The Scientific Reason Why You Look Different In Selfies Than IRL

In a world where taking the perfect selfie can mean the difference between finding your soulmate or finding yourself the recipient of a left swipe (dark, and shallow, but true), we put a lot of effort into finding our angles, our good side, and our light. And, when all else fails, a surprising number of us are even turning to cosmetic enhancements for a helping hand... or scalpel. The results of a recent poll by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons were staggering: 55% of doctors reported seeing an increased number of patients seeking surgery in order to improve their selfies and social-media presence.
Advertisement
But, as a team of scientists and surgeons set out to prove, our selfies are not always what they seem. According to new research published yesterday in the JAMA Plastic Surgery medical journal, "the short distance from the camera" when you take a selfie from an arm's length "causes a distortion of the face owing to projection," creating a kind of bizarro funhouse mirror effect that makes you look — well, not like you.
"For years, I've heard patients and family members say, 'Oh, look at my nose, it looks so big,' when they show me a selfie," facial plastic surgeon Boris Paskhover, MD, who co-authored the study, told Live Science. "I was always telling my patients, that's not how you really look. I knew that selfies distort how your nose looks. And I wanted to prove it."
And prove it he did: Not only did Dr. Paskhover conclude that selfies taken just 12 inches from the face can make your nose look up to 30% wider, but he also discovered how long your arms would need to be to capture the most flattering version of yourself. That would be five feet. So we can all stop worrying about mastering the perfect selfie technique — that, or we can shift our plastic-surgery priorities from nose jobs to arm extensions. Stranger things have happened.

More from Skin Care

Watch

R29 Original Series

Watch Now
Documentary
Five love stories behind diverse, multicultural marriages.
Watch Now
Lifestyle
Life experiments, 5 days at a time.
Watch Now
Fashion
The style of subculture.
Watch Now
Beauty
Viral trends, tried and tested.
Watch Now
Documentary
From vibrators to lipstick, learn how your favorite products are made.
Watch Now
Documentary
Extraordinary, one-of-a-kind individuals
Watch Now
Documentary
The latest stories to watch.
Watch Now
Lifestyle
Inside the homes of millennial women — & what they paid for them
Watch Now
Comedy
Let's talk about sex, baby.
Watch Now
Documentary
Female artisans around the world
Watch Now
Politics
Made by and for smart, opinionated women.
Watch Now
Film
We helped 12 female directors claim their power.