When you look at your face in photographs or in the mirror, you may notice that your features don’t line up with each other perfectly. One ear may begin at a higher point than your other ear, or one side of your nose might have a sharper point than the other side.
Having traits that don’t perfectly mirror one another on both sides of your face is called asymmetry.
Almost everyone has some degree of asymmetry on their face. But some cases of asymmetry are more noticeable than others. Injury, aging, smoking, and other factors can contribute to asymmetry. Asymmetry that’s mild and has always been there is normal.
However, new, noticeable asymmetry may be a sign of a serious condition like Bell’s palsy or stroke. Keep reading to find out more about the causes of an asymmetrical face, along with tests and treatments.
Sometimes an asymmetrical face is just the result of development and genetics. If prominent, asymmetrical lips run in your family, chances are that you might have them too.
Cleft lip and palate and vascular disorders are genetic health conditions that researchers point to as causes for asymmetrical features.
As you age, exposure to UV rays can cause spots, patches, and moles to develop on your skin. Sun damage is rarely distributed evenly over your whole face, especially if you spend time outside wearing a baseball hat, work outside, or spend a lot of time driving.
Sun damage can cause damage to one side or one area of your face.
Having a tooth extracted can change the way the muscles in your face appear. Using dentures or getting dental veneers can also change the contours of your face. The result isn’t always symmetrical. In a 2014 study of 147 pairs of identical twins, more facial asymmetry was linked to having had dental extraction.
As you get older, facial asymmetry increases. This is a natural part of aging. Although, your bones stop growing at puberty, your cartilage continues to grow as you age. This means your ears and nose grow and change as you age, which may cause asymmetry.
Some people believe that sleeping on your belly or with your face against a pillow, sitting with your legs crossed in the same direction for long periods of time, having poor posture, and resting your face against your hand can all contribute to facial asymmetry.
One 2014 study found correlation between sleeping on your stomach and facial asymmetry.
Trauma or injury to your face during childhood or in adulthood can cause asymmetry. Injuries like a broken nose or a deep cut can cause your face to appear asymmetrical.
Sudden facial asymmetry is a sign of a more serious condition. Bell’s palsy is a paralysis of facial nerves, causing a new or sudden onset of weakness in the muscles on one side of your face. Bell’s palsy can occur after pregnancy or a viral infection, and it’s most often temporary.
Bell’s palsy facial asymmetry is caused by the muscles in one side of your face being less able or unable to move.
Facial drooping is a sign of a stroke. If your smile is suddenly uneven or you experience numbness on one side of your face you should seek immediate medical care. Other symptoms of a stroke include arm numbness or weakness and difficulty speaking.
Also called “twisted neck,” torticollis refers to an abnormal positioning of your neck muscles. Sometimes torticollis happens while you’re in the womb, resulting in some facial asymmetry when you are born.
Eye weaknesses can cause you to tilt or twist your neck in different ways to see better, resulting in your muscles growing stronger on one side of your neck than the other.
Many cases of torticollis are temporary and the signs resolve. Less commonly it can be permanent.
You can figure out if your face is symmetrical by evaluating your face at home. A printed photo of yourself works best for this.
Mark the following points on the photo of your face. Or, if you’re using a mirror, use a marker you can wipe off the glass later:
- the peak of your forehead and the bottom of your chin (This is the only set of points you will check for vertical symmetry; the rest are horizontal.)
- the crease on the far side of both of your eyes
- the crease of where each of your eyes begins next to the bridge of your nose
- the crease where your lips begin on both sides
- the widest point of both sides of your face
- the widest part of your nose on both nostrils
Using a ruler, you can check and see if you can mark a perfectly level, horizontal line between each set of two points.
There are free apps online that will evaluate a photo of your face at no cost and rate your facial symmetry. Be wary of taking the results from these apps too seriously.
Though they may be able to calculate your “attractiveness” based on a ratio, a computer formula can’t account for how attractive your most prominent, unique features make you. A computer won’t ever be able to judge your gorgeous hair, deep-set eyes, or electric smile.
In most cases, an asymmetrical face doesn’t need any treatment or medical intervention. In many cases, asymmetrical faces are considered to have a unique charm and attraction. If you’re concerned about asymmetrical features on your face, there are some cosmetic surgery procedures you may consider.
Inserting a “soft filler” into your face by way of an injection may correct the appearance of facial asymmetry. Use of Botox or a filler ingredient is a popular way to raise eyebrows that don’t appear even, or a forehead that wrinkles on only one side.
Fillers work well for asymmetry that results from tissue imbalance or muscle weakness. Fillers don’t last forever, and eventually their effects will fade.
If your face is asymmetrical because of your skeletal structure, you may consider implants. This treatment is popular for chin or cheek imbalances. Facial implants are meant to be permanent, and are made of:
If your facial asymmetry is the result of a broken nose that set incorrectly, or if you don’t like the shape of your nose, a corrective rhinoplasty (also called a “nose job”) can make your nose appear symmetrical.
The results of a rhinoplasty are permanent, but over time, your nose may begin to regain some of its previous shape.
While you can find anecdotal evidence online that suggests certain facial exercises can make your face look more symmetrical, there isn’t clinical research to back that up. The theory is that if your face looks asymmetrical because of muscle weakness, or uneven muscle tone, certain facial exercises can help.
Facial asymmetry can be prominent and obvious, or it can be minimal not too noticeable. It can be a part of what makes you uniquely attractive, or it can detract from your self-confidence. If your face is slightly asymmetrical, know that you are in the majority.
Speak to your doctor if you have concerns about the way that your appearance is affecting your self-esteem.