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Is there a formula for beauty?

16th February 2022


We know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But it seems that a lot of us agree on what it is that makes a face beautiful. Here’s Dr Arthur Swift, a legend in the world of cosmetic procedures, talking about creating beauty in a face, and sharing his ‘OO7’ list of what are generally considered, world-wide, to be the key markers of beauty.

A leading plastic surgeon based in Montreal, Dr Swift has been offering non-surgical procedures for the past 25 years. He’s one of the world’s best injectors, and he’s also brilliant at explaining concepts of beauty and how he sees aesthetics, so he’s a delight to interview. His OO7 list is actually, OO7 plus ‘phi’, aka ‘the golden ratio’. It’s all down to proportion and mathematics, he says, but don’t let that put you off…

First, the two Os

For Swift, the key markers of the beautiful face are that it is an oval shape (as he points out, every culture prefers its women to have an oval or heart-shaped face), and that the cheeks show an ‘ogee curve’, the almost-S-shaped double-bend that sways outwards as you trace the line of the cheekbones, then inwards and down towards the chin. That’s the two ‘O’s.

The Magnificent Seven

These are the key features that we all take note of when we are assessing the beauty of a face:

  1. The triangle of youth (where the cheeks are wide, and the jaw is narrower)
  2. The height of the forehead (not too high, not too low)
  3. The shape of the eyebrows (lightly arched)
  4. The size and spacing of the eyes (pleasingly large, not too close together)
  5. The shape of the nose (appropriate to the height of the face).
  6. The width and height of the lips (generous, but again, appropriate to the face they are in).
  7. How clear and smooth the skin is (the clearer the skin, the younger we judge a face to be).

The role of ‘PHI’

Then you need to add in ‘phi’, the ‘golden ratio’ or ‘divine proportion’ – and yes, he explains it all. And how does a beautiful face catch our attention when we’ve only seen a fleeting glimpse of it out of the corner of our eyes?  It’s all down to maths, but don’t let that put you off.

Before you all set about ranting (without watching the video) that beauty is more individual than this, know that Dr Swift is very clear that cosmetic procedures are not about creating some sort of one-size-fits-all technical perfection in a face, they’re about moving people towards the kind of proportions that allow any face to reveal its beauty.


Here’s the transcript of my conversation with Dr Arthur Swift about the 007-phi beauty markers.

Alice Hart-Davis: And I heard you sharing or educating with an audience of practitioners way back, this was the AMI 2017 or something, it was explaining the OO7 concept. Have you got the energy to talk about that a little bit? It was what to look for in the face.  It was the markers that would generally be regarded as beautiful, all around the world, across different ethnicities. Now let’s see what I can remember, it was an oval face…

Dr Arthur Swift: See you remember these things.

AHD: You made such an impression on me. Every time I’ve heard you speak, over the years, and I’ve been sat there seeing an audience of 1,100 practitioners listening to every word and I think, ‘Well I had better listen too’.

So, O for an oval and what’s the other O? Ogee curve which is where a cheek goes out and in.

AS: It’s the beautiful S shape and that’s something we love to see in women, whether it’s on their face or on the curves of their body. We love to see that classic ogee. And then seven, where the seven features of facial beauty, which I actually gleaned or derived from, from beauty magazines, what they were always talking about. They were talking about facial shape, chins, cheeks. They were talking about eyes then how wide they were the height of the forehead, the nose, the lips. These are all facial features that were being looked at. We also talked about skin quality. So there are 7 features that we go through like that. And then the last one was ‘phi’, proportions of the golden ratio on top of all that. Because that always seems to be in the background.

AHD: It is, isn’t it? And it’s what adds that extra sparkle of fairy dust. That’s the wrong thing to say. That it adds the extra something, doesn’t it? It’s what adds the magic.

AS: It’s because that’s what we assess so fast. You could be walking down the street and I’ll give it in your terms here, You are walking down the street and you were focusing on not getting hit by the traffic and Brad Pitt is standing on a corner and his image just flashes on your retina for a split second. You recognize it.

AHD: And in that split second, you think, ‘Wow, that’s lovely’.

AS: You think, ‘Wow, what a good looking dude’. How could you do that so fast?

AHD: Yeah, how can we do that so fast?

AS: Well, the only thing we do fast is mathematical analysis. That’s why computers are based on mathematics.

AHD: Really? Even if we’re not mathematical people?

AS: Yes, just our brains work in a mathematical way. And perhaps what you’re seeing is a beautiful proportion. I know I can think of relatives in France that don’t have the most beautiful features. Maybe not the best brows, not the best nose, but when you put the whole package together? There’s something attractive, that’s proportion talking to you. So that blouse that you wear that you’re not sure about? All of a sudden you put the right dress on with it, the right shoes and accessories. And all of a sudden that thing stands out. That’s the idea behind proportion. And I believe it’s a big part. It’s not the only part, but a big part of beauty.

AHD: And are you still teaching and sharing people with the beautification callipers because these, these callipers I remember years ago from Tapan Patel’s practice you gave him, or lent him, I don’t know if he still has them, a pair of the originals. Now how do we explain this to people who don’t know ‘phi’, or the golden ratio? It’s the sort of fundamental beauty in anything. In buildings, with driving around Canary Wharf or Apple logo or anything. Angelina Jolie’s lips, there’s a ratio of one to 1 to 1.618 somewhere in that face and you have got this phenomenal pair of callipers. I’ll find a picture and drop them in. It’s not that everybody’s faces have got to reach the same proportion, but if you can move people towards a more ideal. So how do the callipers work?

AS: It’s as I was saying a little bit earlier, is the fact that I do believe there is an aesthetic destination. There is a point where you arrive at your front door and if you shoot beyond it, you have to walk back. Or if you stop too early in our cab over here, we’re going to have to walk a block. Yeah. So the idea is where is that ideal, that ideal amount of product that you should be putting in. And we struggled with that and I certainly couldn’t figure it out.

And so I had no mentor when I started doing this 25 years ago. So I looked to the smartest person that I could think of. Unfortunately, he’s been dead for 500 years.

AHD: Leonardo da Vinci?

AS: Correct. So I went and learned everything I could about Leonardo and saw that he believed in this quote, unquote ‘divine ratio’. Why was it divine? Because there was a belief in one God and divinity, and there was a belief that there’s only one point on a line that you can divide that line into a bigger and smaller part. Or the ratio of little too big is the same as big to the entire line. So, from 1 to 1.61 to 2.618, that’s all it was. And he used that ratio and a lot of the things that he built and he wasn’t the only one, Michelangelo did the same thing and Galileo believed in it. All these thinkers were believing in this divine or golden ratio. It was called ‘phi’ because Phidias the ancient Greek sculptor and architect built things to that proportion. The Acropolis, which stands as a testament to that beautiful, beautiful ratio, sits there right there, beautifully showing the golden ratio.

So I figured there must be golden ratios on the face we are looking at, that we are naturally attracted to, and that’s what the story is. It doesn’t even have to be manmade, you know, the way animals pick their mates. And has a lot to do with the way the ratio is of their body, their horns, whatever the story is. It’s been around for ages. If you look at all the beautiful things that we’re attracted to, it seems to always have this golden ratio behind it. So I figured if we can find this on the face or try to approach it, as you said on the face, we would move that person from a version of themselves to the best or better version of who they can be.

And so I started using that as a basis to try to plan my injections in it. It helped me immensely. I thought coming from music, that I was going to be very artistic, but I couldn’t get the same results in all the patients. Some patients got nice results and some patients got outstanding results and I was doing the same treatment. So this helped me be able to optimize the treatments and the experience with a patient. It helped a lot in my case.

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