African-American Rhinoplasty

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Valerie DeBenedette, Senior Medical Editor

Valerie DeBenedette is a science writer who specializes in keeping people informed about medicine and their health. She has more than 20 years of experience writing for newspapers, magazines, and websites and has written about most areas of medicine. For many years, she was a contributing writer to Cosmetic Dermatology and to Drug Topics, the leading pharmacy trade magazine. She also was a contributing editor to The Physician and Sportsmedicine for many years. She has written about most fields of medicine, including dermatology, sportsmedicine, ophthalmology, general surgery, orthopedics, and women's health; as well as public health policy and the pharmaceutical industry. In addition, she is the author of Caffeine, a book for young people. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.


November 28 2007

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Although it may have once been true that people who got a nose job (or rhinoplasty) all ended up with the same nose, this is no longer the case. One nose does not and will never fit all. This is especially true when it comes to the African-American nose.

Cosmetic plastic surgery is growing in popularity among African-Americans. African-Americans had 769,000 cosmetic plastic surgery procedures in 2005, up 67% from 2004, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

But although African-Americans may want to change their noses, they do not want a nose that denies their ethnic heritage. They do not want a Caucasian looking nose that is out of sync with the rest of their face. And they very much do not want to look like they are no longer proud of their heritage.

This marks a general change in society's attitude on the nature of beauty. At one time, the standard of beauty in the United States was Caucasian. The Caucasian nose—or at least the nose that was widely accepted as being handsome, since not all white people have the same nose—was straight, had a high narrow bridge, and a well-defined tip and nostrils. Such a nose may look very good on someone who is not Caucasian, but it also might look out of harmony with the rest of the face, no matter what ethnicity the person is.

A good cosmetic surgeon can improve your nose the way you want and make you look better, but still retain all the African American features that make you the person you are, which includes the ethnic characteristics of your nose and face. After a nose job, the natural beauty of your black heritage should shine through, not be suppressed.

The Anatomy of the African-American Nose
The anatomy of a human nose varies somewhat with ethnicity. A human nose consists of bone, cartilage, and skin. For many African-Americans, the skin is thicker, the bridge of the nose is usually shorter and flatter, and the tip is more rounded as compared to other ethnic noses. The nostrils may be wider and flatter. The nose may have a layer of fibrous fat under the skin and, in general, has more soft tissue and less cartilage at the tip. Caucasian, Hispanic, and Asian noses also have slight differences in anatomy.

Sometimes, these ethnic attributes may limit the amount of change that can be achieved through rhinoplasty surgery. What you want and what your surgeon can do may be two different things. Your surgeon will examine your nose during your consultation and tell you what can and cannot be done surgically. He or she will also discuss your wishes about how you want to look.

Your consultation with a cosmetic surgeon is your chance to tell him or her exactly what you do not like about your nose and how you want to look after your surgery. If you have photos of noses that you like, bring them with you to the consultation. You will also have a chance to examine before-and-after photos of African-American patients that have had a nose job with that surgeon.

African-American Rhinoplasty
While many people may want rhinoplasty to straighten or lower the bridge of their nose or to have a hump removed, some African-Americans want the bridge raised slightly. Sometimes a surgeon can accomplish this by fracturing the nasal bones and bringing the pieces back together to make the bridge narrower and higher. This is a process called infracturing.

However, sometimes increasing the height of the nose may require the use of an implant. The implant can be a piece of cartilage taken from elsewhere in the body (such as the ear) or from another section of the nose. Many surgeons use implants made of solid silicone or other inert materials.

African-American rhinoplasty can also involve changing the shape of the nostrils and tip of the nose. A surgeon can change the shape of your nostrils to make them narrower or less prominent. This usually involves making an incision at the sides of the nostril and removing a small sliver of the nostril. The incision is then closed and any scarring is hidden within the fold at the side of the nostril.

The tip of the nose can be refined by removing some of the fatty or fibrous tissue under the skin at the tip. The cartilage at the tip of the nose can then be adjusted or reshaped. In some cases, your surgeon may add cartilage from elsewhere in the body or use an implant of silicone or other material to reshape the tip of your nose.

One factor to take into account before deciding to have surgery is scarring. Darker skin tends to scar more than lighter skin, although this is not a hard and fast rule. Many African-American people tend to scar excessively and form raised scars called keloids. If you developed large or raised scars on cuts or incisions in the past, tell your surgeon. There are techniques and treatments that can help minimize excessive scarring.

More information about a rhinoplasty procedure, including information about risks and recovery, can be found at rhinoplasty.

Finding the Right Surgeon to Perform African-American Rhinoplasty
If you are considering a nose job, you should find a surgeon who is very experienced in dealing with an African-American nose. An experienced and skilled surgeon can help ensure that the final result is the nose you want and that it compliments your other facial features.

When you meet with your surgeon, ask how often he or she performs a rhinoplasty on an African-American. You may also ask to speak with the doctor's African-American clients or see before-and-after photos from the procedures.

Find a qualified surgeon in your area.