Mission Critical Expression Zones
Cosmetic surgeons, whether they inject Botox, fillers or perform surgery, will likely impact parts of the face considered crucial for natural expression.
“For better or for worse, there is 36 square inches of territory that is absolutely critical for our perception of expression in the face — 85% of the emotional content is communicated just by this region,” Faigin says.
For the upper face, the mission critical expression zone is what might be covered if a person were to wear a traditional eye mask to sleep. It’s the lower medial part of the brow, the area that includes the upper and lower eyelids and the area between the eyelids and brow ridge, according to Faigin.
On the lower face, expressions emit from an oval area, which includes the mouth. It’s the region occupied by the orbicularis oris muscle, which extends out to the nasolabial folds and down to the mid chin.
“The rest of the face can just take a hike. We don’t really register what’s going on in the mid-cheek region. The nose is only deployed effectively in one expression, which nobody cares about, which is disgust. When I work with designers, often they won’t even bother to animate the nose,” he says. “But, within these 36 square inches, you cannot overestimate how sensitive we are to the tiniest deflection from the norm.”
For example, today’s number one nonsurgical option for patients, Botox and other neuromodulators, can be a big problem for empathetic communication.
“Botox primarily paralyzes the muscles in the middle of the forehead that are critical in expressing sadness, thoughtfulness or distress. We’re incredibly sensitive to those signals, evolution’s way of insuring that we comfort the afflicted; that’s not going to happen with Botox,” Faigin says.
Slight facial changes, from a treatment like Botox, can impact how people are able to communicate, he says.
“If you look around in a café and watch people converse, it’s interesting how often they will frown or lift up their eyebrows--either in an intermediate way, using corrugator and medial frontalis or the frontalis, only,” he says.
These conversational gestures help acknowledge what another has said, according to Faigin.
“It’s interpersonal communication—the fluency of our gestures,” he says. “And it’s very disturbing when you’re talking to somebody, and you can’t tell how they’re responding to you.”