Discriminative Thresholds in Facial Asymmetry: A Review of the Literature

Aesthet Surg J. 2017 Apr 1;37(4):375-385. doi: 10.1093/asj/sjw271.


Background: Facial symmetry is intimately correlated with attractiveness. Perfect facial symmetry is disconcerting and a degree of facial asymmetry is considered normal. There is a lack of data on the limits of normality across facial subunits.

Objectives: This systematic review aims to establish categories of facial asymmetry perception for facial aesthetic units by establishing a discriminative threshold of "deformity perception" across facial subunits and a threshold for intervention (unacceptable asymmetry).

Methods: A review of the literature was performed across Medline and Embase databases using OvidSP. All prospective studies evaluating the perception of progressive facial asymmetry in laymen or clinicians using a two- or three-dimensional model were included. Studies that did not evaluate rates of perception at varying degrees of asymmetry were excluded as these did not allow for the identification of a perceptive threshold.

Results: Each facial feature possesses a unique threshold of perception defined by an abrupt, statistically significant increase in detection. Asymmetry of the eyelid position at rest is the most sensitive facial feature (perceptive threshold, 2 mm) (P < 0.02). This is followed by deviations of the oral commissure (3 mm) (P < 0.001), brow position (3.5 mm) (P < 0.001), nasal tip deviation (4 mm) (P < 0.001), and chin deviation (6 mm) (P < 0.001). Desire for surgery for worsening deformities beyond the intervention threshold is characterized by an exponential, rather than linear, correlation.

Conclusions: Categories of facial asymmetry perception establish a framework to counsel patients with facial asymmetries, and are a valuable adjunct to clinical judgment in the management of static and dynamic facial deformities.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cosmetic Techniques / standards*
  • Face / anatomy & histology*
  • Face / surgery
  • Facial Asymmetry / diagnosis*
  • Facial Asymmetry / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Sensory Thresholds*
  • Sex Factors
  • Visual Perception*