to convey that?

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  • Where is your definition from? Have you found any definitions that lean towards appearance? If not, where have you looked?
    – Hank
    Dec 20, 2016 at 15:17
  • You can be self-conscious about different aspects of yourself: appearance, voice, personality, height, weight, posture, etc. You're looking for specifically "self-conscious about appearance"?
    – John Feltz
    Dec 20, 2016 at 15:17
  • I would also avoid quoting Wikipedia for your definitions.
    – Hank
    Dec 20, 2016 at 15:18
  • 9
    You're so vain, you probably think this comment's about you, don't you, don't you?
    – Dan Bron
    Dec 20, 2016 at 15:19
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    Are you talking about someone who actually worries about not looking good enough (i.e., as a type of self-conscious insecurity), or someone who—like most comments and answers here suggest—simply devotes too much time to obsessing over tiny details in their appearance and looking just right all the time. The two are very different phenomena, and though they may both result in the person looking impeccable, the level of self-esteem that drives them is miles apart. Dec 20, 2016 at 17:49

6 Answers 6

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Vain:

excessively proud of or concerned about one's own appearance, qualities, achievements, etc.; conceited:

Someone who always wants to make sure they look good / make sure they don't look bad, is vain. However, it conveys want rather than worry, so may not be a perfect fit.

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    +1 AndyT, but, i don't necessarily agree w/ your assessment of want v. worry. I tripped and broke my nose once - wiped it over to the side. I managed to convince a lady doctor to "put it back" for me, but, I was allergic to the only anesthesia she had available. Sheer vanity was the only thing that kept me in the chair while she worked - motivated solely by my worry of how my mother would react if she saw the mess I had made of my face.
    – Oldbag
    Dec 20, 2016 at 15:45
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    @Oldbag - I don't think I've got the wording completely right. I was trying to get across that the word "vain" is not normally related to "worry", and if its used without other context it implies the fop/dandy meaning in Jared's answer, which I'm not sure is a good fit for the OP's question. That said, I'm not sure I'd count your situation as vanity, but I think that's down to nuances of individual interpretation of the word.
    – AndyT
    Dec 20, 2016 at 17:16
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    @Oldbag But that’s not “constantly worrying about your appearance”. It’s worrying about a specific part of your appearance for a specific reason at a specific time. I wouldn’t call that vanity at all. Someone who constantly worries that their makeup is running, their hair is out of whack, their jeans make them look too fat, their shirt makes it look like they have a pot-belly, their eyebrows are uneven, their ears are too big, etc.—that’s someone who constantly worries about their appearance in a very self-conscious way. Dec 20, 2016 at 17:47
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Superficial might be a good choice. While it can apply to things other than personal appearance, it is defined by Merriam Webster as concerned only with surface aspects or obvious features. Shallow is another similar option.

If you are looking for a word that expresses more of an emotional reason for the obsession with one's appearance, perhaps insecure might work. M-W says: not confident or sure,deficient in assurance : beset by fear and anxiety. Again, it can apply to things other than appearance.

I liked your suggestion of "self-conscious".

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Fop:

a man who is devoted to or vain about his appearance or dress

Someone who is obsessed over their appearance. This would be someone who cares very much about his appearance. A synonym would be:

Dandy:

plural: dandies

a man who gives exaggerated attention to personal appearance

Same as fop, but more commonly used.

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  • Pretty sure these are gender-specific.... Dec 20, 2016 at 17:41
  • @Cascabel yup, I find it very offensive (?) too. Dec 5, 2017 at 19:37
  • One can and IMO should avoid it’s use if it’s offensive but that doesn’t change it’s meaning. I mean it doesn’t make answer unacceptable in case that was implied.
    – old-monk
    Jan 25, 2020 at 22:50
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I would describe that person as being narcissistic

Narcissist:

noun

  1. a person who is overly self-involved, and often vain and selfish.
  2. Psychoanalysis. a person who suffers from narcissism, deriving erotic gratification from admiration of his or her own physical or mental attributes.

I emphasized "physical" per your question.


Upon searching for "narcissistic" via Google, it comes up with:

adjective

having an excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one's physical appearance.

but I do not know Google's source for the definition.

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There is a psychological term that might work for you, if the worry is truly constant. Body dysmorphic disorder (sometimes body dysmorphia)

is a mental disorder in which you can't stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance . . . . When you have body dysmorphic disorder, you intensely obsess over your appearance and body image, repeatedly checking the mirror, grooming or seeking reassurance, sometimes for many hours each day.

(From the Mayo Clinic's Patient Care & Health Information)

Note that the perceived flaw can be anything, including obvious things like weight but also things like obsessing about a particular body part, and that it is usually unnoticeable to other people. A commonly related disorder is anorexia, whose sufferers may believe that they look fat even as they starve to death. (See, e.g., this article.)

This is distinct from traditional notions of vanity, as the obsession with appearance generally does not arise from pleasure or pride in that appearance. Narcissus, for example, fell in love with his own reflection (Wikipedia). A sufferer of body dysmorphia, on the other hand, may also spend an inordinate amount of time looking at his or her reflection, but would be distressed by what he or she saw there.

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Neat

"habitually orderly and clean in appearance or habits: a neat person."

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