By Gayle Reardon, DDS
Nothing captures our attention like the human face and nothing rivals the face in communicative power. The general expression of the face is the sum of a multitude of small details which are viewed in such rapid succession that we seem to perceive them all at a single glance.
Improving physical attrac-tiveness improves self-esteem. How we see ourselves often has foundation in how we think we are seen by others.
The entire concept of cosmetic adornment originated as a way to define and enhance facial features and skin coloring. Like everything else in history, even the use of makeup has changed, carrying with it different meanings, liabilities, and benefits. Even though there are as many variations of the human face as there are people, the basic structure is something that we all share.
The face is made up of areas that protrude and recede. These places are highlighted and contoured to accentuate the face's natural shape. Natural bone structure is enhanced with the use of makeup. Playing with foundation colors noticeably or subtly darker or lighter than your own natural skin tone can create startling and dramatic results. If there is something about the face you want to play with or give more study to, the basic structure of the face is the best place to start.
What makes a face attractive? Are there "norms" when considering a beautiful face? Are there rules of facial proportion? Experts tell us that the closer a face is to symmetrical, the more attractive the person. The lack of symmetry is what causes cognitive dissonance.
For thousands of years the answer to what constitutes beauty has been based in mathematics. Mathematical ideals of beauty stretch back to Pythagoras and Plato, to Durer, da Vinci, and other artists of the Renaissance period. You'll recall that Leonardo da Vinci divided faces into thirds. Durer, on the other hand, used the Rule of Fourths as his guide. The Rule of Sevenths has also been used to analyze facial symmetry. For instance:
- The height of the ear should equal the length of the nose.
- The angle of the nose should equal the angle of the ear.
At the heart of the classical notion of beauty was unity and order. Today, cosmetic surgeons put these ideas to the test when they undertake the daunting task of reconstructing faces and making them more beautiful.
Two areas unrelated to makeup have a profound effect on the way a person looks: cosmetic surgery and skincare. A third area has equal impact: the smile. A great smile can do a lot more for you than a whole makeup kit full of expensive cos-metics. Even the most dour circumstances have been enlivened with a smile, whether yours or someone else's.
The smile is the focal point of the face, but until recently, its enhancement has been neglected in favor of more popularized procedures. While a new nose and a clear complexion can improve appearance, they may also call attention to an imperfect smile. The importance of a great smile cannot be overemphasized. It can light up the whole face and illuminate a room.
What constitutes a great smile? Are there guidelines that contribute to the predictable success of a given smile design?
The idea of golden proportion came from the Greeks. Phi or the golden section was named after Phidias, the Greek sculptor. In essence, Phidias proclaimed that the ratio of the smaller section to the larger one is the same as the larger to the whole (and equal to the ratio 1:1.618).
When considering dental aesthetics, the golden proportion rule is a valuable guide.
- Cuspid to height of contour should be .68 of the lateral incisor.
- Lateral incisor: 1.0
- Central incisor: 1.618
It is generally accepted that the cuspid should be slightly longer than the central incisor. Also, the average central incisor is 10.5 to 11.0 mm in length. Proportionately, its width follows between 8.5 and 9.0 mm.
Many dismiss the claims for aesthetics of Phi or the golden proportion as "numerological fantasy," while others insist they are a fragile, but real phenomena. Phi ratios may be useful for surgeons as best guesses of some pleasing facial proportions. There is, however, no mathematical formula that captures the beauty of the human face as a whole. Mathematics has provided useful building blocks to scientists and artists alike as they followed their quest for optimal beauty and sym-metry in their creative endeavors. For scientists in our century, the key to understanding human beauty is in our biology, not in mathematics.
Whether we are referring to the radiance of a face or the illumination of a great smile, symmetry plays a significant part in our perception of beauty. Let's face it, even the great philosophers defined "beauty" in terms of symmetry.
Some human perceptions truly do stand the test of time!