Wednesday, August 4

Facial asymmetry: when is it a problem that both halves of the face are not the same?


No human face is symmetrical. If an imaginary vertical line is drawn right down the middle of anyone’s face – that is, running across it from forehead to chin – the right side is never an exact (albeit inverted) replica of the left side. There are always differences, even if they are very subtle.

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In fact, that’s one of the reasons why so many people like the way it looks in the mirror but hate being in photos. The reflection in the glass shows an inverted image; the photos, on the other hand, offer the “real” look.

If the faces were symmetrical, both representations would match. But that is not what happens. This dislike of one’s own photos is usually due to the fact that the person does not see the face that looks familiar (the one who contemplates every day in the mirror) but a slightly different one.

Of course, there are degrees: from barely perceptible asymmetries to very pronounced ones. Some studies Scientists have postulated that the more symmetrical a face is, the more beautiful and attractive it will turn out, and there is even jobs who have suggested that facial symmetry would be an indication of higher “genetic quality”.

Such ideas, however, have been questioned on numerous occasions. A recent experiment, carried out in Spain, has added a new objection to these claims.

Facial symmetry and its relation to attractiveness and beauty

The cosmetic company Lookfantastic He asked 500 people if they thought that “symmetrical faces are more attractive than asymmetric ones.” 43% agreed, 41% said they were unsure about whether symmetry is relevant for the beauty of a face and only 15% of respondents disagreed.

However, the results were different when they showed them two photos of the same person and asked them to choose the one that seemed most attractive to them. One of those images was “natural”, without retouching; the other, an edited photo, in which the face wore an unreal symmetry.

In all, they were shown thirty pairs of photos of men and women: twenty celebrities and ten anonymous people of various different ethnicities. In 57% the faces chosen were symmetrical, while in the remaining 43% they opted for the more asymmetrical and therefore more real.

What is more relevant is that none of the respondents always chose the symmetrical photo: all of them opted in some cases for the modified image and in others for the natural one.

Yes a small difference in relation to age. Among the ‘baby boomers’ and older (that is, those who are currently over 55 years old) 47% chose asymmetric faces. In the younger generations – more used to the filters of Instagram and other social networks – that figure drops to 43%.

When facial asymmetry is a problem and what causes it

Sometimes facial asymmetry is a problem. Sometimes for aesthetic reasons: it is no longer a matter of small differences between the two sides that may make a face less attractive, but of a greater lack of harmony – at least for the perception of those who suffer it – that it hurts your self-esteem and their social relationships.

Other cases, meanwhile, exceed the aesthetic and affect the physical health of the person. Specifically, when asymmetries –which are generally manifested in the lower third of the face, that is, the jaw and chin area – alter the occlusion (the bite) or generate orofacial pain (in the mouth, face or neck).

Why do these asymmetries occur? The possible causes are multiple and varied, and can be classified into three groups:

-Geneticsranging from simple family traits to problems such as cleft lip, cleft palate, vascular disorders and other congenital anomalies.

-Acquired, which -explain the studies– include conditions as varied as trauma, fractures, infections of the temporomandibular joint, spots and burns caused by the sun, smoking, arthritis, tumors or other serious pathologies, such as Bell’s palsy.

-Related to the passage of time. Simple aging, in certain cases, accentuates facial asymmetry. Also other processes that tend to occur especially in advanced stages of life, such as loss of teeth or use of dentures.

Even practices like more frequent chewing with one side that with the other of the teeth or sleeping face down (those who have this habit usually do it always supporting the same side of the face) can have these effects in the long term.

By the way, a sudden and very pronounced asymmetry (the so-called “facial drooping”), as well as the sensation of numbness on one side of the face, are usually a symptom of a stroke: if this happens, it should be looked for immediate medical attention.

How are facial asymmetries treated?

In cases where facial asymmetry can be remedied, what is sought is to correct the underlying disorder that generates it. As one explains study review published in 2015, “the treatment of asymmetry it depends on the age of the patient, the etiology of the condition (that is, what is its cause) and the degree of disharmony. ”

Such treatment may consist only of asymmetric orthodontics, which is sufficient in not too serious cases (when the asymmetry is due only to poor tooth placement) or if there is a skeletal problem but it is detected in childhood, when it is still possible to modify the size and position of the bones .

In adults, a orthognathic surgery, which allows correcting the upper jaw, the lower jaw (the mandible) or both. In general, after this type of surgery, orthodontic treatment is also necessary, to adapt the position of the teeth to the new bone situation.

When the asymmetry is not only skeletal but generalized, orthognathic surgery and orthodontics can be accompanied by other aesthetic procedures, such as rhinoplasty (nose operation), blepharoplasty (of the eyelids, the surgery whose demand increased the most during the pandemic), cheek augmentation, mentoplasty (of the chin), etc.

And other resources can also be used, such as a prosthesis or a technique called lipograft or ‘lipofilling’, which consists of extracting fat from the patient’s body, processing it and then injecting it again to reshape a certain area.

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