Ignore those selfies — your nose isn’t fat

Staff photo

Is your nose looking fat lately? Before you head for the plastic surgeon’s office, take a careful look at all those recent selfies that show you with a big bulbous nose. Then ask yourself — how far away was the camera when the pictures were taken?

That’s the conclusion of scientists at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, who have uncovered a new risk of excessive reliance on smartphones.

“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,” said Boris Paskhover, an assistant professor at Rutgers. “I want them to realize that when they take a selfie they are in essence looking into a portable funhouse mirror.”

Pashkover said that people take billions of selfies every day without realizing the distortion created by the camera’s close proximity, prompting many to develop a skewed self-image.


Paskhover sought a better way to explain to patients why they cannot use selfies to evaluate their nose size so they can improve their self-perception and make more informed decisions about their health. He worked with Ohad Fried, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Department of Computer Science, to develop a mathematical model that shows nasal distortion created by photos taken at close range.

30 percent wider

The Rutgers-Stanford model, published 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 determined 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 said. The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, reports that 55 percent of surgeons say people come to them seeking cosmetic procedures for improved selfies.

About the Author

Truman Lewis
Truman has been a bureau chief and correspondent in D.C., Los Angeles, Phoenix and elsewhere, reporting for radio, television, print and news services, for more than 30 years. Most recently, he has reported extensively on health and consumer issues for ConsumerAffairs.com and FairfaxNews.com.