The most stunning faces according to science

Is beauty truly in the eye of the beholder? Not really, it seems. Although you may not always find yourself agreeing with others on who is attractive, there are some faces that nearly all of us in western culture would deem beautiful. The fact that the beauty bias is alive and well is pretty much proof that we tend to agree on who is good-looking and, frustratingly, who is not.

"Appearance is the first thing we judge people on," Anthony Little, a psychologist at the University of Stirling in Scotland acknowledged when speaking to Science News for Students. "Being aware that these biases exist is an important step." Even if it is totally subconscious, we are all guilty of judging others at first sight, but the psychologist revealed that a person's physical appearance becomes less important as we get to know that person better.

Of course, you may be curious to know just what it is that makes a person's face attractive — scientifically speaking. Here's what researchers have discovered.

The "golden ratio"

Remember how your math teachers used to tell you that math is everywhere or that you'd use math all throughout your life? Well, if you were one of those students who rolled your eyes and complained about doing your algebra homework, you've probably since realized that your teacher was right. Sigh.

"The idea that everything is, in some sense, mathematical goes back at least to the Pythagoreans of ancient Greece and has spawned centuries of discussion among physicists and philosophers," Max Tegmark, a physicist and cosmologist, wrote in an article for Discover Magazine.

As Tegmark alluded to, the "golden ratio" was discovered in Ancient Greece. Simply put, this mathematical equation, which includes different proportions, is thought to be the most aesthetically pleasing formula. This ratio has been used by artists — you can spot it in the Mona Lisa — and has now even been applied to human faces. Using the golden ratio, Julian De Silva, a cosmetic surgeon in London, England, discovered the most aesthetically pleasing celebrity face and revealed his findings to Vogue. According to this Ancient Grecian formula, Amber Heard takes the cake.

Decidedly (mathematically) average

Using ancient mathematics may seem like an unusual way to determine an attractive face, but researchers agree that ratio comes into play. Symmetry, as it turns out, is an important indicator of attractiveness. Psychologist Anthony Little said although no face is a hundred percent symmetrical, we, as humans, like symmetrical-seeming faces. He told Science News for Students, "Symmetry looks normal to us. And we then like it."

Little further explained that people like "average" faces. But again, this is about mathematics. People find mathematically average faces attractive. "Averageness includes all kinds of factors," the psychologist explained. "Such as the size of the features of your face and their arrangement."

As it turns out, people also find "average" faces attractive whether or not those faces are symmetrical. As part of a study from 2004, researchers discovered that manipulating a picture of a person's face shape to become more of "an average shape" — while also not upping the symmetry — spurred others to rate the faces as more attractive. This was true whether the volunteer viewed a profile or head-on photo. Likewise, when those images were "morphed away from the average shape," viewers found them to be less attractive.

The Natalie Portman effect

Chris Solomon, a world-renowned expert in facial mapping technology, elevated the "beautiful" face experiment to a whole new level. Using a computer program that is generally reserved for crafting facial composites of criminals, Solomon commissioned people to create what they'd consider to be the perfect face. A hundred volunteers were then tasked with rating each face for attractiveness and, in the end, the expert discovered two faces — one male and one female — that are "the epitome of beauty." However, it is important to note that this study was conducted in the UK, so, as Solomon highlighted, "a study in Asia or Africa for example would no doubt have different results."

After settling on the most aesthetically pleasing female face, the study also evaluated celebrity faces to find the one most comparable. Solomon and his team named Natalie Portman as the best match. While she'd probably never want to fit a criminal composite, matching a beauty composite is pretty cool.

The face shape we all heart

What is it about Natalie Portman's face or the original composite from facial mapping expert Chris Solomon's study that is so alluring? It comes down to a combination of features and spacing. Yes, math again. Thankfully, the Solomon sat down with The Telegraph and broke down all of the different components of the most "beautiful" female face. Let's start with shape, shall we?

First thing's first: the math. In their report, Solomon and his team used a ratio measurement system in which "1 unit" equals the width of the face at the height of the eyes. Thus, the female face is, of course, one unit wide at the eyes. The mouth is 0.81 units wide, and, overall, the face is 1.44 units long. The face also features "regular, smooth jawline" with a chin measuring 0.21 units in length. What does all of this mean? Basically, the ideal female face is heart-shaped.

Heart-shaped faces — think Reese Witherspoon — are often categorized by high cheekbones, width at the top of the face, and a narrow chin. The aesthetic composite also has "near perfect facial symmetry," which further proves the importance of symmetry — well, at least when it comes to attractiveness, that is.

Sculpted-to-perfection brows

While you've perhaps never analyzed the spacing between your eyebrows and eyes, the ideal distance is, apparently, 0.125 above your peepers. The more you know, right? But it wasn't just the spacing that made a difference for the composite face in Chris Soloman's study. The female face had shaped and arched eyebrows. Of course, just because this may be what science has deemed most attractive, that doesn't mean you should start heating up the wax and going to town on your brows.

That said, it is true that the furry caterpillars above your eyes are pretty magical beasts. With a few tweaks and tweezes, eyebrows have some major transformative power — perhaps more so than any other facial feature. "Eyebrows can really contour and change the shape and appearance of your overall look by bringing balance and proportion to not only your eyes, but your entire face," Jared Bailey, a global brow expert for Benefit Cosmetics, revealed to InStyle. Yep, eyebrows can create an appearance of symmetry. And, you know, shaping and arching your brows is a whole hell of a lot easier than, say, trying to change the shape of your face.

"Super symmetrical" eyes

Brown is the most common eye color by a landslide. According to World Atlas, anywhere from 55 to 79 percent of the world's population is thought to have brown eyes. Brown also happens to be the color of the eyes in the ideal female face composite in Soloman's study. The Natalie Portman-esque face features dark almond-shaped eyes that are each 0.23 wide and a distance of 0.48 apart from the centers of the pupils.

According to L'Oréal Paris, there are six general eye shapes a person can have: monolids, round, almond, downturned, upturned, and hooded. Each of the six shapes has its own unique characteristics. Not sure if you have almond eyes? According to the site, your eyes are this shape if "you have a visible crease in your eyelid and, unlike those with round eyes, your iris touches both the top and bottom of your eyelid."

The company further revealed that almond eyes are — surprise, surprise — "super symmetrical." When accentuating almond eyes, you don't have to try to add in symmetry with eye makeup and can instead use "makeup to accent your natural eye shape."

A "dainty" nose

When it comes to the ideal sniffer, Chris Solomon and his team discovered "slim" and "small" to be the ticket. A nose of 0.37 units long with bridge and base width of just 0.1 and 0.25 units, respectively. Plastic surgeons have noted a similar infatuation with itty-bitty noses. When speaking with CBS News, cosmetic surgeons Richard W. Fleming and Toby G. Mayer revealed the noses women have been asking for the most. According to the experts, Natalie Portman's is number one. Next came Emma Stone's and Nicole Kidman's noses — which are both small and slim. But why the love for little noses?

"My theory is beauty standards have lauded small noses over big ones because they fit in with the idea of women being delicate, dainty, and not taking up space," Radhika Sanghani, the woman who started the #sideprofileselfie movement on social media, wrote in an article for Grazia. "But we're not. We're bold, strong, and we can take up as much space as we want, even with our bodies." Big, small, crooked, straight — embrace those noses, ladies.

"Sensual" lips

Small noses may be idealized, but the same principle apparently does not apply to lips. Chris Solomon's female composite has "full lips" and a mouth that's 0.38 units wide. In addition to Natalie Portman, the study provided examples of Scarlett Johansson and Emilia Clarke. And it may come as no surprise to learn that that's what plastic surgeons Richard W. Fleming and Toby G. Mayer found as well. The doctors told CBS News that Scarlet Johansson had the most-requested lips of any celebrity. Women also looked to Angelina Jolie and Christina Aguilera for their lip inspo, the surgeons revealed.

Full lips — at least in American culture — have been idealized for a while. Jamie Gordon, an anthropologist, partner, and cultural strategist at Culture Agency in Atlanta, Ga., revealed what he thinks to be the root of the obsession. "When you look at the anthropological history of the female body and sexuality, full lips signal not only sensuality, but being excited about having sex," he explained to Women's Health. Michael C. Edwards, president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, added, "People may think a fuller lip is more sensual, or they may be influenced by pop culture and social media."

The David Gandy effect

One of the most interesting aspects of Chris Solomon's "beautiful" face study is how vastly different the ideal female and male faces ended up. Other than both of the faces having brunette hair and "near perfect facial symmetry," they don't share many other features. When comparing the composite with male celebrities, Solomon and his team discovered that British model David Gandy is as close as one man gets to having the "perfect" face. His nearly one million followers on Instagram would likely agree.

According to The Scotsman, when Domenico Dolce of Dolce & Gabbana first saw the British model, "he immediately gave [him] the impression of embodying a universal ideal of masculine beauty between Michelangelo's David and those chiselled Greek and Roman sculptures of the classic era." Gandy is so fine, in fact, that he had trouble finding work on account of being — wait for it — "too good-looking." Here's everything that makes Gandy — and the ideal male face — so attractive.

All about the oval

Using the same ratio measurement system in which "1 unit" equals the width of the face at the height of the eyes, Chris Solomon's study revealed that the ideal male face is then one unit wide at the eyes as well as 0.88 units wide at the mouth and has an overall face length of 1.33 units. This ideal face also has a squared jaw with a chin length of 0.27 units — making it larger than the female chin. All of these figures add up to mean that Mr. Perfect has not a heart-shaped face, but one that is oval-shaped. 

At least as far as hairstyles are concerned, oval-faced men like Ryan Gosling have it easy. After consulting with Men's Hairstyles Today, Business Insider revealed, "Luckily, most hairstyles will look good with an oval face shape." Most. "A word of caution: avoid bangs or fringes that could cover your forehead and make your head appear even rounder than it already is," the site explained.

Straight brows

Ideal male eyebrows differ from "perfect" female brows in, well, pretty much every way. The male composite face in Solomon's study features "medium-thick eyebrows" that are "straight" and curve downward at the ends. Unlike the beauty ideal for women, the "ideal" male brows are neither shaped nor arched. Additionally, the male composite features much lower brows — just a 0.07 distance above the eyes — unlike the female face with a 0.125 distance.

Not all men pay attention to their brows, but Romero Jennings, director of makeup artistry for MAC Cosmetics, is of the opinion they should. "Brows are really personal. Brows really give you expression. Brows can make you look strong or weak or powerful or not. A brow will give you approachability," Jennings told HuffPost. "If it's too strong or severe, someone will pass you by." Jennings also recommends men meet with a groomer who has experience sculpting men's brows as opposed to visiting any ol' salon.

Not the typical eye shape

The male composite face illustrates that we find both oval-shaped eyes and blue eyes to be the most attractive on men. Blue is the second most common eye color, but it is still much rarer than brown. Oval is also not one of the six common eye shapes. Instead, it's more of a combination of round and almond. It may sound a little confusing, but you can just look at former soccer star David Beckham, David Gandy (of course), and actor Bradley Cooper for examples of this shape.

Oh, and David Beckham proved that women and men alike can use eye makeup to play up or draw attention to the shape of their eyes. In January 2019, Beckham graced the cover of Love Magazine wearing a shade of bright green eye shadow, matching green floral neck tattoos. And this wasn't the first time Beckham wore makeup. "David does steal my beauty products," his wife, Victoria Beckham, told Elle. "It doesn't annoy me. He looks so beautiful!" That he does, Victoria. That he does.

A middle-of-the-road nose

While it's desirable for men to have slim noses, the facial composite study revealed that they shouldn't be too small. Instead, "mid-length" and "straight" were the defining factors of the ideal face. With a length of 0.38 units and a bridge and base width of 0.11 and 0.26 units, respectively, the ideal male schnoz is proportionately larger — though still not large — than that of the female composite. A study published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology revealed that, on average, men have larger noses than women, so it's not too surprising that a larger male nose is considered "ideal."

The study cited the two Davids — Beckham and Ganty — as the closest human comparisons. Although neither of these famous men's noses made up the top celebrity rhinoplasty requests, similar slim and mid-length noses did. Californian plastic surgeons Richard W. Fleming and Dr. Toby G. Mayer told CBS News that Jude Law, Josh Duhamel, and Ben Affleck actually had the most requested sniffers.

"Average" lips

Facial-mapping expert Chris Solomon's study revealed that "average lips" — described as "neither full nor thin" — complete the "perfect" male face. Unlike the female composite which features lips that are 0.38 units wide, the male composite's lips come in proportionately smaller at just 0.35 wide.

This, too, is echoed in what plastic surgeons Richard W. Fleming and Dr. Toby G. Mayer have seen in their respective practices. While Solomon's study listed David Beckham and Chris Hemsworth as the celebrity equivalent of perfect lips, the plastic surgeons told CBS News that Ashton Kutcher, Viggo Mortensen, and Brad Pitt have the lips that men request the most.

Citing data from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, People reported that male lip augmentations had dramatically increased — some 400 percent! — from the year 2000 to 2016. "With the surge of selfies, lips have become the new staring point," Tim Neavin, a plastic surgeon based in Beverly Hills, Calif., told the publication. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see what the "ideal" face looks in the future.