ROCHESTER, Minn. — More attention apparently doesn’t lead to more attraction, according to a new study. Researchers examining the attractiveness of lips have found that people actually think natural-looking lips are more beautiful than fuller, cosmetically-enhanced lips.
Even so, the team says people still tend to stare at lips that are bigger and poutier longer than they do at an attractive woman with more typically-proportioned lips.
“Visual attention, based on the results of this study, is not reflective of the beauty in the image assessed; rather the opposite,” says study author Sebastian Cotofana, MD, PhD, from the Mayo Clinic, in a media release.
Big doesn’t mean better
During their study, researchers took a stock photo of a young woman and then created a set of digitally-altered images. These images presented study participants with a range of lip proportions, which is the ratio between the upper and lower lips.
The participants, who served as the judges of attractiveness, were mainly volunteers with no background in medicine or cosmetology. Several plastic surgeons and dermatologists also joined the panel of observers. Additionally, study authors used eye-tracking technology to monitor which parts of the model’s face each observer stared at the longest.
Results of the subjective review show a lip proportion of 1-to-1.6 ranks as the most attractive, receiving an average score of 4.21 out of 5. Researchers note that many consider the 1:1.6 proportion as the “golden ratio” for beautiful lips. Meanwhile, having a fuller lower lip (a 1:2 ratio) was less attractive to the panel, receiving a score of just 2.16 out of 5.
When examining lip volume specifically, photos showing a model’s lips at “non-augmented, natural volume” were ranked as the most attractive, with an average score of 4.56. On the other hand, augmented lips puffed up to 130 percent of their natural size were found to be unattractive, scoring just 1.56.
Dr. Cotofana says their study “confirms previous investigations and current trends in aesthetic medicine” — which focus on giving patients a more “natural” look.
All eyes on me — for better or worse
Interestingly, the more unattractive the model’s lips were, according to the scores, the more time the panel spent looking at them.
As for why there’s such a mismatch between attractiveness and attention, researchers say it may be because people may want to spend more time examining something that differs with their “internal standard” of beauty. Simply put, their brain may be saying, “what’s going on with that person’s lips?”
“Visual stimuli that match the internal, socially influenced standard of beauty require less effort to be perceived,” Dr. Cotofana says. “In contrast, visual stimuli that do not match the internal standard of beauty require more processing time – as reflected by involuntary eye movements as captured by eye tracking.”
Study authors add that the findings challenge the assumption that people will spend more time looking at something they consider more attractive.
“Rather, it could be reflective of the cognitive processing of the observers: less attractive content captures the observers attention more quickly, yet needs more time to be processed,” the team explains.
So, are lip fillers really worth it?
Researchers believe their study could help understand recent beauty trends and behaviors, especially with the growing popularity of selfies, social media, plastic surgery, and noninvasive procedures which use dermal fillers in the lips.
“It can be now postulated that a ‘beautiful’ and ‘aesthetically pleasing’ outcome would fulfill such desired requirements where the patient is perceived by those around them with less cognitive effort,” Dr. Cotofana and the team concludes. “[T]he perceived beauty matches the ‘internal standard’ effortlessly.”
The findings appear in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.