Sclafani AP, Jung M. Desired Position, Shape, and Dynamic Range of the Normal Adult Eyebrow. Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2010;12(2):123-127. doi:10.1001/archfacial.2010.17
To determine the resting and aesthetically desired position of the eyebrows and the range of eyebrow mobility.
Photographs were taken of 40 adult subjects in 5 poses: eyes open and eyes closed, maximum brow elevation and brow contraction, and brow positioned optimally by the subject. The height of the brow was measured relative to the orbital rim and surrounding structures in 6 locations: the medial brow, above the medial canthus, midpupil, lateral canthus, brow peak, and brow tail.
Women desired the lower border of the brow to fall just below the orbital rim at the medial canthus, at the rim at the midpupillary line and several millimeters above the rim at the lateral canthus. Men desired a lower brow with a lower tail and a less accentuated peak. The brow peak in both women and men was just medial to the lateral canthus. Range of movement was greater medially in men and at the brow tail in women.
The aesthetic position of the medial and central brow is relatively low. The brow peak should be just medial to the lateral canthus. Surgeons planning forehead and brow surgery should consider these parameters to avoid creating an unnatural brow appearance.
clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00347308.
The eyebrows form the superior aesthetic frame of the eyes, and they can impart a range of emotions to the patient's appearance in addition to, in certain circumstances, a youthful and healthy or aged and infirm character. Aesthetic forehead surgeons strive to rejuvenate the upper face with a variety of techniques. However, these efforts are hampered, and comparisons across groups made difficult, by lack of a uniform definition of the aesthetic brow. Gunter and Antrobus1 have correctly pointed out that our understanding of the attractive eyebrow is influenced by the age, sex, culture, and ethnicity of the patient and by the surgeon and the observer. Additionally, as brow appearance is partially amenable to treatment with cosmetics, fashion trends will also influence the desirability of a particular brow position and shape.
From a surgical perspective, a number of procedures have been described that can alter the position and improve the appearance of the eyebrows. These techniques have been continually refined, as surgeons' understanding and appreciation of the anatomy of the brow and forehead have increased, to provide stable and long-lasting support to brow elevation, with particular emphasis on individualizing the elevation provided to the distinct parts of the brow: the medial head, central third, peak, and tail.
A number of researchers have described the shape and position of the ideal brow. However, these aesthetics are influenced by culture and fashion. It is perhaps more important to recognize the features possible in an aesthetic brow, especially as determined by the patient, as well as the range of brow movement.
This study was approved by The New York Eye & Ear Infirmary Institutional Review Board. We studied a convenience sample of healthy adult volunteers aged 20 to 70 years who had not had any upper facial surgery, facial trauma, or neuromotor disorders and who had not received any treatment with a dermal filler or neurotoxin within the previous 12 months. Subjects completed a brief questionnaire detailing age, weight, height, race, and ethnic origin. The orbital rim was marked on the subjects with a water-soluble ink at 3 locations: above the medial canthus, above the midpupil, and above the lateral canthus. Frontal photographs were then taken of all subjects in 5 poses: eyes open and eyes closed, maximum brow elevation and brow contraction, and brow positioned optimally by the subject. The optimal positioning involved the subjects themselves manually raising their brows with fingers placed 1 to 2 cm above the brows. Using a nonmagnifying mirror placed 18 to 24 inches directly in front of them to evaluate their own appearance, the patients held their brow in the most aesthetically pleasing position and shape, and the photograph was taken immediately after the subject confirmed this position. All photographs included a 100-mm ruler for calibration taped to the subject's nasal tip and were obtained using a Nikon D80 digital camera with Nikon 28-105-mm lens and a Speedlight SB600 camera-mounted flash (Nikon Corp, Tokyo, Japan) at a 1-m focal distance.
Digital images were then analyzed using Mirror software (Canfield Imaging Systems, Fairfield, New Jersey). The brows were analyzed for all poses in 5 locations: medialmost portion of the brow, above the medial canthus, the midpupillary line, above the lateral canthus, and at the tail of the brow. A reference line was drawn through the medial canthi because this landmark was easily identifiable in all 5 poses. Distances along this line from the medial canthus were measured to determine the distances of the midpupil, lateral limbus, and lateral canthus from the medial canthus in eyes-closed poses. Distances from this line to the lower border of the orbital rim and the upper and lower borders of the brow as marked were measured, as were the positions of the medialmost and lateralmost portion of the brow. Also, the frontal hairline to the upper brow distance was measured. In addition, a line was drawn from the medial to the lateral ends of the eyebrow, and the length of the eyebrow was determined, as was the distance of the brow peak, midpupil, and lateral limbus from the medial end of the brow. The height of the superior aspect of the brow peak above a line drawn from the superior aspect of the medial to lateral brow was also measured.
A total of 40 subjects were enrolled in the study. Ten subjects were excluded from analysis because 1 or more photographs in their series of poses was out of focus, misframed, or the calibration ruler could not be clearly seen. Of the remaining 30 subjects, 23 were women, and 7 were men. The mean (SD) age of all subjects was 32.8 (12.5) years (age range, 20-70 years). There were 17 white, 8 Hispanic, and 5 Asian subjects.
At rest, with eyes open, the brow was noted to begin medial to the medial canthus (mean [SD] distance, 4.2 [3.3] mm). The average position of the lower border of the brow at the medial canthus was slightly below the orbital rim (−3.22 [1.91] mm, negative numbers indicating a position below the orbital rim). The midpupillary brow was slightly higher but still below the rim (−2.26 [2.12] mm), while at the lateral canthal position, the brow was above the rim (2.75 [3.12] mm). This relative brow shape (lower medially, higher at the lateral canthus) was maintained in all poses except for during maximum contraction, when the midpupillary segment was lowest (Table 1). The brow tail was slightly lower than the medial brow in both men and women in both the neutral gaze and the optimal position (Table 2). The angle of inclination of the eyebrow (medial brow to tail) relative to the horizontal was small (5.8° [5.7°]) and did not change significantly in the optimal brow. Patients older than 40 years had significantly lower brows than did younger patients (Table 1). Women's brows were spaced slightly wider than men's and had a greater mean (SD) interbrow distance (21.56 [5.7] vs 20.00 [4.4] mm).
The ideal brow position and shape were analyzed separately for men and women. The general brow shape was similar for the 2 groups, although women preferred a higher brow (Table 1). This is reflected in the amount of brow elevation needed to produce the ideal brow height (Table 3).
The brow tail was higher in women than in men in all poses (P < .005) and ascended more when the female subjects manually elevated the brow to the desired position from neutral gaze. The tail, in neutral gaze, sat slightly below the medial brow (mean [SD] distance, 3.9 [4.8] mm) but less so in the optimal brow (2.4 [5.6] mm). This change was significant only in women (2.7 [3.4] mm) (P < .002).
Since the tail and the medial end of the brow lie outside and cannot be referenced to the orbital rim, the brow in neutral pose and in an idealized position was analyzed and referenced to the medial brow. The overall shape of the brow can be determined by evaluating some of the data in Table 3. The brow rises abruptly at the medial canthus and then continues to rise more gently to the midpupil. There is a gentle upward slope toward the brow peak, a slight decrease toward the lateral canthus, and then an abrupt decline to the brow tail. Women desired brow peaks higher than men, relative to the medial brow (mean [SD] distance, 13.01 [4.04] vs 9.60 [3.71] mm), although men positioned the brow tail further below the medial brow than women did (−7.93 [2.83] vs −0.73 [3.74] mm).
The horizontal distance of the brow peak from the medial canthus was determined and then expressed as a percentage of both the individual's brow length and the palpebral width. The same determination was made for the position of the lateral limbus, and the values were compared (Table 4). It can be seen that both the neutral gaze and the optimal positions of the brow peak are much farther lateral than the lateral limbus and just medial to the lateral canthus (89% of palpebral width). They also lie at the junction of the medial and lateral thirds of the brow (65%-69% of brow length).
Mobility of the brow was greatest in the vertical dimension and most significant in the midportion of the brow. From a neutral, eyes-open pose, the average maximum brow elevation was 6.50 to 7.30 mm, with no statistically significant difference between the medial, central, and lateral brow. Maximum excursion (maximum elevation to maximum contraction) was 12.40 to 15.30 mm and greatest in the central brow and least at the medial brow (Table 3). Vertical mobility of the brow tail was far less than that of other parts of the brow. Interestingly, patients younger than 40 years could move their medial brow more than older patients could (mean [SD] distance, 13.0 [2.9] vs 9.8 [2.0] mm) (P = .02), and the same was true for the central brow (15.7 [2.6] vs 12.7 [1.7] mm]) (P = .01) (Table 1). Men had a greater range of movement of the medial brow and medial canthus than women did: 16.55 (3.93) vs 12.19 (2.65) mm (P = .02) and 17.92 (4.49) vs 13.72 (3.02) mm (P = .049), respectively, while women were able to elevate the tail of the brow more from neutral gaze (4.33 [2.21] vs 1.53 [2.71] mm) (P = .04). Interbrow movement is primarily a medially directed movement, with significantly less movement laterally on brow elevation. Interbrow distance changed less than 1 mm between neutral gaze and maximal elevation. Overall, total horizontal brow mobility was slightly more than 4 mm (Table 5).
Brow shape and position has been variably described in a number of ways and with differing aesthetics over the past 30 years. The traditional description by Westmore2 and others3,4 defined an arched brow with a peak above the lateral limbus. Over the years, this peak has been described more laterally.5- 8 Moreover, the height of the brow has been described as 2.5 cm above the midpupil,9,10 15 to 16 mm above the upper lid crease,9,11 or anywhere from just below to 1 cm above the orbital rim.3,4,6,9,12 However, as reported herein, we have determined the normal position and range of motion of the brow as well as ideal brow position and shape as determined by the subject.
Subjects in this study indicated a desire for a shapely but comparatively unelevated brow. In general, female subjects placed the ideal brow tail slightly below the medial brow, and the midpupillary line, brow peak, and lateral canthal brow higher than the medial canthal brow, with the peak of the brow approximately 13 mm above the inferior border of the medial brow. The brow peak is positioned just medial to the lateral canthus, or at the junction of the middle and lateral thirds of the brow. Biller and Kim,8 working with digital modifications of 4 models' photographs, found that most subjects rated the brow peak most pleasing when it was positioned at the lateral limbus or halfway between the lateral limbus and the lateral canthus. In the young white model, the ideal brow peak was located above the lateral canthus, while it was halfway between the lateral canthus and the lateral limbus in the young Asian model. The faces of older white and Asian models were judged most pleasing when the brow peak was located above the lateral limbus. However, Baker et al7 noted that the ideal brow shape was affected by facial shape; we have attempted to avoid some of the limitations of subject photographs by asking the subjects themselves to determine their ideal brow shape. To our knowledge. ours is the first study to use this method. We found no correlation between age and desired brow position, as expressed as a percentage of either palpebral width or brow length (r2 = 0.035 and r2 = 0.046, respectively).
Women positioned the lowest point of the medial canthal brow more than 2 mm below the orbital rim. The midpupillary portion of the brow was less than 1 mm below the rim, while the lateral canthal portion of the brow was almost 6 mm above the lateral orbital rim. Female subjects, on average, indicated a desire for 0.58 mm (medial brow), 0.80 mm (medial canthus), 1.78 mm (midpupillary), 2.20 mm (brow peak), 3.21 mm (lateral canthus), and 2.59 mm (brow tail) elevation from neutral gaze. The subjects in the study were not preselected as brow surgery candidates with brow ptosis. However, it is important to acknowledge that like these subjects, most patients will be primarily interested in elevation of the central and lateral brow. Medial brow surgery, in most cases, will be performed for reduction of muscular hypertonicity, not for significant brow elevation.
Not surprisingly, the brows of subjects older than 40 years old were significantly lower (medial canthus, 2.7 mm lower; central brow, 2.6 mm lower; and lateral canthus, 3.1 mm lower) than those of younger patients. It is interesting, however, that the dynamic range of motion of the medial and central brows of older patients was roughly 3 mm less than that of younger patients. The reason for this is unclear but may be related to a weakening of the frontalis muscle with age, attenuation of the attachments of the frontalis muscle with the overlying soft tissue, skin elasticity, or other age-related skin changes. The potential effect of various surgical procedures on this mobility should be considered.
Some of our data provide cautionary information to the forehead and brow surgeon. Maximum voluntary elevation of the supraorbital brow ranges from 12.40 to 15.30 mm, while the brow tail moves significantly less (approximately 6 mm). This represents the distance from the lowest point to which the patient can depress the brow to the highest point she can elevate the brow. Given this, even the most ptotic brow will require less than 10 mm of true elevation. Indeed, the average subject in our study could raise the supraorbital brow no more than 6.5 to 7.3 mm, and the brow tail 3.7 mm, above its position in neutral repose. In addition, the change in interbrow distance from maximum elevation to maximum contraction of the brow was slightly greater than 4 mm, and the average increase in this distance from frowning to repose was 3.26 mm (women) to 3.76 mm (men). Even a heavily furrowed glabella will rarely tolerate more than 3 mm of increasing brow separation. These data should be kept in mind when determining appropriate brow elevation and manipulation.
In conclusion, forehead and brow aesthetic surgery can be a satisfying and highly effective means of rejuvenating the face. At its best, this surgery will make a face appear more youthful, peaceful, relaxed, and energized; however, at its worst, forehead and brow surgery can make a patient look angry, surprised, or bizarre. Our data support a more conservative approach to forehead and brow surgery because the amount of change desired by patients is relatively small. The amounts of elevation of the brow previously advocated in procedures such as the coronal forehead-lift factored in stretching of the skin-muscle-fascia carrier and did not directly apply to the brow movement desired. With more proximal and predictable forehead and brow procedures such as the endoscopic forehead-lift, the amount of elevation desired should be precisely known because there is less “play” and uncertainty in the elevation delivered. The surgeon must use his aesthetic judgment in determining the correct position and shape of the brow, but the data presented herein provide a better framework and scale for brow movement.
Correspondence: Anthony P. Sclafani, MD, Division of Facial Plastic Surgery, Department of Otolaryngology, The New York Eye & Ear Infirmary, 310 E 14th St, New York, NY 10003 (email@example.com).
Accepted for Publication: August 18, 2009.
Author Contributions:Study concept and design: Sclafani. Acquisition of data: Sclafani and Jung. Analysis and interpretation of data: Sclafani and Jung. Drafting of the manuscript: Sclafani. Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: Sclafani and Jung. Statistical analysis: Sclafani and Jung. Administrative, technical, and material support: Sclafani. Study supervision: Sclafani.
Financial Disclosure: None reported.