What’s it like living with a nose you actively dislike and try to camouflage? PENNY McCORMICK is an expert on nose jobs and their alternatives …
I once got an acting role on the strength of my profile. My much-loved English teacher (Mr Orr) thought both my nose and I were perfect for the role of Calpurnia in his adaptation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Calpurnia was Caesar’s wife, who famously warned him against going to the Senate on the Ides of March, having had nightmares and portents about the event. I took Mr Orr’s off the cuff remark as my own personal omen – not meant to hurt. It added to my teenage insecurity. Acne and a growth spurt (meaning I towered above many of my classmates, particularly nasty little boys), did not help. Add a Roman nose that did not conform to the small snub norm, and it’s safe to say my school years were not halcyon. Disclaimer: I was neither miserable nor depressed – though today I would probably be given counselling – I had friends and participated fully in school life. My extracurricular activities equalled my enthusiasm for schoolwork, but when least expected I fielded the smirks and whispered insults from boys, “knife nose” being one which remains ingrained in my memory.
Early boyfriends liked to tweak my nose, teasing me about my Achilles heel; later beaus told me never to change it. Thus far I have not, though I have been sorely tempted.
Looking at my immediate family, I have inherited the nose from my maternal family tree. I take particular umbrage with my bridge, which became more pronounced at puberty and is not proportioned as in my mother and aunts’ cases. According to face readers, it’s actually the bridge that defines a Roman nose. “People who have this nose are notably very headstrong, and ambitious in nature. They are able to influence others with their words, and know how to make an impact. Their organisational skills are definitely worth a mention.” I’m not convinced being organised outweighs being beautiful, but still, Theresa May is a famous example of a methodical Roman.
There was talk of me having a nasal tip revision at one point but these conversations remained hypothetical. With friends who were similarly afflicted, I joked about carrying a Fix My Hooter card in the event of a not-too-serious accident, when paramedics could redress the balance of our facial symmetry, and we’d come to with all our woes solved. It was not to be.
Instead of surgery, I’ve spent a lifetime trying to work on my self-confidence, trying all sorts of tricks to detract from my neb. (By the way, we once had an Irish Terrier, known for their distinctive muzzles, called Nebbie – she and I were soulmates).
I concentrated on fixing my teeth, first with braces and then by Invisalign; I endorse a big smile and bright lippie as a distracting tactic. I’ve also played with hairstyles, running the gamut of perms to balayage, perky bobs to gamine cuts. I was advised to lose a fringe, as it narrows down the area of focus. A further no-no was a centre parting. Preferable is a side parting which draws attention away from the centre of the face.
Meanwhile, my style icons were women with distinctive, unusual looks. Paloma Picasso remains a favourite – I wore her perfume for years – and I took heart that Maria Callas, Barbra Streisand, and Diana, Princess of Wales were all considered beauties (with multiple lovers) though their noses were not their best feature. Like Diana, I went big on eyeliner and distracting jewellery (particularly earrings) for most of the Noughties.
My favourite supermodel – Linda Evangelista – stood out as a model of imperfection with her exotic hooked nose. Evangelista relates, “Liz Tilberis [the then editor-in-chief of British Vogue] told me she couldn’t put me on the cover because my face wasn’t classic enough. But, when she took over Harper’s Bazaar, she put me on the cover of her first issue, so she took back what she said. Things had changed. It wasn’t just about the button nose anymore.”
Celebrity nose jobs have been another fixation. Do read the recent New York Times feature: The New Nose: Is The Bump Back?, which describes how the first nose jobs in the 19th-century were performed on Irish immigrants to the US.
Fortunately the so-called “ski jump” nose jobs of the 1980s have been replaced by more natural profiles. Letizia, Queen of Spain, has one of the best nasal revisions I’ve ever seen and I’d love to know her surgeon. I’m guessing it’s the LA-based plastic surgeon Raj Kanodia, as much a star as his A-list clients. They include Cameron Diaz, Ashlee Simpson and Ashley Tisdale. He defines his role as that of a sculptor, his work leaving the character intact. His motto is “just a little, just a little” and he has admitted to People magazine, “We’re just surgeons, not gods. There’s only so much you can do with a patient. You can’t take a three and make her or him a ten.” If I win the lottery I might consider a “Kanodia” which costs in the region of €16,000. Another rising rhinoplasty star is David W Kim, a San Francisco-based surgeon, who attracts tech titans and other high-fliers with his technical virtuosity. Closer to home, Dr Fuan Chan at Blackrock Clinic comes highly recommended.
The new, less invasive “liquid nose jobs” have also piqued my interest. They can correct the appearance of unevenness using dermal fillers, such as hyaluronic acid, and are extremely effective for evening out noses that are hooked or have a bump. Filler around the tip of the nose can make it look thinner. The procedure is pain free, and once patients are injected, the results last up to 18 months. Patricia Molloy, founder of The Derma Clinic in Blackrock, Co Dublin, is recognised as one of the most experienced practitioners of aesthetic medicine in Ireland. She tells me she has seen liquid nose jobs quadruple here in the last six years. She says it is vital to have a properly trained practitioner performing the job, especially one who is conversant with the anatomy of the face. “Injecting filler inexpertly has resulted in blindness in extreme cases,” she warns. (I won’t be trying that then). Molloy will assess the client’s face, paying particular attention to the dimensions of the forehead and chin, trying not only to balance facial symmetry but patients’ expectations. In some cases she has recommended fillers for a regressive chin instead of doing anything to the nose. (I may try that).
Much like liquid rhinoplasty, thread lifts are often referred to as “lunchtime nose jobs” due to their speedy completion. Aptos threads offer a less invasive alternative to surgical rhinoplasty, and unlike dermal fillers, the threads are not able to move from their original position, which also reduces the risk of the blood vessels becoming disturbed or damaged. While the threads dissolve completely and safely, the results last for up to two years. Another bonus is that the thread encourages natural collagen production which adds further structure, firmness and contour to the area.
I’m not brave enough for a thread lift either but I am interested in encouraging collagen production and fullness using natural and topical methods. Fortunately, the perfect nose can be achieved with the help of regular facial exercises. In fact, a 2018 study conducted at Northwestern University showed that 20 weeks of daily facial exercise did indeed yield measurably firmer skin, and fuller upper and lower cheeks. Agnes Gaweska, an Irish facial yoga tutor, who has me hooked on gua sha and her expert facials at Essentials, Baggot Street, Dublin 4, says, “Our noses continue to grow through our lives. The tip of the nose drops and widens with age. The bone structure usually becomes more prominent when fat is lost from the face and the skin becomes less supported. If your muscles are not active it shrinks in volume like a balloon losing air. Because our noses change and are also subject to gravity, I’ve incorporated a massage technique using cotton buds into my signature facial.” Do follow Gaweska on Instagram (@agnesgajewska) where she demonstrates two exercises – one looking very much like Munch’s “Scream”, the other all about nasal flexing and flaring of nostrils.
Astute contouring with make-up is another effective camouflage, and I do love a make-over. I’ve watched endless online how-to videos on this subject – beautypreneur Huda Kattan’s (pictured above) is one of the most popular. “The basic rule is to add shade to an area that you want to minimise, and lightness to an area you want to accentuate,” says make-up artist and THE GLOSS contributor Leonard Daly. He explains, “If you feel your nose is too wide, add some shade to the sides to make it look thinner and lightness to the front from the bridge to the tip. This will make your nose appear thinner. Conversely add shade to the front and lighten the side if you feel your nose is too thin.” Daly recommends using a foundation about three shades lighter than the skin for shaping purposes. His current favourite is Laura Mercier’s tinted moisturiser which can be blended and built up to a medium coverage. (I’ll be buying one STAT).
While three-way mirrors still take me by surprise – I’m not just worrying if my bottom looks big, but whether my profile is better from the left or right, I can now say I am more at ease with my looks. The increasing inclusivity and diversity within the fashion industry has helped, especially with designers such as Alessandro Michele and Simone Rocha endorsing the jolie laide. Models such as Jamie Bochert, Edie Campbell, Lily McMenamy and Charlotte Gainsbourg will hopefully help a new generation of teenage girls feel differently about any perceived facial irregularities.
I also applaud the relatively new social media trend called the “side-selfie” – taking profile shots to embrace, rather than hide, having a big nose. The iconic photograph of bluestocking writer Virginia Woolf is an early prototype of this. Initiated by Radhika Sanghani (who wrote a feature in Grazia) she admitted she had spent her “whole life” hiding from side-profile shots. Her style icon is Cleopatra, who she calls the “ultimate big-nosed queen”. One day I’ll post a #sideprofileselfie, (so stay tuned @pennymccormicked). In the meantime I’m available for acting roles needing classical profiles. As Coco Chanel so rightly said, “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.”
Main featured image via Instagram @lindaevangelista
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