Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and the dermatologist

The before and after images of a patient of Cyndi Yag-Howard, MD, who said, ‘By applying an artist's principles of proportion to the human face, we as dermatologists are able to sculpt a more beautiful human face.'

The before and after images of a patient of Cyndi Yag-Howard, MD, who said, ‘By applying an artist’s principles of proportion to the human face, we as dermatologists are able to sculpt a more beautiful human face.’

see the human face as the medium I enjoy as an artist” said Cyndi Yag-Howard, MD, president and CEO of Yag-Howard Dermatology Center in Naples, Florida. “Unlike virtually any other form of art, the art of facial sculpting and enhancement represents the unusual combination of both living art and functional art.

“As a dermatologist, our ‘canvases’ or ‘sculpting materials’ are living, breathing, eating, and speaking people — and the way they look, the way they move, and the way they feel all change as a result of our artistry. We are not just artists; we create art that serves a purpose.”

Dr. Yag-Howard explored the artistry of dermatology Saturday during a special session, “The Human Face as Living and Functional Art.” Fillers, neurotoxins, and lasers are her tools, but she focused more on the art of dermatology as she seeks to understand the concept of beauty.

Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Dr. Yag-Howard noted. For instance, historically and culturally, one society might place enormous value on “beauty marks,” while another might abhor even the slightest skin mark or blemish.

“We use lasers to remove what we consider to be imperfections, but that’s simply a cultural preference that we share with our patients,” she said. Yet, there are principles of beauty that endure far longer than passing cultural fads. “The proportions that define beauty are much more fundamental.”

Artists and scholars have attempted to define beauty for millennia, typically by referring to harmonious proportions. In the sixth century B.C., proportions were measured using the length of the distal phalanx of the fifth digit. In the 16th century, Leonardo Da Vinci and other artists focused on the mathematical calculation of pi, believing it to be the key to divine proportion, also known as “the golden mean.”

Using the golden mean allowed artists of the Renaissance to construct visually pleasing paintings and sculptures emphasizing balance and beauty. In the late 20th century, L.G. Farkas, MD, developed anthropometric proportion indices based on actual facial measurements. Applying the norms of those measurements to art produces an aesthetically pleasing, if not beautiful, well-proportioned face.

“Beauty is all about balance and proportion,” Dr. Yag-Howard said. “I define beauty as the harmonious composition of lines, angles, curves, contours, colors, and lighting in pleasing proportions. You know beauty when you see it, but it can be hard to define in concrete terms.”

Using examples of famous and not-so-famous works of art dating from Ancient Egypt to the present, Dr. Yag-Howard examined beauty over time and applied principles of proportion to the works. She also discussed how an individual’s facial appearance affects self-image, the effects of one’s facial appearance on others, and the pivotal role dermatologists can play as artists of facial sculpting and enhancement.

“Plastic surgeons tend to focus on art more than dermatologists do,” she said. “Yet, we in dermatology created many of the instruments and the procedures that we use in medicine to create that art. Dermatologists can build a relationship with art and use those tools we have in our clinic-studios to create the harmonious, well-balanced proportions that we recognize as beauty.

“By applying an artist’s principles of proportion to the human face, we as dermatologists are able to sculpt a more beautiful human face.”

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