The Secret of Beauty? a Wonky Smile

Article excerpt

Byline: by Alice Hart Davis

AS THE popularity of cosmetic surgery continues to rise, we ask four leading plastic surgeons how they view the elusive notion of beauty. Are they arbiters of modern beauty or just reflecting back to us how we would ideally like to see ourselves? Rajiv Grover CONSULTANT plastic surgeon at King Edward VII Hospital in London. He has a private practice in Harley Street and is president-elect of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons. TECHNICALLY, what makes a face beautiful is symmetry and a strong central 'facial triangle' with bright, wide eyes, proportionate lips and minimal distracting features.

If you look at Andy Warhol's silkscreen prints of famous faces, you will see that all he shows is the eyes, the lips and tiny dots to represent the nose. By emphasising just these, he automatically made the faces he worked with beautiful.

But it is not usually my own concept of beauty that comes into play when treating patients. As a surgeon, I have to make sure that I am not putting my sense of values onto them. I need to discover what they perceive to be their problem in order to see whether I can help them.

Having said that, many operations require me to make a judgment of aesthetics. If I'm doing a rhinoplasty [reshaping someone's nose], it's not just about creating a nice shape; I have to look at a nose in the context of the face.

My patients aren't looking to turn into Angelina Jolie; they want to look how they were when they were a bit younger. So I ask them to bring in pictures from their 20s, 30s and 40s. It's their own beauty that I am working with.

When it comes to what society considers beautiful, we are programmed to admire people with perfect proportions, symmetrical faces and toned bodies.

This isn't something that has been drummed into us by the media -- it is hard-wired into our brains by nature. That's why those media images of beautiful people are so powerful.

People sometimes accuse cosmetic surgeons of playing God with women's looks, but I can assure you that playing God doesn't come into it.

My job, and my aim, is not to make my patients feel insecure by comparing them to others. It is to find out what troubles them and whether, with an operation, we can improve things without medical risk.

Dalia Nield PLASTIC and reconstructive surgeon specialising in liposculpture and breast work. Formerly a consultant at St Barts and the Homerton Hospital, she has a private practice near Harley Street. WE ALL say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but for me, it is subjective and objective. From an anatomical point of view, beauty is the normalising of features that are out of balance. The subjective part of beauty is personal.

There are things I will not do as a surgeon because they are offensive to my sense of beauty. For example, I do a lot of breast work, but I will not do enormous augmentations because they look ridiculous. When I do liposculpture -- a safer form of liposuction using local anaesthetic and lasers to liquefy fat instead of having to go under a general anaesthetic -- the aim is to discover the curves that are right for that particular woman.

To be attractive and to be beautiful are two different things. Some people are beautiful because their features are perfect, but most people are attractive because their features are imperfect.

Around 85 per cent of people who come to my practice are realistic about what they want done. The remaining 15 per cent will be looking for something they don't realise would not look good.

I have to explain to them that, say, the features they are asking for would be like putting Marilyn Monroe's nose on Sophia Loren's face -- it would be all wrong.

The people who come for surgery are far more normal than we are made to think by the media. …