From large and small noses to asymmetrical nostrils, the size of the nose can greatly impact the overall proportion and appearance of the face.
While all human noses theoretically function the same, the size of the nose can vary widely across different demographics. Generally speaking, the average male has a nose size of 2.2 inches, while the average female nose size is 2 inches (1). The discrepancy is believed to be correlated to lean muscle mass that men naturally have more of, but the size of the nose is also highly influenced by climate and human evolution.
As discussed in our guide to nose shape, shorter, wider noses tend to be found in warm, humid climates. Longer, narrow noses, meanwhile, are characteristic of cold, dry environments. But there are additional factors that can contribute to why a person may feel like their nose is too big or too small in proportion to the rest of their facial features.
What causes variations in nose and nostril size?
To begin, it is important to understand the anatomy of the external nose. For starters, the "root" of the nose falls between the eyebrows, while the "bridge" of the nose connects the root to the rest of the nasal structure. A key indicator of nose size is the length between the bridge and the nasal tip (or "apex"), which is technically known as the dorsum nasi. The cartilaginous alae (a.k.a. nostrils) fall on either side of the tip and are separated by the nasal septum. And, last but not least, the philtrum is the concave skin that connects the tip of the nose to the upper lip.
The Anatomy of the Nose
Evolutionarily, genetics and climate are the primary indicators of nose size. Because the nose allows for the sense of smell and is also the first portion of the respiratory tract, its responsibility is to warm, moisten, and begin to filter air before it is sent to the lungs for gas exchange. Additional genetic and environmental factors (think: trauma) and the aging process can also impact the size of the nose. Age, loss of collagen and elasticity, and an excessive buildup of skin can cause the size and shape of the nose to change. The nose width will often increase along with the size of the nose (2).
What are the main concerns related to nose size?
While noses generally average 2 to 2.2 inches long, there is not a standardized medical measurement for the length or overall area of the nose — but there are certain facial proportions that are known to be the most aesthetically pleasing.
Vertically, the face is divided into thirds, with an equal distance between the hairline and brow, brow and nose, and nose tip and chin. Because the nose plays a role in all three portions (remember, the root of the nose starts at the brow bone), the proportion of the nose is of great importance to overall facial balance.
The width of the nose plays a role in the horizontal proportionality of the face, too. The ideal width of a face is about five-eyes wide — meaning, if you measure your face across, there would be space for another eye between your two actual eyes (i.e. where the bridge of your nose is) and room for one more eye on each temple.
Another consideration? Nose angle.
Generally, the angle between the lips and nose should be between 95 and 105 degrees in women and 90 to 95 degrees in men. The angle between the tip of the nose and the base of the forehead, meanwhile, should be between 115 and 125 degrees.
With that in mind, it isn't hard to understand that the main concerns related to the size of the nose are small noses, large noses, and large or small nostrils.
- Small Nose: While there is no medical definition to classify a smaller nose, individuals who feel their nose is too petite for the overall proportion of their face may seek out augmentation procedures to provide balance.
- Large Nose: "Big" or wide noses can be hereditary, the result of aging, or caused by trauma. In addition to becoming crooked or developing bumps (as outlined in our guide to nose shape), broken noses often end up larger than before.
Additionally, the size of the nose may be impacted by the size of the nostrils. Nostrils that are too large, too small, or asymmetrical can impact both the appearance and, in some cases, function of the nose.
Who may wish to alter the size of their nose or nostrils?
Most concerns related to nose or nostril size are cosmetic in nature. Patients whose nose size has changed as a result of a broken bone or other injury may wish to correct the damage. Teenagers who have finished growing (about a year after menses in girls and a year after the last growth spurt in boys) or adults in their twenties and thirties may feel uncomfortable with the shape or size of their nose and wish to undergo a procedure to refine the aesthetic. Patients over 40, meanwhile, may begin to notice signs of aging that lead to the appearance of a larger nose. Regardless of the impetus behind the decision to seek treatment, patients should consult with a board certified plastic surgeon.
How can someone change the size of their nose or nostrils?
Like nose reshaping techniques, the primary procedure to address nose size is rhinoplasty (a.k.a. “nose job”). Both surgical and non-surgical rhinoplasty options exist that can help to either augment or reduce the size of the nose. Additionally, an alarplasty can be performed to change the size of the nostrils.
You can check out our full guide to Nose Augmentation & Reduction Solutions or read on for an overview of the treatment options:
For Small Noses
Patients who wish to augment or enhance the size of their nose may choose between the open rhinoplasty and closed rhinoplasty techniques. The former involves making incisions on the outside of the nose, which allows the surgeon a clear view of the nasal bone and cartilage. The closed procedure, meanwhile, creates incisions only on the inside of the nose, but there are limitations to the scope of the results. Non-invasive, filler-based liquid rhinoplasties can augment the nose shape sans-scalpel.
For Large Noses
If you wish to reduce the size of your nose due to genetics, trauma, or aging, surgical open or closed rhinoplasties — including rejuvenation, revision, ethnic, and ultrasonic techniques — can change the proportion of the nose size.
Additionally, liquid rhinoplasties and muscle paralysis rhinoplasties can provide a non-surgical (and non-permanent) alternative thanks to dermal fillers and botulinum toxin type A injections (like Botox®).
For Large, Small, or Asymmetrical Nostrils
Performed alone or in combination with a rhinoplasty, an alarplasty procedure surgically alters the size of the nostrils by removing a small, wedge-shaped piece of skin to create more symmetrical nostrils.
The size of the nose plays a significant role in the overall proportion and symmetry of the face, and it is influenced by genetics, aging, and external factors like injury or trauma. Nostril size is another area patients may wish to address, and rhinoplasty and alarplasty procedures — performed by a board certified plastic surgeon — can be used to refine the size of the nose and nostrils.
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- Andreas Zanki Growth Charts for Nose Length, Nasal Protrusion, and Philtrum Length from Birth to 97 Years onlinelibrary.wiley.com
- Jack R Harkema The Nose Revisited: A Brief Review of the Comparative Structure, Function, and Toxicologic Pathology of the Nasal Epithelium pubmed.gov
- Stewart, MG, et al. “Development and Validation of the Nasal Obstruction Symptom Evaluation (NOSE) Scale.” Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg, vol. 130, no. 2.; 2004-02-01
- Weiner, JS. “Nose Shape and Climate.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology, vol. 12, no. 4.; 1954-12-01