With a smile I face the future
August 5, 2010 10:40 AM   Subscribe

OK, I've done that, now teach me to smile.

I've just had my teeth fixed after years of them being a bit of an embarrassment. I'd really like to be able to properly smile, but trying to do it in the mirror I think I look like an idiot. A crazy idiot. Can anyone walk me through the actual mechanics of a smile, or is it one of those things you can only learn by doing?

There's an earlier, similar question here, but I'd really like to hear some other advice.
posted by muteh to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Fake it till you make it - but most of the time, do let nature take its own course.
posted by watercarrier at 10:43 AM on August 5, 2010

I find it easier to smile naturally if I think about a loved one or a funny story.
posted by telegraph at 10:46 AM on August 5, 2010

Think of something happy and let your face respond. I remember practicing like you when I got my braces off in high school and I've been a toothy smiler ever since. I find that when being photographed, if I smile artificially, it shows. So I try to think of something funny I heard recently or something that makes me happy-like my children. Then, the smile I produce is my real smile and the photo is generally much better. I think it has to do with your whole face smiling and not just your mouth.

Congrats on the teeth.
posted by supercapitalist at 10:46 AM on August 5, 2010

Don't sweat it. I'm pretty sure most of us think we look like crazy idiots when we fake-smile in the mirror. Are you sure that it looks the same when you smile in a more naturalistic situation? Off-hand, maybe the "crazy idiot" look might come from your eyes being wide open when you smile? They should be partially closed. Maybe if you describe what you don't like about your smile, we can give more specific feedback.
posted by puritycontrol at 10:51 AM on August 5, 2010

Maybe "Partially closed" isn't the most accurate way to say it. Your eyes/eyelids should be relaxed.
posted by puritycontrol at 10:52 AM on August 5, 2010

I think your best smile will come through "practicing" your best laugh and not by you trying to force "your smile". You've probably held back from really, really enjoying a good laugh (around people, social situations, etc.) without feeling like you've had to cover your mouth or your teeth. Just start out by watching whatever movies, play hard with some children, watch kittens and puppies play, or anything in life that will allow you to truly relax while you are laughing and smiling, while not having to worry about covering or hiding your mouth. I think your "true" smile will "form" for you eventually.

Bottom line: Belly laughs! :)
posted by foxhat10 at 10:52 AM on August 5, 2010

Paul Ekman has broken down facial expressions (the TV show, Lie to Me draws from his work). His book, Emotions Revealed has pictures of "genuine" expressions vs. faked ones. Very interesting and it may help you with your goal.
posted by agatha_magatha at 10:56 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Laugh. Laughter always produces the best smiles.
posted by shesaysgo at 10:56 AM on August 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

When we're actually happy, talking and laughing with our friends, we don't actually freeze in one pose artificially the way we tend to in front of the mirror (and the camera). I think mirrors and cameras both lie and don't tell us how beautiful we are, since so much of our beauty is in our motion.

Which is to say your actual smile is probably prettier than you know, and prettier than your mirror will ever be able to tell you!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:22 AM on August 5, 2010

A great-looking smile comes from higher muscles than you think- the muscles that make a smile look real are closer to your eyes than they are to your mouth.

If you just pull the corners of your lips up or out, you get a smile that looks strained and fake.

A realistic, happy smile is sort of a hybrid:
About 80% comes from cheekbone height- as if you're squinching your lower eyelids shut. Your brows shouldn't move much, and your eyes should be about 1/3 closed, bottom lid only.
The other ~ 20% comes from pulling your mouth-corners out and a little bit up.

More fake/real smiles: Obama 1, 2. Giada 1, 2.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:50 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Smile with your eyes first and let your mouth follow.
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 1:26 PM on August 5, 2010

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