The philtrum used to be an overlooked part of the face. Lately, more people have taken an interest in how to shorten it. In this article, we will discuss some methods to shorten the philtrum, and also the reasons why people would want to do so.
Surgical options to shorten the philtrum include chieloplasty, lip lift, and CCW rotation. Orthodontic solutions to shorten the philtrum include braces, and reverse pull headgear. Some non-invasive methods to shorten the philtrum include lip fillers, facial exercises, makeup, and mewing.
What is the philtrum?
The philtrum is that area from the bottom tip of the nose to the middle of the upper lip. People will naturally have a longer philtrum as they age, but there are times when this issue is due to a jaw deformity or other genetic problems.
An abnormally long philtrum will be longer than +2 of the standard deviation for the average length.
Standard deviation, in this case, is the value determined as above or below the average. As it applies to the length of the philtrum, the value may be higher or lower than average but still considered within the normal range.
For men, the average length of the philtrum is around 1.8cm and 1.68cm for women. In a study by Zankl et al. (2002), they found that +2 of the standard deviation for the length of the philtrum is 2.13cm in men, and 2.01 cm for women. A philtrum longer than this is abnormally long.
Hennekam et al. (2009) define the philtrum as a vertical groove in the midline portion of the upper lip bordered by two lateral ridges or pillars.
Although older people will also develop larger noses as they age, it is not to be confused with length. Even if the nose’s bridge increases in size over the years, the nose does not necessarily grow longer as well. As the Hennekam study found, the nose and the philtrum inversely affect each other—as one shortens the other lengthens as people advance in age.
The Ideal Philtrum Length
The “ideal” philtrum length is about 1.3 to 1.5 cm for males and 1.1 to 1.3 cm for females based on facial proportions and the facial rule of thirds.
The rule of thirds, as it applies to the face, means that there should be an equal distance when the face is measured and horizontally divided into three. This division is from the hairline on the forehead to the eyebrow, from the eyebrow to the tip of the nose, and from the tip of the nose down to the chin.
However, the Zankl et al. study found that the mean philtrum length for men 20 years of age is 1.78cm and 1.63 cm for women, then declines and will increase again at the age of 30. From 30 years old, males will have a mean philtrum length of 1.8cm and females 1.68. As the person ages, the philtrum grows for an average of about 0.05cm each year.
In addition to age, habits can also accelerate the lengthening of the philtrum. One such practice is mouth breathing. It will not happen overnight, but a long-term habit of mouth breathing not only contributes to health issues such as sleep apnea but also affects the facial structure.
What is considered a long philtrum?
The Human Phenotype Ontology defines a long philtrum as more than +2 standard deviation above the mean. Going back to the study by Zankl et al., that means that it is above 2.2cm for males and 2cm for females for adults.
A longer philtrum is often considered less attractive even if we may not be consciously aware that it is an issue. The differences in the length of the philtrum from one person to another could be as little as a few millimeters.
Non-Surgical Methods to Shorten the Philtrum
The first set of options to shorten the philtrum involves non-surgical methods. Understandably, some people do not want to go through invasive surgeries for a little enhancement. This aversion to surgery is especially true for those who simply want to shorten their philtrum for purely aesthetic purposes.
The following are some options to shorten the philtrum for those who do not have a significantly long philtrum.
Non-Surgical Orthodontic Methods
The long philtrum is often caused by issues of the jaw or the middle to the lower face. Non-surgical orthodontic solutions could involve braces and rubber bands, bite-pads, or a reverse-pull night gear to correct the bite and jaw alignment.
Some would resort to getting lip fillers, especially on the upper lip, for the appearance of a shorter philtrum. They feel that this enhancement will make the philtrum appear shorter. It is not a solution to get a shorter philtrum because lip fillers do not shorten the philtrum.
Facial and Lip Exercises
There are no studies yet on the benefits of facial exercises to decrease the length of the philtrum. But some people swear by facial yoga, and there is nothing to lose. If facial exercises do not improve your philtrum, the least it could do is help with the circulation of your facial muscles. I would start off just by flexing the philtrum area and holding for 30 seconds. Do those 10 reps of those, adding an extra rep each week.
A better alternative to unproven facial exercises is mewing. People have experienced dramatic or subtle results through mewing correctly. Mewing moves the maxilla over time, which causes your philtrum to take on a more attractive shape. Mewing directly combats the maxillary recession that occurs with age, and even reverses it.
It involves developing a habit of keeping the tongue, mouth, and jaws in a proper position. Mewing will not produce results overnight, but prolonged practice will improve your appearance. This person experienced an improvement in their philtrum with years of mewing:
You will find a comprehensive guide to mewing here.
The most superficial and temporary solution is through cosmetics. There are techniques for applying lipstick, lipliner, and contouring to give the illusion of a shorter philtrum.
Surgical Procedures to Shorten the Philtrum
For those who have a significantly longer philtrum or other facial deformities, surgery may be the best option. Surgery usually scares people because it is invasive, but the benefits are more dramatic and permanent.
Lip surgery or Chieloplasty
Chieloplasty is a form of lip restoration performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon or a plastic surgeon. Compared with lip fillers, the adjustments done through lip surgery are more permanent and precise. It is a better option for permanently increasing the size of the lips.
Lip Lift or Bullhorn surgery
A lip lift is different from cheiloplasty. In this procedure, the incisions are made under the bridge of the nose along the upper part of the philtrum. The surgeon will slice off a portion of the area and then stitch the skin close, shortening the philtrum in the process.
Counterclockwise Rotation (CCW)
The CCW is a major facial reconstruction operation. CCW is a surgery that involves the repositioning of the upper and lower jaws.
In this procedure, the jaws are moved forward and rotated upward. This procedure will correct facial issues, including the shortening of the philtrum.
Why is the length of the philtrum significant?
The most crucial reason for shortening the philtrum is when a longer philtrum coincides with other medical issues. For aesthetic reasons, longer philtrum makes a face look more mature because that is just how our face naturally develops.
A longer philtrum makes a face look older
As mentioned previously in this article, studies showed that the philtrum grows longer as we age. Just like wrinkles and age spots, longer philtrum is an indicator of aging. Therefore, people with longer philtrum are perceived as older than they are.
The study also found that males generally have longer philtrum than females. There is a marked peak in philtrum length during adolescence, which declines in early adulthood. But the philtrum starts growing again after the age of 30 for both males and females.
A longer philtrum makes a face look disproportional
Researchers found that there is a “new golden ratio” when it comes to facial attractiveness. A woman’s face is seen as attractive if the distance from the eyes to the mouth is approximately 36%. The vertical eyes-to-mouth distance should also be proportional to the horizontal distance between the eyes, which is about 46% of the face’s width. Pallett et al. (2009)
A longer philtrum breaks this golden ratio. Human beings like visual proportions and anything that doesn’t conform with it is seen as less desirable.
As people age, the philtrum grows longer, with an average of about 0.05mm per year. The ideal length of the philtrum is 1.3 to 1.5 cm for males and 1.1 to 1.3 cm for females. However, the average male’s philtrum at the age of 30 is 1.8cm and 1.63cm for females.
There are several options to shorten longer philtrum through either non-surgical or surgical procedures. Even if they are risky, surgical methods produce more dramatic and permanent results than non-surgical options.
The philtrum affects how our face looks and how we see others, whether we are consciously or unconsciously aware of it. A few millimeters could spell the difference between an attractive and less attractive face.