In the age of the selfie, more women than ever are looking for ways to perfect their pouts—which might be why a record-breaking 27,400 lip implants were performed in the United States in 2015. But what does the "perfect" pair of female lips really look like? According to new research published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, they're (mostly) more natural-looking than you might think.
In their February 2017 study, researchers from University of California, Irvine showed more than 400 participants side-by-side images of young women's lips and asked them to rank each photo on a scale of one to 10, with one being the least attractive and 10 being the most attractive.
First, the participants were shown photos in which women's overall lip sizes were manipulated, to help researchers gauge the "ideal" lip surface area:
And then they were shown photos in which women's upper and lower lips were manipulated separately, to help researchers gauge the "perfect" upper-to-lower lip ratio:
Ultimately, the researchers found that participants preferred lips that were approximately 50 percent larger than a woman's natural lip size and took up about 10 percent of the lower third of a woman's face. They also preferred a lower lip that was two times the size of the upper lip—kind of like those of models Miranda Kerr and Alessandra Ambrosio, explained study co-author Natalie Popenko.
The participants' preference for a fuller, more natural lower lip was slightly surprising to the researchers, as current plastic surgery trends indicate that many women (celebrities and otherwise) are asking plastic surgeons for a visibly fuller upper lip. But the researchers recommend skipping the trend and preserving the more natural look if you do decide to have plastic surgery—a larger upper lip can unintentionally come off looking "overly filled and disproportionate," says study co-author Brian Wong, MD, PhD.
It's important to note that, in an effort to generate findings that could be compared to previous research, this study focused solely on the lips of young Caucasian women. And, of course, your lips—much less this study's definition of "perfect" ones—aren't the only things that define you and your beauty. So don't stress too much if your pout doesn't match these participants' preferences.
"Whole faces are greater than the sum of their parts, and attractiveness can also be defined by unique facial features," Popenko added.