By Rafael G. Magana, M.D.
A beautiful face is not difficult to recognize. It transcends cultural barriers and needs no translation. Beauty is what we intuitively imagine it to be. From youth, we recognize it at a mere glance and it is hardwired into our evolutionary mind. An ideal of what constitutes a beautiful face differs from person to person. The proverbial “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” by Plato, is an aphorism that describes this subjective impression perfectly. There is however, in general, a consensus regarding what an attractive face looks like, whether or not it strikes an individual as a beautiful face.
This all too subjective, but symbolic mental image is known as archetype. An Archetype, in the simplest of terms, refers to a pattern of behaviors, prototype from which others originate, or are emulated; a recognizable icon or stereotype. Examples of this idea are the pictures found in a deck of Tarot Cards that symbolize universally understood characters, or the celestial beauty depicted in Sandro Botticelli’s painting “The Birth of Venus.”
Although Carl Jung described the description in the field of psychology of this notion in the early 20th century, its manifestation is evident in the late 18th and early 19th Century neoclassical paintings and sculpture.
Some of the first attempts to establish universal craniofacial measurements were in Egypt as far back as the third millennium B.C. Elaborate systems to estimate facial proportions were devised by Egyptian artists to allow bas-relief tomb carvings of pharaohs and nobility.
In the mid 17th Century, anthropometry surged as a new method for elucidating craniofacial dimensions in a more accurate way. Anthropometry is the measurement of human landmarks and proportions both directly from human subjects and indirectly from photographs. It is utilized in various fields of science and art, such as anthropology, forensic sciences, sculpture and illustration. In the context of cosmetic and reconstructive craniomaxillofacial surgery, this is an initial step toward understanding what can be corrected to establish a pleasing facial symmetry. It also establishes a clear language for communication of data with others.
Phi is the ratio found in nature repeatedly. Greek sculptors, neoclassical painters and other artists have used it to portray a beautiful face. 1:1.618 is the golden ratio. From it, you can derive a triangle as the base for several overlapping geometrical shapes. A blueprint of this rule was created by retired Oral Maxillofacial Surgeon Dr. Stephen Marquardt, and came to be known as Marquardt’s mask or the “Golden Mask.”
These shapes and ratios seem to repeat themselves over and over again in what is universally considered a beautiful face.
Marquardt’s golden mask shows clear ratios throughout the beautiful face. For example, the mouth is 1.618 time wider than the base of the nose; the nose base is 1.6 times wider than the tip of the nose; The triangle formed by a beautiful persons nose and lips is a perfect acute triangle…and so on… Even the ratio of a beautiful lower to upper lip follows this golden ratio by 1:1.680. This is especially important when considering a natural and beautiful appearance by using fillers or fat grafting for lip augmentation. In the hands of a capable plastic surgeon with a good sense of aesthetics this can result in the “perfect pout.”
It’s important to note that the instrument used to measure this ratio in a plastic surgeons office is called a “Golden Mean Gauge,” and every good cosmetic doctor will have one and should use one on you.
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