In 1993, Anthony L. Farrow, DMD, MS, Kourosh Zarrinnla, DMD, MS, and Khosrow Azizi, DMD, MS conducted a study to uncover the aesthetic preferences of Black Americans when it comes to their facial profile. The study revealed some intriguing results.
The research team observed that orthodontic literature contains many studies on cephalometry and profile standards of white patients, but little reference is made to Black patients. With orthodontic treatment becoming increasingly popular among all races, it is crucial to have a broader representation of dentofacial relationships for each race.
Black American faces can have various looks due to admixtures between African, white, and Indian groups. However, despite this diversification, the study found that there was one common facial type that is frequently treated by orthodontists, known as bimaxillary protrusion.
Bimaxillary protrusion refers to the condition in which some individuals’ front teeth in both the top and bottom jaws protrude. This can cause the lips to stick out as well, giving the face a rounded appearance. It’s similar to pushing your lips forward and showing your teeth, but in this case, it occurs all the time. This is a condition that orthodontists often see in Black Americans.
The study aimed to determine the profile that Black Americans prefer and found that the BMj (bimax one) profile was the clear choice among Black respondents. The BMj profile combines features of both a conventional white profile and an ethnic black profile. The study also found that the S (straight) profile, which simulates the black version of a straight white profile, was a close second choice, with the BMj (bimax one) profile coming in third.
Previous studies on Indian and Arab groups concluded that both groups preferred the straight profile type. However, the difference is that the straight profile type is considered the most common or natural profile type in those populations. In the case of African Americans, their natural profile is one with bimaxillary protrusion.
But this trend of discomfort with one’s natural appearance is not limited to African American populations alone. In fact, this sentiment can be observed among Black African populations globally. There are problems of skin bleaching all over Africa and in the Caribbean, for example. It is important to note that this is not a criticism of individual preferences, but rather a recognition of a wider societal issue. We must consider the ways in which the media and cultural stereotypes shape perceptions of beauty and the impact this has on individuals’ self-image.
In my recent posts, I’ve been discussing the topic of sub-nasal prognathism, particularly in relation to ancient Egypt, also known as Kemet. This condition, which is characterized by the anterior projection of the lower face relative to the upper face, is a prominent facial feature observed by anthropologists studying the indigenous population of that civilization. It can be seen in the Great Sphinx, an iconic monument of Ancient Egypt, which displays a high degree of sub-nasal prognathism. This feature is also evident in the majority of pharaohs, as illustrated in various historical artifacts.
In his book “Voyage dans la Basse et le Haute Égypte pendant les campagnes du Général Bonaparte”, French artist, writer, and archaeologist Dominique Vivant Denon notes:
“Though its proportions are colossal, the outline is pure and graceful; the expression of the head is mild, gracious, and tranquil; the character is African, but the mouth, and lips of which are thick, has a softness and delicacy of execution truly admirable; it seems real life and flesh. Art must have been at a high pitch when this monument was executed; for, if the head wants what is called style, that is the say, the straight and bold lines which give expression to the figures under which the Greeks have designated their deities, yet sufficient justice has been rendered to the fine simplicity and character of nature which is displayed in this figure.”
Another French scholar, Volney, similarly notes,
“Having visited the Sphinx and seeing this head characterized by negro features in all its traits, there was no doubt: the ancient Egyptians were true negroes of the same species as all the natives of Africa… To think that this race of black men, today our slave and the object of our contempt, is the very one to whom we owe our arts, our sciences, and the use of speech.”
These observations by early European scholars, who acknowledged the strong African features of the Great Sphinx and the indigenous people of Ancient Egypt, highlights the fact that sub-nasal
prognathism, a feature commonly found among people of African descent, was once revered and considered a symbol of beauty. However, as the previous study suggests, today this feature is often considered a “condition” that many seek to change through orthodontic treatments. It highlights how societal and cultural pressure has led to the demonization of certain physical characteristics that were once celebrated. This change in perception raises questions about the impact of societal norms on individual self-perception and the role of orthodontic professionals in addressing these issues.
One of the characteristics that contributed to what Volney called “negro features” is sub-nasal prognathism, which is characterized by the anterior projection of the lower face relative to the upper face. This feature, which is prevalent among people of African descent, also contributes to the “condition” studied in the previous study, bimaxillary protrusion. What was once revered as a symbol of pride in ancient Egypt – the unique features that make the Sphinx African and beautiful – is today often seen as a defect that many Africans seek to change.
As I read through the study on bimaxillary protrusion, my mind couldn’t help but draw parallels to the skulls I often reference in my posts about prognathism. To me, there seemed to be a clear connection between the two features. When I looked at images of African skulls, I noticed that the teeth were often pushed forward. But as I delved deeper into my research, I realized that this was not a “condition” at all. Rather, it was simply a characteristic of many African people – it was normal.
However, my initial intuition was confirmed as I continued my research. I discovered that prognathism is indeed a leading cause of bimaxillary protrusion in African individuals. In the video I’ve linked above, if you watch for just 15 seconds from the start, you’ll hear the doctor confirm that some patients should not change anything about their features because they are already perfectly balanced.
It’s worth noting that that physical characteristic, which is today demonized, was once highly valued and appreciated by the ancient Egyptians. They were prominently featured in their most prestigious monuments, a reflection of their true nature and identity. However, if the Sphinx were to be built today, following the results of the study, builders may have tried to tone down or “attenuate” these tropical features to make them more closely resemble European standards of beauty.
This change in perception raises important questions about societal and cultural norms, and their impact on individual self-perception. We must reflect on why certain physical characteristics that were once celebrated are now deemed undesirable, and what role we play in perpetuating these harmful stereotypes. As the study suggests, orthodontic professionals must also consider the unique needs and preferences of patients from different backgrounds, and the societal factors that may influence them, in order to provide the best possible care. The doctor in the video seems to be aware of that.
But why is this the case? What led to this change in perception?
The answer lies in the history of colonization and its lasting impact on the way Black people perceive themselves and are perceived by others. Prior to colonization, Black people had a strong connection to their true selves and would have never considered changing it. However, after centuries of invasions, colonizations, oppressions, segregations, and deportations, a systematic effort to devalue and dehumanize Black people emerged. This led to a manipulation of our perceptions of ourselves and our physical characteristics, with everything related to Blackness being demonized.
Though slavery and harsh oppression may have ended, the effects can still be felt today, through the way Black people feel about themselves and the way other groups perceive and treat them. The media, as a major source of influence in shaping cultural standards of beauty, is largely to blame. Constant reinforcement of facial stereotypes through various forms of media, including television, movies, magazines, books, social media, and newspapers, has led to the idealization of certain facial features, particularly those of White people, while natural features of Black people have been historically demonized.
These findings raise important questions about the impact of media and cultural stereotypes on shaping preferences, and the role it plays in shaping self-perception and self-worth. It is not about hating other groups, but rather about loving oneself and embracing one’s own natural characteristics. It is about understanding that self-love and self-acceptance is crucial to a person’s overall well-being and their ability to truly love others.
The results of this study reveal a deeper issue within the Black community, one that speaks to a lack of self-love and self-acceptance. It’s important to recognize that these issues are not limited to just one community and are not inherent to one race but are an outcome of social conditioning and media representation. It is our duty to actively challenge these harmful stereotypes and ideologies to bring positive change in how we view ourselves and others. The first step is to acknowledge the problem and work to build a more inclusive and accepting society.
As a society, we struggle to fully appreciate and see the beauty within ourselves. And it is not entirely our fault. The world we live in has been shaped by those who historically made it normal for Blackness to be viewed as inferior in all situations.
This realization led me to ponder the question: how do we solve this issue of self-love? One potential solution is through accurate representation in history and positive representation in the media. By breaking this toxic cycle and deconstructing the harmful systems that perpetuate these harmful stereotypes, we can begin to see things that were previously obscured by racist historians. We can start to see the beauty in indigenous groups and the beauty within ourselves.
That’s what I strive to do through my posts and through the restoration project. The goal is to show the African population all over the world the greatness and beauty that comes with Blackness and our African heritage. The lies and falsehoods that have been spread about us for far too long have led to a cultural appropriation and have contributed to these issues of self-love in other groups. We feel like everything significant and great has been created by people who looked like Europeans and unconsciously, we associate positive and great things with those features. As a result, we end up hating ourselves and wanting to become something that we are not.
Have you ever attempted to discuss the fact that ancient Egyptians possessed tropical features online? More often than not, you’ll be met with a barrage of racist remarks from individuals who insist that ancient Egyptians were Caucasian with straight noses and faces. But this simply does not align with the data. This is especially true when considering the indigenous Egyptians, the builders of that civilization. However, this hostility is merely a manifestation of the manipulation of perception that is all too prevalent in our society when it comes to ancient history.
This highlights the urgent need for accurate and positive representation in all areas of our existence in order to promote self-love and acceptance among Black people and other indigenous populations of the planet. Having preferences is not inherently problematic, but it is crucial that these preferences come from a place of self-love and acceptance, rather than an unconscious feeling of self-hatred.
Bimaxillary protrusion in black Americans–an esthetic evaluation and the treatment considerations –
Anthony L. Farrow, Kourosh Zarrinnia, and Khosrow Azizi
Facial profile preferences, self-awareness and perception among groups of people in the United Arab Emirates –
Amjad Al Taki and Amina Guidoum
An Appraisal of Indian Profile Attractiveness using Digital Image Morphing –
Vimal Thareja, G Shivaprakash, Naveen Shamnur, G Arun Kumar