19.2.17

Looking At Beauty Through The Eyes Of A Dermatologist


Dr. Shazia Ali
Why certain faces attract envious glances, possess the invisible power to turn heads, and invoke a certain chemistry of attraction with human visual cortex? More importantly, what qualities make such faces so special that they can unintentionally become the focus of any lens; ogled and admired by all eyes that happen to gaze upon them? Can we measure attractiveness and recreate it and if the answer is yes, can we impart it onto the faces that genetically lack it? Questions, catechism and more queries — Aesthetic medicine has been on a quest for forever and more to find out answers to questions like these. 

Is beauty divine and bestowed by God only or can mortal hands recreate them?
Beauty might be divine in origin but if we can set benchmarks and quantify it — once that is done that we can attempt to recreate it. Actually plastic surgeons and aesthetic doctors have been carving beautiful visages out of ordinary faces for years now. Ancient Greeks believed beauty lies in the mathematical proportions of a face, rather than just being in the eye of the beholder. 

Golden Proportions of beauty

Lets follow this train of thought and see where it leads us.

 What defines a beautiful face? — Looking from the perspectives of poets, painters and sculptures a unique set of pretty features arranged in a certain mathematical proportion to one another creates a fascinating face. The individual features that invoke beauty include: a smooth convex forehead, a symmetrical set of big eyes highlighted by arched brows, small nose, voluptuous lips, dainty chin, high cheek bones and a chiseled jaw-line, Being a dermatologist I’d add perfectly flawless and radiant skin to this mix and we have perennial beauty at our hands.

Looking At Facial Features:
Research linking beauty to evolutionary psychology has shown that attractiveness perception comes from how our brain perceives information in general coupled with adaptations for mate choice because attractive traits signal important aspects of mate quality, such as health and fertility.

From an evolutionary standpoint, fuller faces indicate heart health and immunity to infections. So, to some degree, we are programmed to be more attracted to certain faces over others. Sexual dimorphism, a fancy term for sex-specific traits, is one of the major factors in determining what we find beautiful. The more feminine a woman’s features are, the more attractive she’s perceived to be through a male set of eyes. For women, things like large eyes, a small nose and fuller lips are generally found to be more attractive since they are considered to enhance facial femininity.

Take home message at this point is: if you don’t look like Angelina Jolie it doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. It’s important to note that it’s less about your specific features than it is about the overall face. In other words, as long as your features collectively feminize your face (even if you have a larger nose or thinner lips, for instance), you’re still considered pretty in a male visual cortex. If high cheekbones contribute to greater femininity, then the total look would be perceived to be attractive. Not necessarily just the high cheekbones on their own.

The overall face and the proportion of features compared to each other give a face an attractive advantage over others. Aesthetic doctors use this fact, while they remodel faces using surgical or non-surgical treatments.

The perceptions of beauty also differ from one cultural to another and also across timelines (old time period to modern times). Like these days among Caucasians model-skinny or angular faces are considered ideal. While in Asian and Arab cultures more fuller and contoured faces are considered attractive, which used to be popular in older times in Caucasian societies as depicted by renaissance literature and art.
East vs West Beauty Standards

A study done at St. Andrews University few years back showed that facial adiposity, or the perception of weight in the face, was actually rated as more attractive to men. From an evolutionary standpoint, fuller faces indicate agreeable cardiovascular health and immunity to other infections. Good health equals healthy babies. At least that may have been our ancestors’ unconscious reasoning. Symmetry and average-ness are also equally important when it comes to perceptions of beauty. Believe it or not, being average is cool. Both appear to indicate high variations in individual proteins, which lead to fewer birth defects in offspring.

Cognitive researchers Dr. Kang Lee and Dr. Pam Pallett published a study in 2010 that attempted at explaining the key factors that determine how attractive a woman’s face may appear to others. According to their research the distance between a woman’s eyes and the distance between her eyes and her mouth holds the key to her attractiveness. They also suggested in the study that keys to attractiveness include facial ratio, alluring features, symmetry and average-ness.

Facial Symmetry is considered beautiful because it rules out a history of poor developmental stability early on —for example, a major illness or a nutrition deficiency (which could lead to asymmetrical features). Evolutionary psychologists believe humans have evolved to find healthy facial features attractive, and symmetrical facial features are a good indication of health. Anti aging research has shown that as we grow older the asymmetry of the face becomes exaggerated, hence asymmetry is linked with aging and fading beauty.

Facial Features Average-ness Another reason you might be considered attractive is because you’re familiar. In a study at Brandeis University, there was a higher rate of agreement among close friends, siblings and spouses on what they considered attractive among strangers, suggesting that attractiveness has a strong social component, too. People who have already formed romantic relationships idealize their partner’s facial features, so they actually perceive them to be more physically attractive than other people would. These days movies and media also have a strong influence on what we perceive as beautiful. Like in certain societies big lips are considered a mark of beauty, while in other cultures high cheek-bones and chiseled jaw-line is considered more beautiful compared to a more chubby and rounded face.

Aging & Beauty
Aging changes in face
As we age all layers of our face under go changes. Skin looses collagen and elastin, which makes face look tired, dehydrated and wrinkled. Fat compartments under the skin begin to loose volume. These changes happen much earlier in the mobile areas of face like mid-cheeks and under the eye area compared to the sides of the face. As a result face does not age uniformly, mid-face volume loss leads to deep smile lines, drooping of corners of mouth and hanging jowls. Bones, which provide the solid foundation for all soft tissue layers of our face, also loose volume over time. Maximum change is seen in the glabellar (forehead), maxillary (center of face and upper lip area), lateral projection of zygoma (cheeks) and mandible (jawline) areas due to bone loss with aging. More bone loss in certain regions of face contributes to the further asymmetry of face as we age. When we gaze upon a young face our attention is drawn to eyes and lips, which is hallmarked as the triangle of youth. In contrast when we inspect an older face, our attention is caught by the drooping jawline and hollowing of mid-face, which looks like as if the triangle of youth has been inverted.
Inverted triangle of youth

Aesthetic Treatments: Working in partnership with an aesthetic doctor you can restore, as well as enhance the golden proportions and symmetry of face with injectable soft tissue implants and neurotoxins. No facial treatment can be deliver aesthetically pleasant results if the person doing the treatment does noy understand the basics of Beauty and youthfulness. So while selecting your doctor you have to remember — Can any doctor inject beauty into your face? Answer is not really, only aesthetically inclined doctors that study beauty and understand the golden proportions of a beautiful face can artistically elevate an ordinary face into a much sought after beauty.

Looking At Skin:
A luminous, unblemished complexion is a strong factor to contribute towards attractiveness. Studies suggest there are mainly two reasons for that: Flawless skin indicates good health and youth. Smooth and relatively hairless skin indicates low levels of androgens and high estrogen. Both indicate fertility. What’s more, skin free of acne and other dermatological issues is perceived to carry healthy genes (hence, greater chances of producing healthy babies). A study published in the journal of European academy of dermatology and venereology in 2007, suggested that the skin topography indicates youth and color distribution indicates health of a person. Hence these two factors make skin look attractive and alluring — so get on the good side of your dermatologist.

Aesthetic Treatments: Injectable soft tissue fillers or fat can be used to bring proportion back to face compensating the loss of volume with age or to recreate the genetically blessed proportions of beauty.

By working on your skin with a dermatologist you can achieve clear, healthy and youthfully radiant skin. Treatments that stimulate production of new, non-fragmented collagen provide substantial improvement to the appearance and health of aged skin. These treatments along with improving the skin hydration with non-crosslinked hyaluronic acid can elevate skin from being ordinary to full of life radiant.