My Facial Feminisation Thesis
I have one advantage over the surgeons when it comes to working out what works and what doesn't for a particular face because I can try and compare different sets of procedures in Photoshop and with a couple of clicks, I can undo them if they don't work. It is also in my nature to question everything so I do try those different combinations rather than just assume anything. Working on more than a thousand faces over 8 years, it became apparent to me that some widely held ideas that I had taken to be established facts might not be entirely true. Let me give you an example:
It is widely believed in FFS circles that the male hairline is higher and has an “M” shape while the female hairline is lower and has a rounded shape. The shape difference is very true – female hairlines do tend to be rounded as opposed to “M” shaped or square - but I found time and time again that the height difference is only partly true and that bringing the whole hairline forwards is not only unnecessary in a majority of cases but can sometimes even be detrimental and mildly masculinising.
They key thing I found was that although male hairlines are higher than women's in the corners, they are actually lower than women's in the middle. Men do sometimes have a higher hairline in the middle if they have been affected by male pattern baldness but the average hairline for men, when male pattern baldness is not present, is a little lower in the middle than a woman's. You can see this for yourself simply by comparing averaged faces (prototypes) and here's an example:
So why do so many people believe men's hairlines are higher overall? I suspect that it mainly comes down to an optical illusion that is caused by the shape of the hairline rather than the height of the hairline itself. Let me show you:
Most people are familiar with the following optical illusion where the vertical line is the same length in both figures, but the one on the right looks longer than the one on the left because of the way that the arrow shapes at the tops and bottoms of the lines deceive your eyes:
Now look at this abstract representation of 2 identical faces. The vertical line represents the height of the face:
And now look what happens when you add a female-shaped hairline to the left one, and male-shaped hairline to the right one:
The vertical lines are still the same length, but it looks longer with the male-shaped hairline on the right. In other words, both hairlines are the same height in the middle, but shape of the male hairline makes it look higher in the middle than the female hairline. I think this explains why we so often see male hairlines as higher, even when they are not.
Despite the evidence of the prototypes, some studies based on facial measurements suggest female hairlines are lower, One possible reason is that examples of male pattern baldness have gotten into studies where hairline heights are averaged. That would skew the results (I've not found any such study but it's a possibility).
Another possibility is that the absolute height of a female hairline in millimetres might actually be less than in males but of course you would have to take into account that women are on average smaller than men so although the absolute height might be less on women, the proportional height might be less on men - perhaps someone overlooked this but again I have not seen any research on this yet.
The results may also vary depending on whether you measure the vertical height of the hairline or include the tendency for male foreheads to slope backwards a little or if you use a tape measure that follows the contours of the brow bossing.
The fact that many patients and surgeons believe women to have lower hairlines does cause a problem because it sometimes leads patients to have surgery to move the hairline forwards with all the scarring and trauma that entails, when they don't need it and when, in some cases, it can even be detrimental.
Another complicating factor here is that males tend to have a taller lower third to their face so the distance between their nose and their chin is longer in relation to the rest of their face than it is in women. This long lower third can be emphasised by having a short upper third so, in other words, a low hairline can make your jaw and chin look taller and that can be masculinising and this in turn means that a slightly higher hairline than the male average can actually be an advantage for some TS women rather than the problem that many assume.
It is interesting to note that in most cases, raising or lowering the hairline a little does not make a huge difference to facial femininity and I often leave it where it is. The reason it often doesn't make a difference is because the average male hairline is not low enough to make a TS woman's face seem masculine. However, you wouldn't usually want it to be any lower than that, especially when there is a tall lower third to the face. It might sound like I have contradicted myself to some extent there, saying on the one hand that the hairline height doesn't make much difference and on the other, that it can be detrimental to move it forwards so let me just clarify that:
Male hairlines sit a little lower on average than female ones. It's not a huge difference and the average male hairline would still fit into a wider range of normal female hairlines – it would just be in the lower range for normal females. The problem comes when you take one of these average male hairlines and lower it further - you then run the risk of taking it beyond the lower range of female hairlines into an area that is so low, it is usually only seen on men. In addition to that, if you move it forwards with a scalp advance, you have to consider the trauma and visible scarring along the hairline.
Another consideration here is that some patients and surgeons may worry unnecessarily about the fact that a brow lift can cause the hairline to be raised when this may actually be an enhancement. The procedures to raise the brows without raising the hairline involves the trauma and scarring of a long incision along the hairline when in many cases, a much less invasive endoscopic brow lift with a modest raising of the hairline would have been much better.
Although changing the height of the hairline is often unnecessary, changing the shape of the hairline from “M” shaped or square to rounded does make a big difference to facial femininity so I have to round off the corners of the hairline in perhaps the majority of my clients. This leads me to one of my key beliefs about FFS:
Some masculinities are more important than others!
In this case then, the shape of the hairline is much more important than the height. I'll have more to say on the relative importance of different masculinities in part 7 of this thesis “Objective and Subjective femininity” and you can read more about the hairline in part 5 “relative proportions” under the "lipuhai rule".
Another common misconception in FFS is that women have much higher eyebrows than men but this is misleading because the top edge of the eyebrows is at about the same height in both sexes or only very slightly higher in women. The key reason people think that women's eyebrows are higher overall is that female eyebrows are thinner (partly or mainly due to being plucked along the underside) so that the bottom edge of the eyebrow sits in a higher position and creates a bigger gap between the eye and the eyebrow. If we look at prototypes we can see that the top edge is at the same height in both sexes:
It is also often said that female eyebrows sit just above the orbital rim while male eyebrows sit on it or just below but I would suggest that this is not really to do with eyebrow position but about the size of the orbital rims and the under-eyebrow plucking of women. So, given roughly the same eyebrow top edge position for men and women, the male eyebrow can still be lower relative to the orbital rim because the orbital rim itself is bigger and extends above the eyebrow whilst women's eyebrows sit along the top edge of a smaller rim This apparent position at the top of the rim is then emphasised by plucking away the underside of the eyebrows.
Personally, I would like to see fewer brow lifts overall in FFS and less extreme ones in many cases but brow lifts still have an important role to play and one useful trick is raising the eyebrows a little to de-emphasise the height of the chin. A good candidate for this would be someone with a tall chin and who's eyebrows are already low or in a medium position. It's not a rule and there will be many exceptions but it is one possibility for a face with a tall chin and low to average eyebrow height. The brow lift can also help to give a more open-eyed expression which is a female trait and it's a very useful procedure for rejuvenation as the eyebrows do drop as we mature.
To sum up then: the brow lift is a useful procedure in FFS but it should not be performed solely on the incorrect assumption that women have higher eyebrows than men.
The jaw corners are another example: the size and shape of the jaw corners are one of the key differences between male and female skulls with male jaw corners being larger and squarer as seen from the side but this leads to a misconception about the importance of surgery to round off the corners in FFS. I believe that these differences in the jaw, although useful in anthropology and archaeology, are not as important as many assume in FFS and that surgery to the round off the jaw corners is optional in many cases where it is assumed to be essential. There are 3 main reasons for this:
1. The square shape of the jaw corners is reasonably well hidden by soft tissues and doesn't show through particularly clearly.
2. The squareness is seen from the side and the side of the face does not get a lot of attention in human interactions – our attention is more focused on the front of the face, particularly the eyes and mouth.
3. We just don't see square jaw corners as key male identifiers in the way that we do an Adam's apple or heavy brow ridge.
Another key issue with jaws is that many people expect men's jaws to be wider in relation to their cheeks than women's but in fact, the width of the jaw relative to the width of the cheeks tends, on average, to be almost exactly the same for both sexes. Relatively wide and square jaw angles are common on women anyway, particularly on attractive women as this picture illustrates:
Picture courtesy of Remy Stenegger
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