What Is Facial Symmetry?

Mike Howells
Mike Howells
Highly symmetrical faces are usually considered to be attractive.
Highly symmetrical faces are usually considered to be attractive.

Facial symmetry is the degree to which the features on each side of the human face line up and match in both size and orientation. The symmetry of one's face has a number of implications, including aesthetic and overall healthiness. It is part of the larger field of human body symmetry, which is believed to play a role in how people determine attractiveness.

Bell's palsy, a partial paralysis of the face, may lead to asymmetry.
Bell's palsy, a partial paralysis of the face, may lead to asymmetry.

In a basic sense, facial symmetry is literally how closely the size, angle, and location of one's eyes, ears, nostrils, cheeks and other duplicated features mirror each other on the left and right sides. It is very rare for both eyes, for example, to be exactly the same size or distance above the nose. Most people do not consciously notice common, minor asymmetry.

Facial trauma can impact one's facial symmetry.
Facial trauma can impact one's facial symmetry.

Scientists believe that facial symmetry is one of a number of physiological traits that subtly influence attractiveness. Others include perceived youthfulness and similarity to the norm, known as averageness. Each of these elements indicate on a biological scale an individual's suitability for reproducing. Uniquely among humans, attractiveness is not limited to these factors, and exceptions abound.

True facial symmetry is extraordinarily rare and almost never occurs.
True facial symmetry is extraordinarily rare and almost never occurs.

Although facial symmetry is governed to a large degree by heredity and genetics, there are other factors that can affect the orientation of one's features. Diseases such as Bell's palsy might cause muscular atrophy in the face, leading to asymmetry. In addition, birth defects or trauma such as mandibular condylar hypoplasia can affect the orientation of facial features.

Changes in facial symmetry typically occur following a stroke.
Changes in facial symmetry typically occur following a stroke.

Various types of cancer also might affect facial symmetry, sometimes drastically. Oral cancer, in particular, routinely requires amputation of part or all of the jaw bone. This procedure has a profound effect on the shape of the face and how its features line up. Prosthetic jaws are commonly prescribed to help return a large degree of symmetry to the face.

Facial symmetry can be improved through plastic surgery.
Facial symmetry can be improved through plastic surgery.

Changes in facial symmetry also typically occur following a stroke. Unlike a genetic defect in which the face develops asymmetrically from birth, a stroke victim might suffer nerve or muscle damage that causes one half of the face to be paralyzed. As a result, its features droop and become asymmetrical.

Facial symmetry, whether compromised naturally or through trauma such as a car accident, can be improved to a degree through plastic surgery. Science cannot greatly alter the intrinsic bone structure of the human skull, but there are a variety of procedures, from the mild to the extreme, that can actually improve symmetry or at least give the impression of greater symmetry. Even a stroke victim, through physical therapy, can regain muscular control of the face, leading to renewed facial symmetry.

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Discussion Comments

anon990938

Is it hereditary?

Rundocuri

Good points Talentryto. I don't think facial asymmetry is very noticeable in the first place, so why worry about it.

Talentryto

For people who are concerned about their appearance and how face symmetry affects it, it's important not to worry to much about it. While facial symmetry and attractiveness go together, it is also very rare in nature. Many beautiful people have asymmetrical faces.

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    • Highly symmetrical faces are usually considered to be attractive.
      Highly symmetrical faces are usually considered to be attractive.
    • Bell's palsy, a partial paralysis of the face, may lead to asymmetry.
      Bell's palsy, a partial paralysis of the face, may lead to asymmetry.
    • Facial trauma can impact one's facial symmetry.
      Facial trauma can impact one's facial symmetry.
    • True facial symmetry is extraordinarily rare and almost never occurs.
      True facial symmetry is extraordinarily rare and almost never occurs.
    • Changes in facial symmetry typically occur following a stroke.
      Changes in facial symmetry typically occur following a stroke.
    • Facial symmetry can be improved through plastic surgery.
      Facial symmetry can be improved through plastic surgery.