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What Makes A Beautiful Nose?

By Peter Schmid, DO
Posted On Apr 09, 2012
What Makes A Beautiful Nose?

We live in a visual culture. For better or worse, men, women, and even children understand that outward appearance elicits opinions from friends and strangers alike. In the middle of that lies the nose.

Rhinoplasty was one of the earliest cosmetic procedures performed, and for obvious reasons. A century ago, clothing showed little skin and fashion hid a multitude of flaws. The nose was central—literally and figuratively—to the appearance. An attractive nose could, and still does, overshadow a host of other features.

From ancient Greece to the Renaissance, philosophers and artists have defined beauty according to a set of classic principles. Despite these idealizations, however, beauty remains elusive, often defying the rules. Individual tastes, cultural influences, modern style and the media can all eclipse the original formula.

What, then, makes a person’s face look beautiful? It’s not a simple answer. Authentic beauty encompasses both proportion and the harmonious balance of individual facial features and how they work together.

Our idea of an attractive nose is no exception. The Greeks had their perfect nose, as did the Romans, the Arabs, the Hindi and even the Mayans. The modern world, too, has its own ideas about what makes an attractive nose, both for men and for women. But what makes it beautiful? Is there an ideal one?

Listening to traditional cosmetic surgery, the simplest answer is that a beautiful nose is relatively small, straight and symmetrical. When ‘nose jobs’ became the rage in the 1950s and 1960s—strictly for women, mind you—the standard procedure was to reduce the size and ‘rotate’ or turn the tip up.

Today’s cosmetic surgeons scoff at this. Youthfulness is still a common goal, but the latest trends highlight personal preference, subtlety and, most importantly, multicultural models that do not rely solely on ancient aesthetic (primarily Caucasian) standards. And beauty isn’t always symmetrical. Sometimes asymmetries create both character and attractiveness (just think of Cameron Diaz or Owen Wilson). Today we understand that there are many types of attractive noses, some created by birth, others by surgical alteration. And the tiniest variation can produce huge perceptual impacts; Rhinoplasty is a surgery of millimeters.

A good result in contemporary aesthetic rhinoplasty is a refined, natural-appearing nose. The artistic imperative is to achieve results that integrate personality, ethnicity and aesthetic design.

Men and Women

Gender is one of the first considerations in rhinoplasty. Bold, angular features define masculinity, while softer slender features project a more feminine appearance.

Generally speaking, rhinoplasty goals for males are to create wider noses with a strong, fairly straight ‘dorsum’ or nasal bridge. Men usually don’t require tip-defining (“designer“) grafts. The tip may be rounded but is generally wider than a female’s, and it is generally more appropriate to see tip cartilage edges in men.

A man’s nose should project confidence, balanced with the chin and profile. Think of the noses of Liam Nieson or Mad Man’s John Hamm. Their noses project a sense of power, self-confidence and sex appeal. Neeson’s brawny Irish nose conveys pride, defiance and survival. It has a prominent aquiline dorsal hump, sharp edges and angles; it is a wide stable nose with a bold boxy tip and strongly defined nostrils. It is proportionately long and set at a right angle with the face, conveying a masculine, Romanesque type profile.

Then there are the smaller noses of Brad Pitt and George Clooney. These are gender-neutral noses. Pitt’s nose has both delicate, feminine qualities in the upper two-thirds and a masculine, slightly bulbous, broad nasal tip. Clooney’s nose is straight with a strong profile projection to the tip, but it is relatively short for his face. These noses are less masculine, but no less attractive; they convey a boyish appeal.

Women tend to have a broader range of styles that can create harmony with their overall appearance. While some are soft and delicate (Princess Kate, Sharon Stone, Grace Kelly), others may look persuasive but not overpowering (Jessica and Ashlee Simpson, Tyra Banks, Blake Lively), or even vaguely aristocratic (Anne Hathaway, Gwyneth Paltrow).

Generally, rhinoplasty goals for women are to sculpt a low, straight profile and narrow nasal bones, with oblique, frontal angles blending elegantly into the face, brow and forehead. The nose is made narrower, graced with finesse (“designer”) tips, often preceded by a suggestive supratip (just above the tip) depression. The noses are often made shorter, with the tips slightly rotated (turned up) to create freshness in appearance (yes, the nose goes south with aging, becoming droopy and longer.)

Overall, the nose should flow gracefully with pleasing lines and contours. For example, Princess Kate has a small, softly featured nose just a little short for her face, with a narrow, unobtrusive tip that blends well. Her slightly wide tip gives her character and conveys a likeable and approachable appearance. Jessica Simpson’s delicate, youthful nose is well defined but also proportional to her face. She has a narrow “button tip” with soft nostrils that are slightly upturned at a wide angle to the upper lip. Her nose, along with her full facial features, creates a sensual appearance.

Ashlee Simpson and Blake Lively’s rhinoplasties created similar results: Straight noses, sleek and nicely projecting, though proportionately longer with respect to the face. Ashlee Simpson has a softer, pointed tip with defined lateral lines, and delicate, narrow non-flaring nostrils. It has an elegant, Caucasian appeal. Both underwent rhinoplasty to reduce the shape, size, drooping tip and bridge of their noses, but it appears not to make radical changes to their appearance. The results are quite pleasing.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s nose has aristocratic appeal. Hers is sleek and narrow with symmetrical curves, projecting a strong subtly arched profile, and creating a confident, noble appearance. Her nose is very natural and its length balances her strong cheekbones and slim face.

Nose-Sidebar_sqRhinoplasty in the past was aggressively reductive, altering the shape and contours of the nose—often with a very stylized and dysfunctional result. Today, cosmetic surgeons are more conservative, modifying yet preserving the structure. The result is better breathing function and a more natural, un-operated-looking result. The goal is to create a nose that is harmoniously balanced with other features. This is the real measure of a beautiful nose, because you can never separate the nose from the face.