Why Do Some African Americans Have Sharp Noses?

Many doctors have said that black people have thick skin and can't have sharp pointy noses because of this. But my father has darker skin than me ( I am african american) and his nose is very sharp and defined. It resembles a caucasian nose very much. Why do rhinoplasty surgeons say defined,sharp noses are unrealistic?

Doctor Answers 10

African-American noses can differ!

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Hello africannose,

Thanks for your question.  I was trained in rhinoplasty at MEETH in NYC, a city with a large number of all ethnic groups.  Your question was pondered alot.  What I was taught is that African-American nose could be thought of in three basic varieties: 1) subSaharan-African, 2) European-African, and 3) Native American-African.  The subSaharan-African nose tends to be broader and flatter at the tip and bridge.  There is a similarity to East Asian noses.  It is more difficult to make a defined, sharp nose without aggressive cartilage grafting, defatting techniques, and use of artificial implants.  The European-African nose tends to look more like a nose of someone of European descent but just transplanted onto the face of someone who is African-American.  These noses tend to be smaller, often with more angular features, and a mild hump on the dorsum.  One thought is that it comes from the mixing of different ethnicities.  Improving this type of nose requires smaller adjustments to blend in the features while maintaining the angularity.  Finally, the Native American-African nose tends to be almost hooked appearing with a fairly pronounced bony hump.  Again the thought is that it comes from the mixing of different ethnicities.  Hump reduction and exact bony work are the focus in this type of nose.

I'm not really sure if any of the above is really the case, but it makes sense.  When I am improving an African American nose, I try to take in multiple factors to decide how to make the improvements happen.  It is important to know where you are starting from and what you are working with.  Realistic expectations are key in successful rhinoplasty.

Good luck,

Dr. Shah

Denver Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 69 reviews

Sharp AA noses

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Hello. AA people can have sharp noses based upon your their underlying cartilage and skin thickness. When a surgeon is attempting to remodel an AA nose  that is bulbous, he/she is usually dealing with a nasal tip that lacks support due to intrinsically weak cartilage. A surgeon may believe that a refined appearance in an AA patient is "unnatural" if he/she has not been exposed to a variety of people of color who poss a mulltitude of AA aesthetics. 


Sharp noses

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Great questions.  What I think many doctors mean to say is that many African Americans TEND to have thick skin and flatter noses, but there are so many different types of people, skin tones, nose shapes and sizes it would be crazy to say that everyone with brown skin has the same nose, right?The shape of the nose depends on the cartilages underneath as well as the thick skin.  Since most everyone has mixed ancestry, most people have a combination of genes that create different features.  A sharp defined nose is not unrealistic, but it may not look natural on a person who previously had a wide flat nose.  My goal as a plastic surgeon is to bring out someone's own natural beauty but not make them all look like the same doll.Best of luckDr Rodman

Regina Rodman, MD
Houston Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

Pointy nose in african-american

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I think that the ability to get a very well defined tip has to do with underlying structures and overlying soft tissue envelop, and this will be patient dependent.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

Why do some African Americans have sharp noses?

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The characteristics of an African American nose will vary from individual to individual. There are exceptions to the rule, as we may also encounter caucasian patients with thick nasal skin. When rhinoplasty surgeons make that statement, it is to bring to attention that a patient who genetically has thicker skin may not be able to achieve the level of definition they desire. It is unrealistic to give a patient with thick nasal skin a nose that is small and pointy. Every patient is different, and a thorough in-person assessment will help determine what is right for them. I hope this helps, and I wish you the best of luck.

African-American nasal skin

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It is true that the majority of African-Americans have thick nasal skin. However, there are certainly exceptions to the rule. I have performed rhinoplasty on a number of African-American patients, and there is a wide variability when it comes to skin thickness. Skin thickness does indeed lead to limit the amount of definition that be achieved with a rhinoplasty. But even if a defined, sharp nose cannot be achieved, a visible improvement in definition is still possible.

Ryan Greene, MD, PhD
Fort Lauderdale Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 85 reviews

Ethnicity and Nasal Skin

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There is a range of distribution of nasal skin thickness in all ethnicities.  The quality of nasal skin and nasal tip shape will depend largely on the genetics of the parents.  Some African Americans have sharply defined nasal features (Vanessa Williams, Rick Fox) while some Caucasians have very thick nasal skin and amorphous nasal tips (Karl Malden, Gene Hackman).

Stephen Prendiville, MD
Fort Myers Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 104 reviews

Ethnic nasal shape

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There are some nasal shapes that are characteristic of ethnic groups.  There are also ethnic mixtures so finding a patient of pure African descent may not be as obvious as you may think.  So genetics plays a large role in nasal shape.  

Jeffrey Zwiren, MD
Atlanta Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 20 reviews

African American Rhinoplasty

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There are exceptions to the rule. The majority of African American and Ethnic nose have thick skin. However, there are some ethnic subtypes and/or genetic traits in Ethnic patients that can have thin skin and resemble more caucasion noses. Such as Halle Barry.



Oleh Slupchynskyj, MD, FACS
New York Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 285 reviews

Ethnic Characteristics of Noses

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When surgeons say that African-Americans have thick nasal skin they are generalizing about ethnic characteristics. That's like saying African-Americans have dark skin, but I'll show you exceptions. I'll also show you caucasians with very thick nasal skin. 

Richard W. Fleming, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 43 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.