Actual Scientists Just Discovered the Reason Your Selfie Looks Terrible

Nope, there's never been a research project more representative of our time.

If you’ve ever wondered why your face looks like a g’damn Grecian statue in real life, and then a melting stack of cheese in the selfie you just took, you’re not alone. Because apparently a few scientists also got so fed up with their lack of decent-looking profile pics, they decided to invest time (and presumably money!) into figuring out exactly what causes some selfies to look like so damn shitty. Yay for expensive college degrees!

According to a research letter published yesterday in the JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery journal, the reason your pic looks less than stellar is because of the position of your arm—namely, that your arm needs to be five-feet long in order to take a selfie that doesn't distort your facial features.

The study found that selfies taken at just 12-inches away (the average distance between your extended arm and your face) forced a "funhouse mirror" perspective that makes your nose look up to 30 percent wider than it is in real life. Great!

“For years, I've heard patients and family members say, ‘Oh, look at my nose, it looks so big,’ when they show me a selfie," said Boris Paskhover, M.D., study co-author and plastic surgeon, in an interview with Live Science. “I was always telling my patients, 'That's not how you really look.' I knew that selfies distort how your nose looks. And I wanted to prove it."

Rather than just looking at a bunch of bad selfies and saying, “Yup, definitely looks weird,” Dr. Paskhover and his team of scientist buddies at Rutgers Medical School and Stanford University devised a mathematical model that compared the distortive effects different camera angles can have on male and female faces.


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(Image credit: Design by Travis McHenry)

The results? A photo taken from five feet away, “a standard portrait distance,” resulted in no distortion, but a photo taken from 12 inches resulted in a 30 percent nose increase in men, and a 29 percent increase in women.

Luckily, you can combat the distortion by either giving up selfies altogether and forging ahead into a new, terrifying world without photographic evidence of your face, or you can invest in a selfie stick like your uncle has. Or, and this is probably your best option, you can not giving a flying f*ck and instead love your face for what it is: perfect. Except in selfies.

Chloe Metzger
Beauty Editor

Chloe Metzger is the deputy beauty director at Cosmopolitan, overseeing the editorial content and growth strategy of the hair, makeup, and skin space on digital, while also obsessively writing about the best hair products for every hair type (curly girl here; whattup), and the skincare routines that really, truly work (follow her on Instagram to see behind-the-scenes pics of that magazine life). She brings nearly a decade of writing and editing expertise, and her work has appeared in AllureHealthFitnessMarie ClaireStyleCaster, and Parents. She also has an unhealthy adoration for Tom Hanks and would like to please meet him one day, if you could arrange that. Thanks.