Indian teachers smeared with coloured powder take a selfie during Holi celebrations at a school in Ahmadabad on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

Did that selfie make your nose look big? Science says yes, so there’s probably no need for plastic surgery

A selfie taken from 30cm away makes the nose look 30 per cent wider than a photo taken from 1.5 metres away, researchers found

It is the inescapable 21st-century vexation of the vain. Smartphones allow a person to take selfies as fast as the index finger can click, yet from a dismayingly close distance that may leave the subject dissatisfied.

Don’t fret, researchers from Rutgers and Stanford universities say in a new analysis published Thursday. The culprit is distortion.

Using a mathematical model, the group found that in a selfie taken from 30cm away, the nose appears 30 per cent wider than in a photo taken from 1.5 metres.
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Bitish opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn poses for a selfie after giving a speech on Brexit at Coventry University in Coventry on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

The researchers undertook the analysis because plastic-surgery patients – who spent more than US$16 billion on cosmetic procedures in 2016, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons – often cited their appearance in selfies as justification for getting a nose job.

Boris Paskhover, an assistant professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School’s department of otolaryngology, wanted to set the record straight.

“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,” Paskhover said in a Rutgers news release. “I want them to realise that when they take a selfie, they are in essence looking into a portable funhouse mirror.”
A visitor takes a selfie with the Robot Assistant Pepper, from SoftBank Robotics, during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters
An Israeli soldier takes a selfie with an Israeli settler dressed in a mask of US President Donald Trump in the divided West Bank town of Hebron on Thursday. Photo: Agence France-Presse
To calculate the degree of nasal distortion in up-close photos, Paskhover worked with Ohad Fried, a research fellow in Stanford’s computer science department. In addition to the 30 per cent increase in the apparent width of the nose in selfies, the team also found that the close vantage point made the tip of the nose appear 7 per cent wider.

Their findings were published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery.

In this social-media-obsessed world, Paskhover, who specialises in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, is not alone in seeing patients who are unhappy with their selfies.

In a 2017 poll, 55 per cent of surgeons reported they had seen patients who sought plastic surgery in order to look better in selfies, the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons said.

Yet nose jobs, formally called rhinoplasty, appear to be on the wane, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Surgeons performed 218,924 of the procedures in 2017, down 2 per cent from the year before, and down a whopping 44 per cent since 2000.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: How selfies play tricks with your nose