Researchers have created a mathematical model that shows how selfies and other photos taken at close range can distort the appearance of the subject’s nose.
“Young adults are constantly taking selfies to post to social media and think those images are representative of how they really look, which can have an impact on their emotional state,” says Boris Paskhover, an assistant professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School’s otolaryngology department, who specializes in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery.
An average selfie, taken about 12 inches from the face, makes the nasal base appear approximately 30 percent wider.
Paskhover says he is frequently shown selfies as examples of why patients want surgery to make their noses smaller.
“I want them to realize that when they take a selfie they are in essence looking into a portable funhouse mirror,” he says.
Paskhover wanted a better way to explain to patients why they shouldn’t use selfies to evaluate their nose size—so he worked with Ohad Fried, a research fellow at Stanford University’s computer science department, to develop the mathematical model that shows nasal distortion created by close-range photos.
The model, described in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, shows that an average selfie, taken about 12 inches from the face, makes the nasal base appear approximately 30 percent wider and the nasal tip 7 percent wider than if the photograph had been taken at 5 feet, a standard portrait distance that provides a more proportional representation of facial features.
The mathematical model is based on the average head and facial feature measurements obtained from a selection of racially and ethnically diverse participants. The model determines the magnitude of the distortive effect by presenting the face as a collection of parallel planes perpendicular to the main camera axis. It calculated the changes to the ratio between the nose’s breadth and the width between the two cheekbones at various camera distances.
How selfies drive people’s self-image is a public health issue, Paskhover says. The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery reports that 55 percent of surgeons say people come to them seeking cosmetic procedures for improved selfies.