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July 9, 2007 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Can I correct my smile posture?

Should I? Can I? How?

When I smile a big smile naturally, my cheeks smush my eyes into little squinty slits and my teeth remain close together, sometimes my mouth is even closed, so I look all chin and cheeks, and sort of sleepy and smug.

Starting with really pose-appropriate pictures (weddings, work) I've practiced and perfected my photograph smile, but I don't like the fact that the way I look happiest and prettiest is a put-on. Can practice change this open-eyed, dropped-lip smile into my natural reaction to pleasure?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Seeing how this was germane to the question, I took a look at a picture that I assume is you on your flickr set (welcome to faceworld). Your mouth is slightly open there, and you look quite pleased, and not sleepy or smug at all.

I suspect just slightly opening your mouth will continue to do the trick. Do you naturally feel inclined to keep your mouth closed, or is it just habit? (I know some people are paranoid about their teeth or smile or whatnot).

Whether it will become natural, I'd saw the least adjustments you have to make, the greater chance it will become second-nature.
posted by canine epigram at 2:21 PM on July 9, 2007

I have changed the way I used to naturally smile.

My permanent top teeth never grew in and I've had to use false teeth all my life, with the result that half of my upper jaw line rises higher in my mouth than it normally should. When I got permanent implants (at 19) in order for the teeth to meet my lower teeth and also meet my top jaw, they had to be...well, bigger than I would have liked them. My normal way of smiling was to raise my top lip up pretty high (in a sort of chipmunk-esque way) and everyone could see what I considered to be my unacceptably large teeth. So I practiced smiling more with the corners of my mouth and not raising my upper lip as much, and I now do that without thinking about it; photographs show that it's completely natural-looking. So yes, you can train yourself to smile in a different way. For a while I would sort of catch myself, press my lips together, and then smile in my preferred method; now it's pretty much second nature, unless I'm laughing hugely and uncontrollably.

Wow, I never thought I'd be telling anyone about that.
posted by frobozz at 2:27 PM on July 9, 2007

canine epigram: Was it a photo you were looking at? Then it might have been my photo face... ;D

And no, I'm not against my teeth - they deserve a little attention, actually! I'm tired of people I know not realizing I have such good teeth! It's just habit.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:46 PM on July 9, 2007

It was indeed, and I'm sure it probably was - but that looked quite natural - photo face or not!

Now I'm curious to see a non-photo-face you, to see just what you're trying to correct.

So try working it a bit, being just slightly conscious of your lips and cheeks, and see where that takes you. Clearly you're off to a good start already.
posted by canine epigram at 2:54 PM on July 9, 2007

People are able to correct their actual posture, fix their golf/tennis/throwing-arm swing, learn to type Dvorak after Qwerty, etc. with plenty of practice. I think it's just a muscle memory thing. If you can remember to use your "good" smile on purpose when you're happy, and do it pretty unfailingly, I have no doubt that it will eventually become automatic. The hard part, I think, will be remembering to use the good smile all the time until it becomes natural.

One thing I've seen recommended for fixing (sitting) posture is to tie a string snugly around the belly - not enough to constrict, just enough that a slouch will make it tight and give you a physical reminder to sit up straight again. I'm trying to think of a way to apply this to a smiling face, and the only thing I can come up with is a mild Pee-Wee-Herman-like scotch tape setup - pull tape from your cheekbones to your chin, or whatever it takes to give you a noticeable pulling sensation if you go into full-squinty grin, but that feels ok in your preferred smile. Obviously you wouldn't want to go out in public with that getup, but if you watched comedies alone at home you'd get plenty of practice for your new smile.

I'm also a big-cheekboned, squinty smiler with a well-practiced, completely unrelated photo smile. It's never occurred to me to try to convert that into my real smile, but you've inspired me to give it a shot. :)
posted by vytae at 3:04 PM on July 9, 2007

I've got a friend who smiles like you do naturally. Looks a bit like this emoticon: ^_^

She also has a photo smile which is much like what canine epigram is describing - eyes more open, mouth a little bit open. Honestly, I think the first natural smile looks a lot cuter and happier. Stay with it :)
posted by divabat at 3:42 PM on July 9, 2007

I also smile like you naturally (with smile wrinkles to match) and also have a 'photo-smile' that I worked on and practiced and that looks quite good (mouth slightly open, eyes alert). But then I practiced at other times and the better version has stuck to some extent. The key was being aware of what my face was doing and aiming more for the cuter smile than the crazy one, until it happened naturally. This took possibly a couple of years, although I didn't make it a mission or anything. I don't do the fake photo smile all the time but I now tend to open my mouth a little when I smile naturally and it does look better. Apparently I also draw my top lip back a little (something I didn't in the past) which totally makes me look like my sisters (who both do this). So I figure the new smile can't be too unnatural and must still be working with my face rather than against it.

A happy spontaneous smile is always a good thing to see. So don't fret too much or try to become too formal. But by thinking about your facial expression a little and practicing in the mirror you can certainly have long term effects. I reckon you can modify your facial movements enough to make it that bit cuter while keeping your personality and character intact.
posted by shelleycat at 3:54 PM on July 9, 2007

okay: bad/natural smile, good/fanagled smile (champagne assisted and a little loony)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:04 PM on July 9, 2007

I'm sure you can, but do you really want to? The thing about the photo smile is that you're capturing your face in a still image. No one can see the full effect of glowing happy 3D you because they're looking at a tiny moment in time. Someone with you, in the moment of your joy, has so much more than just your static face. A good photo face has to be kind of relaxed and controlled. I like to think that I'm allowed to lose a little control of my face when I'm really happy.
But, of course, there's nothing wrong with showing some teeth. I think I started tooth-smiling more when I realized I needed to perfect a camera smile. It's just toothier and squintier than camera smile.
posted by ch1x0r at 6:37 PM on July 9, 2007

Second the advice of shelleycat and ch1x0r: You can help your camera smile to colonize your other smile if you want—print out the photo on the balcony (holy smokes!) and contemplate it for a few minutes every day—but really, don't lose any sleep over it. You are who you are, and photographs doubtless omit plenty of positive elements of the Ambrosia Voyeur Experience, so it's OK if the photos get a little compensation in the smile department.
posted by eritain at 9:56 PM on July 9, 2007

Seeing how badly other Experiences have turned out, it's nice just not to label them. ;)

I think shelleycat has it - it's not being unnatural, it's just a small adjustment.

Clearly you'll have to post back in six months to update us on your happy smile!
posted by canine epigram at 5:50 AM on July 10, 2007

Maybe you should try the Beauty Smile Trainer:
"In addition to improving your smile, the product promises to reduce facial sagging, making your countenance more firm and petite."
Sounds good to me.
posted by ponystyle at 2:49 AM on July 30, 2007

Basic Instructions illustrates the inevitable paradoxes of consciously working on a smile. Via the blue.
posted by eritain at 4:33 PM on September 10, 2007

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