You’d think by the time you reach your 20s or so, you’d know everything you need to know about your face. You have a pretty good idea how it all works and how to take care of it, right? But let’s face facts about face facts: there are plenty of things you don’t know!
Human face biology and anatomy, just like the rest of our weirdo parts, are fascinating and insanely complex. Scientists and evolutionary biologists are discovering new things all the time (the creepiest fact on this list, for example, wasn’t well-known until 2015). Pinch your cheeks, count your eyelashes, and prepare to learn a bunch of cool new facts about human faces.
Your Dominant Nostril Switches Every Few Hours
Everyone has a dominant hand, save for those superhuman ambidextrous folks that think they’re better than the rest of us. But did you know that everyone also has a dominant nostril? It’s true… at least temporarily. Your dominant nostril – the one with the most airflow – switches throughout the day, and it affects what you smell. Researchers say the different rates of flow between the dominant and non-dominant nostril may help the brain to separate and appreciate complex scents.
Science Says Resting B*tch Face Is Sexist
If you’ve been accused of having so-called “Resting B*tch Face,” know this – there’s nothing unusual about your face, and men have them, too. Researchers at Noldus Information Technology used a piece of software called FaceReader in February 2016 to plot out exactly what RBF looks like and discovered that – shocking! – a ton of men have it, too. Conclusion? It has “little to do with facial physiology and more to do with social norms.” Why is it considered a lady thing? Because “women have more pressure on them to be happy and smiley and to get along with others.” In other words, rest easy, RBFs!
Arachnids Live On Your Face
At least two species of microscopic arachnid mites live on your face. Still here? Good. Everyone has them, and they’re here to stay. This isn’t a new development: they’ve been with us since early humans walked out of Africa and started exploring the globe. Don’t worry; they won’t cause you harm, unless you somehow don’t have enough of them, which can cause skin ailments such as rosacea. Weirdly, all mammals have these face mites, except – you guessed it – the platypus and its kooky egg-laying relatives. Platypuses always have to be different, huh?
You Have Twice As Many Upper Eyelashes As Lower
If you don’t spend hours staring at your own eyelashes then you may not know this one: you have twice as many upper eyelashes as lower. On average, most people have 200 upper and 100 lower. The number is constantly changing because about five will fall out each day and not return for another four-to-eight weeks.
You Have a Little Hyoid Bone Right Under Your Tongue
Also known by the much naughtier name “tongue bone,” the hyoid bone gets the distinction of being the only bone in the throat and the only bone in the body that doesn’t connect directly with any other bone. It’s the loneliest bone we have. If you were unaware of its presence, looking at x-rays just might make you gag – it looks like something stuck in your throat. Why do we even have it? It works as an anchor for our tongues, keeping the back in place while the rest of it is off doing God-knows-what.
Cheek Pinching May Be A Way To Balance Our Emotions
If you have a pinchably cute face, aunts and uncles have probably pinched your cheeks more than a few times, right? Cute babies get it all the time, but ask any adorable adult with a living grandmother: those cheeks are still getting pinched. Why? Yale psychologist Oriana Aragon has a guess: the impulse to pinch a cute cheek could help humans achieve “emotional homeostasis.” In other words, we respond to overwhelmingly positive feelings with minor negative reactions. It’s sort of like crying “tears of joy.” By pinching – a mildly painful and “negative” act – we balance out the positive and get closer to the “emotional equilibrium” the body craves.
Your Philtrum Serves No Purpose
First of all, the groove above your lip and below your nose is called a philtrum. The woman in the picture above has an especially pronounced philtrum, but guess what? They don’t do anything. It’s just where the two sides of your face “meet” and fuse when they’re done developing in the womb. (A failed fuse is what causes a cleft palate.) It serves no function in humans, but some consider it a sexy feature: philtrum is Greek for “love potion,” after all. Flat philtrums, however, can indicate the presence of fetal alcohol syndrome.
It Actually Takes More Muscles To Smile Than It Does To Frown
Frown all you want – as it turns out, researchers have found that it does not require more muscles to frown than it does to smile. As the scientists at QI observe, it requires 12 of the 53 facial muscles for a genuine, so-called zygomatic smile. Frowning only requires 11. If you want to put out the least facial effort possible and still make an expression, try a fake smile: you only need to tighten two of your risorius muscles. As the QI team notes, this makes “insincerity by far the easiest option.”
The Jawbone Is The Strongest Bone In Your Face
The mandible, or jawbone, is the largest and strongest bone in your face. We use the mandible to help bite, and we bite with a surprising amount of power: our jaws are stronger than orangutans’ and gibbons‘ jaws, for example (but still can’t match the power of gorillas or chimps). Interestingly, if we could somehow use a magic ray to scale all primate skulls to the same size, our mandibles would help us to absolutely destroy the competition. Our bite force would be “at least 40% greater” than the rest of the pack. Take that, rhinos!
Lips Get Dry Because Lips Don’t Sweat
Ever wonder why your lips get so dry? A big reason is because, unlike most of the rest of your body, your lips don’t have sweat glands. They’re also hairless, which means they’re lacking two things that help provide natural moisture. On say, your cheeks, hair provides oil, and sweat glands provide sweat to keep your skin moist, smooth, warm, and pathogen-free. Lips don’t have these features, which is why everyone breaks out the Chapstick when the temperature drops.
Most Facial Asymmetry Is Temporary
While there’s lots of discussion (and disagreement) about the relative merits and drawbacks of perfect facial symmetry, scientists are in agreement that a truly symmetrical face is incredibly rare, nearly impossible, really. There’s a wide range of facial symmetry among people, but, for most, the most asymmetrical features of your face are fleeting. That is, some of the most pronounced facial asymmetries are the result of temporary muscle movements. While talking, for example, most people move the right side of their face much more than the left because of strong neural connections between the left side of the brain and the right side of the face. So, when you’re talking, your face can become pretty uneven. However, not to worry, your normal amount of asymmetry recommences as soon as you close your mouth.
It Might Indicate The Health Of Your Body As A Whole
A device called the Wize Mirror purports to be able to tell a lot about your overhall health from taking in your face, from your cholesterol to your stress level. The device, which uses a 3D scanner, is built around the idea that fat on the face, skin tone, and facial expressions indicate a whole range of things about the body more generally. How’s that for giving it all away with your face?