Dr Michał Chartytonowicz Chirurg Plastyk

Are we symmetrical?

Nature is not symmetrical

Defined very briefly, symmetry is a reflection of a plane or space along an axis. Symmetry is around us but not in us. The world made by man is based on symmetry and that is why it is so easily recognizable. We tend to forget that nature is not so symmetrical. Recall your favourite tree – no symmetry at all. A flower? A bit more, but also not too much. A forest? Mountains? Even less…

People are not symmetrical.

People are also not symmetrical. Not only people around us, but also those on newspaper front pages. It is hard to believe, as they seem so perfect, pretty and unique. Additionally, we are misled by numerous pseudo-scientific theories according to which our perception of beauty should be limited to looking for symmetry, for example in the human face. Unfortunately, these theories are as close to the truth as people are to symmetry…

For example, take Cindy Crawford, a perfect example showing that beauty is not symmetrical. Try to decide which one is prettier - the one on the right? On the left? Or maybe the real one?

We are also not symmetrical … and as a plastic surgeon I often need to get it across to my patients. A disagreeable but necessary duty. The reason is simple: before the procedure, any asymmetry is attributed to nature, while after the procedure to the plastic surgeon. We usually do not notice our own asymmetry because we have been born with it. However, everything changes after the surgery - we spend hours before the mirror every day scrutinizing the surgeon's job. It is then when we notice that symmetry is not something many of us naturally possess. Thus, asymmetry is completely natural. It should be corrected when it poses a noticeable functional or aesthetic defect.

When describing others I should take a critical look at myself. It turns out that the author is clearly asymmetrical. Interestingly, the right side of his face looks a couple of years younger than the left one.

Still bigger asymmetry can be noticed in Gordon Ramsay whose left side of the face is significantly larger than the right one. It is due to more prominent zygomatic and temporal regions and mandible angle.

Meryl Streep has one of the most beautiful smiles, which makes her face seem exceptionally symmetrical. Nothing can be further from the truth. It turns out that the left side of her face has more features perceived by us as desirable in a woman. And thus, her asymmetrical smile, dental arcade shifted to the left and nasal pyramid deviated to the right are the reason why her face made only from its left sides looks completely different from the one made from its right sides.

However, the awareness of the above imperfections does not prevent perceiving her face as a very pretty and warm one.

According to neuroscientists, we need asymmetry. These small imperfections make the face more easily recognizable. An ideally symmetrical face is hard to remember.

Thus, symmetry is not the synonym for aesthetics and human beauty is made up of small imperfections.


Dr Michał Charytonowicz, plastic surgeon