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Rhinoplasty and Ethnicity

by | Apr 7, 2013 | Blog, Rhinoplasty

Tailoring Nose Surgery based on Genetic Features

All noses are not created equal. Just as each individual is unique, so is every nose. Noses of people from different ethnic backgrounds, however, can share common features.

When we refer to ethnic rhinoplasty, we are generally speaking of non-Caucasian nose surgery. Going by their appearance, it is possible to divide noses into distinct categories such as European, Black (African), Asian, Middle Eastern etc.

Some scientists argue that ethnicity is not a scientific basis for categorising noses, but as we all know, groups do have distinctly recognisable features. It is also common to see variations occurring in people of the same ethnicity. Until a better classification is found, we have to do the best we can with what we have—using reference to broad ethnic groups.

Noses structured differently

Differences in noses are not confined to appearance. In fact appearances differ because of the differences in how noses are structured.

The nasal bridge and bones are structured distinctly differently among ethnic groups. Nasal cartilage can vary in terms of size, shape, strength and orientation. For example, some ethnic noses have a very small septal cartilage. That means a surgeon may need to get cartilage from the ear or the ribs to improve the bridge or the tip of the nose during rhinoplasty surgery. Nasal tips look different as well. Skin thickness also differs by ethnicity and can have aesthetic implications, especially during nose tip surgery.

To achieve expected results for his or her patients, a successful rhinoplasty surgeon needs to understand how to deal with these differences well ahead of the surgery

Different approaches are needed for different ethnic groups

As a result of the many structural differences, the general approach taken in ethnic nose surgery for each ethnic group needs to differ as well.

Says Dr George Marcells: “Asian noses are typically round with a bulb-like tip. The goal of Asian rhinoplasty is augmentation rather than reduction. The bridge of the nose may need to be raised. The nose tip may need to be enhanced and projection increased.

“The typical African nose is flat and wide with flared nostrils and a depressed tip. To improve its appearance, a surgeon needs to build dorsal height and improve nose tip definition. Nasal tip improvement can be a challenge, due to the typically thick African skin. It is necessary to produce a more pleasing alar base, the complex three-dimensional shape of the nose.

Nasal surgery is complicated, because changing any aspect of it can change the alar base and affect appearance and function in other parts of the nose.  In each instance, surgical planning must take into consideration both individual and cultural differences to meet patients’ desires and aesthetic perceptions.

“It is also important to understand patients’ motivations and expectations. Not everyone wants to ‘westernise’ their noses. Many non-Caucasians seek merely to improve their appearance through a rhinoplasty. They do not want all traces of ethnicity removed. In fact a lot of my patients are emphatic that their ethnicity should be preserved while making subtle and real changes to the nose.

“Nobody says rhinoplasty is easy. Nose surgery is considered one—if not the—most challenging procedures in facial cosmetic surgery. It takes an experienced rhinoplasty surgeon to navigate the nuances and subtle differences present in the noses of various ethnic groups. The final outcome should be a pleasing and ethnically congruent nose that does not radically violate aesthetic sensibilities.”

For more information

If you need more information about ethnic rhinoplasty or wish to make an appointment with Dr Marcells, please contact us on 1300 555 095, email or using the “ask a question” form at the end bottom of this page.

You may also want to check out the Nose Gallery on this website to get an idea of the wide range of nose surgery performed by Dr Marcells.

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Meet Dr Marcells

MBBS (Syd), FRACS (ORL-HNS)
Past President – Australasian Academy of Facial Plastic Surgeons

Dr George Marcells is known for excellence in facial plastic surgery and is considered a true master of rhinoplasty. He performs advanced surgical techniques to restore balance and harmony to the face and can also resolve functional issues such as breathing difficulties.

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