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Don’t Assume Selfies Show True Facial Features

Person holding phone out in front of face taking selfie photo

Polina Tankilevitch/

The more than 100 million cell phone selfies taken every day have produced an unanticipated outcome: a documented uptick in plastic surgery. Younger women in particular are increasingly showing cosmetic surgeons their selfies to demonstrate why they want to change the size or shape of their nose, but these concerns may be based on a distorted perception because selfies distort facial features, say researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern. In their study involving 30 subjects, they took one photo 12 inches from the face with the arm bent and another at 18 inches with the arm straight. When comparing the 12-inch selfies against a third photo taken five feet away, the researchers found that, on average, the nose appeared over 6 percent longer and the chin seemed 12 percent shorter. This created a distortion total of over 17 percent in the nose-to-chin ratio. Selfies also made the base of the nose appear wider relative to the width of the face. “If young people are using selfies as their only guide, they may be coming to plastic surgeons to fix problems that don’t exist except in the world of social media,” says study leader Bardia Amirlak, M.D.