Selfies Distort Your Face by 30%

September 25, 2018

If humans were meant to take attractive selfies, they’d be born with 5-foot-long arms.

According to a study published today (March 1) in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, 5 feet (1.5 meters) is the optimal distance to take a portrait without distorting your facial features. Meanwhile, selfies taken just 12 inches (30 centimeters) from the face often result in forced “funnel lens” perspective that can make your nose appear 30 percent wider than it is, study co-author and facial plastic surgeon Dr. Boris Paskahofer told Live Science.

“For years, I’ve heard patients and family members say, ‘Oh, look at my nose, it looks so big,’ when they show me selfies,” Paskhover said.” I always tell my patients, that’s not what you really look like. I know that selfies distort the way your nose looks. And I wanted to prove it.”

In their new study, Paskhover and his colleagues at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and Stanford University in California created a mathematical model to describe the distorting effects of selfies taken at different camera angles and distances.

The researchers modeled the faces of an average male and an average female as a collection of parallel planes, similar to how an art student would draw a 3-D building receding toward the horizon, Paskhover said. The “average” face was measured from a random sample of racially and ethnically diverse participants from across the United States, the authors write.

Using these geometric models, the researchers were then able to calculate the relative distortion of various facial features as seen by cameras placed 12 inches (30 centimeters) away, 5 feet (1.5 meters) away, and at infinite distances from each face.

“Predictably, an image taken at 5 feet, a standard portrait distance, results in essentially no difference in perceived [nasal] size,” the authors write. However, images taken at a distance of 12 inches led to a 30 percent increase in nasal size for men and a 29 percent increase for women.

“The revelation is that selfies distort your facial features,” Paskhover said. What worries him, he adds, is that the distorted math of this selfie perspective may distort how people actually see themselves. For example, 55 percent of plastic surgeons surveyed saw patients in 2017 who wanted to look better in selfies, according to a recent survey by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Inc.

“One of my concerns is that I don’t want society as a whole to be distorted,” says Paskhover.” I don’t want people to think.’ This is what I look like’ when they see a selfie. You don’t look like that – you look good.”