Assessing Beauty By Facial Topography, Color and Symmetry

Nowadays, the consumer has a wide variety of injectable and topical products at hand to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and help even out their skin tone. Perhaps this is the reason they no longer understand “aging gracefully,” as they scrutinize their face and signs of aging. People judge the beauty and age of others based on a number of factors, which will be described below, and while the cosmetics industry can lessen some of these factors, some are either biologically entrenched or the result of lifestyle and habits.

The Lips and Eyes Have It

Research indicates that the skin surface topography of lines and wrinkles, and color distribution on one’s face drive the perception of an individual’s age and health. Perception of age is more strongly related to skin surface topography, while health is indicated more by color distribution.1

Product claims should focus on targeting the signs of aging that are relevant to consumers, and in the February issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries, Merinville et al. from Oriflame presented a study of female Caucasian Russian subjects showing that younger-looking skin is only four features away.2 Specifically, Oriflame found the key features in the perception of age are: wrinkle depth in the glabellar, upper lip and crow’s feet areas; and the severity of brown spots.

Similarly, Procter & Gamble reported that the three most important areas in “youthfulness and attractiveness preference scoring” of the aging Caucasian face are the forehead, under eye area and the lips.3 Taken together, these findings suggest the topography of the eye and lip regions are the most impactful—and women have intuitively explored the enhancement of these features with makeup for centuries.

Facial Asymmetry

Consumers have also become more aware of the asymmetry of their faces resulting from aging, repeated facial expressions and sleeping patterns. Symmetry is one of the biologically based standards by which female beauty is judged across many cultures. Facial symmetry as a trait signals good health.4 In contrast, asymmetry contributes to a decline in attractiveness.

The role of facial expression in the progression of facial wrinkles with age has been revealed through longitudinal research.5 Tracking the detailed pattern of facial wrinkling over several years confirms that repeated skin flexures during facial expression create expression lines that develop into permanent wrinkles. Women that experience a faster onset of expression-related wrinkles have dry skin, lighter complexions, are middle-aged (40s) or becoming menopausal.5 Sleeping positions can also affect wrinkle formation; oblique or horizontal lines in specific areas of the face can be caused by sleeping with one's face buried in the pillow over many years.6

Human Body: The Left-Right Divide

Research by the German-based Institute Dr. Schrader reported that wrinkles on the left side of the face have a deeper profile and higher volume in comparison with those on the right side.7, 8 However, the scientific community has speculated that one-sided UVA irradiation and wrinkling may be due to driving-related sun exposure, which was described in a study of truck drivers.9

Other skin parameters also affect the asymmetry of the face and/or body. For example, there is a temperature difference on the face, with the left side being 0.1°C lower, on average, than the right side. However, facial temperature changes with time and a significant circadian rhythm, with mean temperature differences of 0.7°C observed.10

Trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), a measure of the integrity of the skin barrier, also shows a left-right divide. A range of ‘‘normal’’ TEWL values has been established for a healthy adult population, with the TEWL reference value for the mid-volar left forearm, 8.7 g/m2/hr [range 6.5–10.80], being higher than for the right forearm, 6.5 g/m2/hr [range 6.2–6.8].11

Facial Mapping

Future research linking clinical signs of aging with non-invasive skin measurements, along with detailed characterization of the study population, is required to advance scientific understanding in this area. Facial maps of non-invasive skin parameters provide a framework for baseline values and their regional variation related to differences in biophysical specificities of the skin.

The first facial map has been established for six biophysical parameters in young and old individuals: skin blood flow, TEWL, stratum corneum hydration (capacitance), temperature, pH and sebum content of the skin surface.12 Measurement of non-invasive parameters is influenced by many factors, including the area and measurement conditions, device, methodology, climate and health and age of the study population.

All these factors must be considered to prove the efficacy of skin care products and advise consumers on their targeted use for specific areas of the face.


1. N Samson, B Fink and P Matts, Interaction of skin color distribution and skin surface topography cues in the perception of female facial age and health, J Cosmet Dermatol 10(1) 78-84 (Mar 2011)
2. E Merinville et al, Skin aging characteristics of Russian women, Cosm & Toil 129(2) 44 (2014)
3. PJ Matts, Anti-aging skin care: Legacy of the past, promise for the future, presentation at the Anti-aging Skin Care Conference (June 4, 2014) (Accessed Aug 8, 2014)
4. G Rhodes, The evolutionary psychology of facial beauty, Annu Rev Psychol 57 199-226 (2006)
5. GG Hillebrand, Z Liang, X Yan and T Yoshii, New wrinkles on wrinkling: An eight-year longitudinal study on the progression of expression lines into persistent wrinkles, Br J Dermatol J2(6) 1233-41 (Jun 2010)
6. N Sarifakioğlu, A Terzioğlu, L Ates and G Aslan, A new phenomenon: “Sleep lines” on the face, Scand J Plast Reconstr Surg Hand Surg 38(4) 244-7 (2004)
7. M Rohr, The nature of facial-wrinkle-mapping investigated by the next generation FOITS-2, presentation at the Anti-aging Skin Care Conference: Nurture and Nature (June12-13 2012)
8. M Rohr, Volume analysis: A different method of wrinkle assessment, presentation at the Anti-aging Skin Care Conference (June 3, 2014) (Accessed Aug 8, 2014)
9. Amazing photo shows effects of sun exposure on truck drivers face, ABC 15 (June 5, 2012) (accessed Aug 8, 2014)
10. J Rustemeyer, J Radtke and A Bremerich, Thermography and thermoregulation of the face, Head Face Med 15 3:17 (Mar 2007)
11. J Kottner, A Lichterfeld, U Blume-Peytavi, Transepidermal water loss in young and aged healthy humans: A systematic review and meta-analysis, Arch Dermatol Res 305(4) 315-23 (May 2013)
12. S Marrakchi and HI Maibach, Biophysical parameters of skin: Map of human face, regional and age-related differences, Contact Derm 57(1) 28-34 (Jul 2007)

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