Nose Size and Big Noses: Treatment, Surgery, and More

As varied as they might appear, our noses, the first organ of our upper respiratory tract, are all designed for the same purpose: to process air into our lungs for normal breathing. Beyond this primary function, our noses are also a prominent physical feature. For those unsatisfied with the large, misshapen, or otherwise undesirable aesthetic appearance or the functionality of their noses, this can be an issue that dramatically affects self-confidence, breathing, and overall quality of life.

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Overview

What is considered to be a balanced and harmonious nose size for a person is entirely subjective. Noses come in all shapes and sizes, from narrow, straight and long to wide, flat and curved, and other characteristics. There are no strict guidelines for evaluating noses, as an aesthetically pleasing nose will depend on that person’s personal preferences, gender, ethnic background, and other mostly sociological factors. There are, however, several standard guidelines that plastic surgeons use that help them to evaluate a patient’s nose size to the rest of their face to an exact degree of measurement. Noses that are out of proportion with these guidelines are generally considered to oversized or too large.

These measurements are mostly determined by a person’s gender, as men and women have different sized faces and facial feature balances. Below are some of the universally accepted standards for ideal proportions, according to each gender. Keep in mind that these are very general measurements that will depend heavily on the overall facial structure of a person.

This article discusses some of the reasons for large nose sizes, the symptoms that might prompt someone to seek medical solutions to improve the appearance of his or her nose, and what those solutions are in terms of cosmetic surgery. If you have ever thought about reducing the size of your nose or changing its shape, the following information will help you to determine what steps you can take to meet your aesthetic goals with plastic surgery.

Big Noses, Women, and Men

In general, the average male nose is 10% larger than that of a woman’s, according to a study published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology from researchers at the University of Iowa. The study found that the reason for the larger nose size in men is because men are equipped with more lean muscle mass, and require more oxygen to account for the creation of extra tissue and muscle maintenance.

The average length of an adult male’s nose is 2.2 inches long, while a woman’s is 2 inches long. Ideally, the nose is balanced with the rest of a person’s facial features, fitting inside of its appropriate section when the face is divided into imaginary horizontal thirds or vertical fifths. When a nose exceeds these boundaries or is longer than 2.2 inches long for a man or 2 inches for a woman, it is usually considered oversized or large for a person’s face.

Broken Noses and Nose Size

Nasal fractures are a particularly common injury, mostly due to the prominence of the nose and its front-and-center placement in the middle of the face. Even a slight injury can result in a nose deformity, though more severe fractures will usually result in more noticeable and unsightly deformations of the nose as it heals.

While major injuries are typically dealt with in the hospital or surgeon’s clinic immediately, moderate to minor nose injuries are often ignored and cared for at home. In all cases, nose fractures should be treated immediately by a physician. Lack of care can cause potential problems after the nose is healed, including a deviated septum and other serious breathing and aesthetic issues for the patient.

Patients with broken noses often experience changes in the shape of the nose, including a crooked proboscis that looks off-kilter, or a bumpy nose due to dead cartilage or scar tissue from the fracture. This can often make a nose look larger or “bumpier” than it may have appeared before the fracture occurred.

Normal Nose Growth & Size

The ideal nose size and shape are determined on an individual basis, according to the personal preferences of the individual, and if seeking treatment, from an evaluation of a medical professional or cosmetic surgeon. That said, individuals that feel uncomfortable with the size or shape of a larger or misshapen nose typically begin to notice symptoms at the onset of puberty, as nose size begins to grow at a faster rate. Some signs and symptoms of a larger-than-average or misshapen nose include feelings of self-consciousness, lack of interest in social activities and in-person communication with others, reluctance to smile or laugh (which can make the nose appear bigger), and often depression or growing social anxiety issues.

In general, nasal growth reaches completion for males by the age of fifteen, and in females by the age of 13 years old. Some universally accepted ratios suggest the ideal nasal length, width, and tip projection that most cosmetic surgeons will consult when evaluating a patient for reconstructive surgery. However, most surgeons will evaluate the nasolabial angle and other measurements unique to the patient and compare them with universally accepted standards of facial beauty and proportions to determine whether there is an actual need for aesthetic correction, and if so, to what degree.

One metric used to assess nose size is the nasolabial angle, which refers to the measurement of the angle between the base of the nose and the upper lip. In general, a nasolabial angle that exceeds 90 degrees in men and 100 degrees in women is considered larger than average. Additionally, the tissue that links the nasal tip to the base of the nose (the columella) is usually considered to be ideal when located 2-3 millimeters below the border of the nostrils, along with a slight depression in the supra-tip, the ridge located where the dorsum (the bridge) of the nose meets the tip. While these guidelines can be used as a basis to determine how the nose could be re-shaped in plastic surgery, any reputable and experienced cosmetic surgeon performing a rhinoplasty will find a way to respect the facial harmony and balance of each individual patient, while taking into account his or her unique facial structure, gender, and ethnic background.

Signs and Symptoms of Broken Noses

The symptoms of a broken nose can range from obvious to mild or barely detectable. In general, the most common symptoms of a fracture include pain, difficulty breathing normally, swelling, redness, and general discomfort when touching the nose. Another symptom that the nose is broken is a changed shape that cannot be attributed to the regular growth cycle in adolescence.

In most cases of fractured noses, the change in shape is often larger than before, crooked, or otherwise misshapen. Aside from the functional and respiratory issues that fractured noses can cause, a larger or misshapen nose can become a serious aesthetic problem that requires correction through restorative procedures such as rhinoplasty.

Reasons and Causes for Big Noses

Although human noses are designed to function the same, the fact that there exists such a vast and substantial variation in the shapes and sizes of our noses might seem rather odd. Scientists have detected a number of genes that play a role in determining a person's’ nose width and, including those that influence the bone, cartilage, and craniofacial structure in humans, and these genetic factors are often one of the biggest determinants in whether people are born to have large, medium, or small noses.

Some aspects of nose shape, however, seem to have evolved as a response to a very complex evolutionary process involving the way we breathe. Most scientists believe that these types of nose differentiations are due to climate adaptations among ethnic groups and further influenced by either genetic drift or natural selection. Studies show that certain traits of the nose have likely adapted as a result of geographical temperatures and humidity levels in corresponding regions of the world. In particular, the measurement of the space between the nares (or the nostrils) shows to have a strong correlation to certain temperatures and the relative humidity of a region. As a result, wider, big noses, such as an Aquiline or “Roman nose”, are more common in warm, humid climates, while narrow noses are more common in drier, colder climates.

Another point to consider when evaluating nose size and shape differences in any given population is the aesthetic differences amongst various ethnic groups. Again, these differences are likely to have developed in racial groups from genetic drift and natural selection in response to climate adaptation. While many “universal” beauty standards have historically been influenced by facial characteristics common in Caucasian men and women, (or the stereotypical “Hollywood nose” made popular in the United States over the last century), non-Caucasian noses have distinct anatomical differences and are often unique representations of varying ethnic backgrounds. Therefore, ethnic characteristics must be considered when evaluating a person’s nose shape and size, as well as other factors that have to do with the individual features of each person.

Fixing a Big Nose: Rhinoplasty Surgery

Rhinoplasty surgery, or a nose job, is a cosmetic procedure performed by cosmetic surgeons that focuses on re-shaping the nose to meet the natural proportions of an individual patient’s face. This surgery is performed in instances where the patient is unsatisfied with the aesthetic appearance of his or her nose, and also in circumstances where the patient is experiencing impaired breathing due to a structural issue or defect within the nasal cavities.

Surgical solutions for nose reconstruction will vary considerably depending on the personal goals of the patient. While some procedures will focus on improving one area of the nose, others will focus on modifying two or more areas. For example, rhinoplasty is commonly performed on patients seeking to improve the look of the nose by reducing its length, reducing the width of the bridge, smoothing out the profile by removing unwanted bumps, hooks, or other misshapen sections, reducing oversized nostrils or fixing asymmetrical ones, and modifying bulbous, drooping, or otherwise undesired nasal tips, among other symptoms.

Rhinoplasties are typically outpatient operations, and patients will receive either general or local anesthesia to eliminate pain during the procedure. The surgeon will then reshape, remove, or otherwise alter the bone and cartilage to create a new nose shape according to the goals of each patient.

Deviated Septum Correction

When rhinoplasty is performed to correct a deviated septum, the purpose is primarily restorative vs. cosmetic, though both the function and the appearance of the nose can be improved at the same time. The surgery is meant to open up the nasal cavities by realigning crooked nasal cavities to facilitate better airflow and enhance breathing, especially at night. The surgery will focus on re-aligning the nose to eliminate blockages where the airflow is stifled or compressed (usually due to a septum that’s collapsed or obstructing the pathway of air through the nose).

Finding the Right Surgeon for Rhinoplasty

If you’re thinking about having rhinoplasty to improve the appearance of your nose, your first step is to find a reputable, professional, and highly qualified plastic surgeon that specializes in nose job surgery. Rhinoplasty surgery is a very important procedure that carries the potential to dramatically alter your physical appearance, which is why you’ll want to take special care to find the very best doctor you can to perform your operation. This will involve researching and speaking with a variety of board-certified doctors in your area. If you live in the United States, search for medical professionals that belong to organizations like the American Board of Plastic Surgery, or the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in order to find the most qualified professionals in your area, to determine which of them you feel the most comfortable with performing your surgery.

During each consultation, you’ll want to discuss the issues you have with your nose in detail. Your doctor will examine your nose closely and ask you a series of questions—including what you’d like to change about your appearance, your breathing performance, and other details to determine the various solutions available for you. You’ll also want to ask your doctor about staying realistic, and what kind of changes you can expect to achieve after surgery. You’ll also want to ask any questions you may have about the surgery, including what techniques the surgeon uses, whether anesthesia will be local or general, recovery times, costs, and insurance coverage.

Conclusion

According to research from the Academy of Plastic Surgeons, there were 218,924 rhinoplasties performed in 2017 in the United States. The popularity of rhinoplasty surgeries has led to huge advancements in the technology and new techniques used to perform these procedures, which are the third most common operations performed after breast augmentation and liposuction surgeries.

With so much research focused on the development of rhinoplasty procedures, nose reshaping techniques have improved dramatically over the last few decades. As a result, patients can expect to achieve very satisfactory results personalized to suit their aesthetic ideal, with less downtime and risk of complications than ever before. While personal results will depend heavily on the cosmetic surgeon chosen and the realistic nature of the patients’ expectations, today’s patients can expect to significantly enhance the aesthetic beauty and structural quality of large, broken, and misshapen noses after nose surgery.

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