A friend and I attempted a selfie recently for which she refused to smile. “Let’s take a serious selfie,” she insisted. But I look miserable when I don’t smile, so the selfie became somewhat of a struggle. Finally I acquiesced to one serious photo, and then requested a smiling one.
She exhaled through her mouth unhappily. “I have lines around my eyes when I smile.”
“Everyone does!” I said, and later regretted my lack of empathy. We all have our things.
But I was also thrilled to tell her when I discovered that both aestheticians and scientists agree that so-called “crow’s feet” (A.K.A. orbicularis oculi contractions, A.K.A. Duchenne markers) are actually desirable in many ways. They relay empathy and genuine warmth—your smile doesn’t look genuine if your eyes aren’t joining in. That’s where the name Duchenne marker comes from: French physician Guillaume Duchenne was a leading researcher in the physiology of facial expressions in the nineteenth century, including the genuine-ness of smiles based on the presence of lines around the eyes (although this test may not work for all ethnicities).
I confess I once had botox injections around my eyes, and even though at the time I was much less sympathetic to crow’s feet, I hated the results. It wasn’t until recently that I understood why. My eyes looked dull, lifeless and sunken in.
If you’re still not convinced, get this: R. Thora Bjornsdottir and Nicholas Rule, researchers at the University of Toronto, found that crow’s-feet are good predictors of lower divorce rates, election victories, and how wealthy people think you are.
It makes sense when you consider that the lines on your face are a result of the expressions you’ve made over the span of your lifetime. They are a stamp of the happiness and laughter you’ve experienced, and that makes them well worth celebrating—a beauty mark if there ever was one.