Summary: Humans see in three dimensions. There’s depth to everything. Well, everything except a photograph. This is why, while photoshopped images and various manipulation apps can give you a sense of what you’ll look like after plastic surgery, there hasn’t been a way to tell for sure what you might look like. A new company is looking to change that by introducing a three-dimensional way to achieve a preview. This company essentially uses a 3D printer to create preview “masks.” These masks can give you a more accurate idea of what you will look like after your plastic surgery procedure.

3D Preview for Plastic Surgery

Sometimes with plastic surgery, it can be difficult to accurately envision what you’re going to look like after the procedure. Sure, the plastic surgeon can describe what’s going to happen, and you can imagine how those dotted black lines are going to shift and change after surgery—but it’s hard to get an accurate picture. And, of course, it’s important to get such a picture. Especially when it comes to facial plastic surgery, any variation in the final results can dramatically impact your satisfaction with your look. That’s because the face requires a fine sense of balance in order to achieve the transformation you’re after.

In other words, every part o the face is constantly interacting with every other part. Your nose generally works in harmony with your eyebrows and your eyes work in harmony with your mouth. A traditionally attractive face is one in which all of these elements are in proportion with one another. This has been true even as far as back as the Ancient Greeks, who spent a lot of time and effort in creating art of these pleasing proportions. (The so-called golden ratio was first noticed by the Ancient Greeks, and that’s one of the most important ratios in all of aesthetics.)

Modern Technology Printing Faces

Modern technology has sought to give people previews of their faces in several intriguing ways. The first has been through the alteration of a photograph. Software such as Photoshop has made this process easier than ever before, of course. The problem with photographs or images, however, is that they are two-dimensional. And while that may give you an idea of what you’ll look like (and an even better idea of what you’ll look like in a photograph), it probably won’t give you as good an idea as to what you’ll look like after your surgery.

To get such an accurate view of what you’ll look like after surgery, you need a three-dimensional representation of what you’ll see. Thankfully (maybe), one plastic surgeon has started doing just that, using a 3D printer to create “masks” of what patients will look like after surgery. These masks vary in size—some of them are life sized while others are only a few inches in diameter. The printed “masks” are remarkably accurate and remarkably life-like. They make for a very accurate representation of what patients will look like after surgery.

The Uncanny Valley

Unfortunately, they’re also remarkably creepy. It’s funny, because this should be a great advance for plastic surgery. But all I can think about is how these masks must enter the “uncanny valley”—because they look so bizarre and so close to human. Basically, the uncanny valley is a way to describe those things that look very close to human but don’t quite look realistic enough to fool the eye. Think about dolls: the more realistic they look, the creepier they are. It’s the same way with these 3D masks. In other words, maybe you should destroy them once you’ve used them (I’m kidding…mostly).

These masks give plastic surgeons and the patients they serve a valuable tool. Whether you’re looking for a facelift in Minneapolis or in Los Angeles, it’s helpful to know what to expect. Now, there will a margin of error between the plan and the final result. But generally this margin of error will be quite low. Most surgeons will mention it as a way of covering their rear-ends legally—because nobody’s perfect (not even 3D printing machines). The idea of the masks, after all, is simply to give you an idea of what to expect, not show you a picture of guaranteed results.

Get Your Preview Today

But even having an idea of what to expect will be quite useful for many patients. It could make the difference between a nose that is too large and a nose that is too small. Or it could make the difference between too many wrinkles left over and too few. No matter how you get it, a preview of your plastic surgery procedure will almost certainly be a good thing—that last step before you go through with it. Because the strength (and possibly the weakness) of plastic surgery is that it’s permanent.

Facelifts in general are an exceptionally popular plastic surgery procedure. Indeed, facial plastic surgery more broadly is also quite popular. If you’re interested in getting a preview of what you might look like, the company that creates these models is called MirrorMe3D. It might be fun to take a look, even if you don’t quite intend on having any plastic surgery performed.

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