That's because selfies — the go-to photo style of travelers everywhere — may not be as flattering as you think. In fact, selfies taken from a foot away from your face may distort the dimensions and proportions of your nose enough to make it appear roughly 30% larger than it is, according to a research letter published Thursday in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery. Photos taken from five feet away, by contrast, lead to no such distortions.
The findings aren't just about vanity. Although nose jobs are actually getting slightly less popular, 42% of plastic surgeons said in an American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons poll that they have seen patients seeking cosmetic procedures expressly to improve their appearance in selfies and social media photos, according to the letter. If these patients are basing perceptions of their appearance on distorted images, they may end up having surgeries they never would have wanted otherwise.
"Just like the 24-hour news cycle, where we have constant information, with selfies and phones we have constant feedback about what our appearance might be," says Dr. Samuel Lin, an associate professor of plastic surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
That deluge of feedback isn't necessarily a good thing, Lin says. He cautions patients against making medical decisions based solely on selfies or photos, instead recommending that they look at their nose or other features "over a course of time and different views and different settings."
Even if you're not considering plastic surgery, breaking your selfie habit may be a good thing — both for your ego and your photo album.