What is the Golden Proportion?

FACIAL ATTRACTIVENESS

The face is a combination of distinct features and characteristics that make us all unique. It is the first thing noticed by others as the primary aesthetic unit of the body, and it is a key factor in all stages of human courtship. Facial features play a huge role in confidence, self-esteem and identity as we associate beauty with our positive qualities. Psychologists have shown that people with ‘attractive’ faces are often perceived as intelligent, friendlier, healthier, and even superior in their skills. They are more likely to be hired, promoted and well looked after.

We unconsciously process facial attractiveness based on 4 key elements

  1. Facial proportion – this is the overall mathematical balance of the face and its features
  2. Skin Uniformity – this includes skin texture, tightness, and evenness of pigmentation
  3. Symmetry – we naturally gravitate towards things that are neat, orderly, and symmetrical
  4. Averageness – those considered to look ‘normal’

As well as the face, the hair framing it and the teeth set in your smile are extra features that also contribute to the level of attractiveness.

Youthfulness is sometimes considered the 5th element but is not always relevant, as we often find older men, or ‘silver foxes’, more attractive.

Youthfulness is generally characterised by a smooth texture and even colouration of the skin. Higher points on the face such as the forehead, cheekbones and chin reflect light whilst shadows in the contours of the face accentuate the highlighted areas. A younger face will have light and shade in the correct locations on the face, with soft transitions between the areas. The top of the face also has more volume than the bottom as the tissues haven’t migrated yet and the skin hasn’t sagged. Comparisons with old photographs make this concept plainly evident.

The structure and organisation of skin, muscle, fat and bone determine what the face looks like. These anatomical elements in 3D are appreciated as youthful ‘arcs of convexity’. An older face, with these convex arcs properly recreated, can give the illusion of looking several years younger.

FACIAL PROPORTION

Artists and sculptors dating back to the times of Ancient Greece have found the concept of proportional balance is interesting for those studying the human form. To this day, it is recognised that facial attractiveness stems partially from the balance of facial features.

Works by artists such as Leonardo DaVinci have shown observations of the phenomenon of proportion. The face is considered attractive when the measurements of certain features are mathematically harmonious. The GOLDEN RATIO or DIVINE PROPORTION value also known as PHI PROPORTION which is equal to 1.618:1. Leonardo DaVinci  presented  Vitruvian Man (below) and Male Head in Profile with Proportions to  outline his observations of this phenomenon. Among this work and others, the observation is similar:  when the dimensions of one facial element  are mathematically harmonious (based on measured length,width, etc.) with the dimensions of other features, we usually find that face attractive. This value is appealing to the human eye in all things. Automobiles such as Aston Martins and Ferraris are often designed with this ratio in mind, as are corporate logos (e.g. Apple), so that they are visually attractive.

For example, these two faces below are identical except for the jaw. When a nose of specific shape and size is paired with a weak chin (left), it looks too large and is unattractive. However, with a more pronounced chin, the nose looks in proportion to the rest of the face.

Another example is the proportional balance of the eyes and nose. Relatively, large eyes with small noses are considered infantile and so this proportion can be attractive. The phrase ‘baby face’ often results as the individual is seen as ‘cute’. By comparison, a large nose and small eyes can be quite ageing.

The concept of balance is important when carrying out aesthetics treatments to make the face more attractive and/or more youthful. The aim should be to address the imbalance and harmonise the facial elements, by enlarging or reducing the size of structural elements, or both.

SKIN UNIFORMITY

Ageing is a fact of life. Youthful and attractive skin changes over time in three primary ways:

  • Skin Texture
  • Variety of blemishes
  • Pigmentation

The main cause of ageing is harmful exposures to the sun and other pollutants. The structure of the skin begins to break down at a microscopic level as proteins, such as collagen and elastin, and sugars, such as hyaluronic acid, are damaged or lost. The skin loses its support and strength to remain tight yet soft, smooth and supple. This manifests visually as lines, wrinkles and the loss of smoothness, none of which are desirable. Often the skin texture may be described as ‘leathery’.

Whilst blemishes such as blackheads, pimples and acne are common in younger people, particularly teenagers, a different kind of blemish can occur on ageing skin. New skin growths including skin tags, moles and fibromas can develop. Whilst these are mostly benign, they represent an aesthetic detraction for the face and reduce the level of attractiveness.

The skins pigment is made consistently by surface skin cells during our youth. However, ageing and skin damage from harmful exposures can create patches of hyperpigmentation. Known as dyschromia the skins colour and tone is no longer even and adds to the skins aged appearance. Those with naturally darker skin may develop Melasma, a condition with significant dark patches.

SYMMETRY

It is agreed by psychologists that facial symmetry is unconsciously processed by the brain to suggest better genetics and therefore a natural attraction for a desirable mate may occur. Studies support this theory as men and women with more symmetrical features are found to have an increased number of sexual partners and infidelities.

The concept of symmetry is also important when carrying out aesthetics treatments to make the face more attractive. Any asymmetry should be addressed to bring all the facial elements into pleasing symmetry, usually by enhancing one side of the face to match the other.

AVERAGENESS

This refers to how much one person’s appearance looks like the average of the population. This average varies geographically between countries, communities and cultures. Studies has shown it can affect your perception of one’s attractiveness. For example, those from a community where small noses are common will be more attracted to those with small noses. Remarkably, those from multicultural populations are attracted to those with mixed ethnic features. Unconciously, we may be attracted to the average looking person because we associate them with good genetic makeup, thus giving an indication of health and fertility.

Using composite photography, researchers took the faces of contestants from the Miss Universe pageant in 2005 and blended them together to form the average face. When asked to compare these average faces with the real contestants, individuals were found to be more likely to choose the average as the more attractive

SEXUAL DIMORPHISM

Throughout the animal kingdom, many species have shown physical characteristics that allow a differentiation between males and females, usually to assist mating rituals. A great example is the peacock – the males display their iconic colourful feathers in order to attract a female mate.

As babies, boys and girls look very similar with slight physical differences. However, as we age, we develop distinct masculine or feminine characteristics due to hormonal exposure, particularly in facial features. These include the size of eyebrows, eyes and nose and the shape of jaw, cheeks and lips. The overall shape of the face also contributes to the masculinity or femininity of the individual. Rectangular faces are more masculine whereas feminine faces are more oval or heart-shaped

This image demonstrates the difference in femininity and masculinity of the face.

Subtle differences here include the shape of the face as well as thinner brows, rounder eyes, smaller nose and fuller lips in the feminine versions compared the masculine. When the face conforms to the ‘correct’ features for that individuals sex, it is usually considered more desirable as these traits play a role in physical attraction for mating.

Famous examples of males and females conforming to these criteria include Brad Pitt, David Beckham, Sophia Loren and Racquel Welch, all of whom are considered sexy.

To conclude, we consider attractiveness unconsciously. We see smooth and uniformly pigmented skin on a symmetrical and proportionally balanced heart-shaped or oval face with elements that reflect the average in that population and we’re instantly drawn towards that as attractive and desirable. We’re also drawn towards attractive features such as high round cheekbones, large eyes, full lips in ladies, and strong jawlines in men. The human brain is drawn unrestrainedly to this to automatically think ‘This looks great’.

THE PROCESS OF FACIAL AGEING

It is fascinating that whilst the face plays a major role in our identity, it remains constantly changing as we age. We all have a preferred form of the face from a particular point in our lives. For some this may during their 20s, 30s, or even 40s. Early facial ageing can bring the face into better balance to the point where it is most attractive. However, the problem of continual ageing means that the face looks worse and worse over time, and the attractive phase never lasts.

Many find their eyes begin to look tired and the skin loses its freshness. We develop lines and wrinkles, often these can be obvious. New dark and light patches may appear. The eyelids may become saggy with extra folds of skin whilst the under eyes become pockets of fullness, or bag. Lips can become thinner and tissues in the lower cheeks and under the chin usually sag.

The once youthful face with soft accentuating shadows becomes aged with sharp and narrow shadows with well-defined facial zones soon becoming isolated and obvious.

The relative dimensions of the face also change drastically. For example, the under-eye area and upper cheek has a seamless transition in youth. However, in the aged face, this is replaced with a line that clearly separates the two areas. The vertical height of the under-eye area also increases, shown here in green on Angelina Jolie. The height of the cheek is reduced, the forehead becomes narrow and elongated, whilst the lower face becomes wider and is shortened.

There are actually multiple changes occurring in the face, causing the overall ageing, at three primary levels – the skin, the soft tissue, and the bone. The skin surface is changed in texture as it takes on blemishes and pigmentation. Fat and bone loss or shrinkage (atrophy) in targeted regions of the face leave it remodelled in 3D. These changes result in an older appearance that is less attractive.

The remodelling of bone due to age can be seen in the image below. The left image shows a typical younger skull whilst the right image is an older skull. There are obvious changes seen in the volumes and shapes of the eye sockets (orbits) and the cheekbones. The area around the eyes (especially below) have been significantly remodelled when compared. This can be seen in the skulls as well as the Angelina example above.

This remodelling is readily apparent after the age of 50. The bone acts ask a strong platform of physical support for the overlying muscle and fat tissues and the skin. The results of these changes and loss of this support mean skin is left appearing loose and saggy.

There are also notable changes in fat tissues and the skin. The skin loses its elasticity over time and so cannot support the deflation of the bone and soft tissue under it. Fatty deposits may shrink (atrophy) with more emphasis in specific areas and at specific depths throughout the face.

The 3-dimensional roundness of the face is lost as a result, especially in the upper two-thirds of the face. This causes sagging, remodelling of facial tissues and a change in the entire face shape and contour. The lower third of the face also appears fuller as a result.

The overall alteration in fundamental shape is processed unconsciously by the brain as ‘older’. As we age into our 50s and 60s, we lose the youthful arcs of convexity in our faces, one after the other.