Feel that your nostrils are too large for your nose or your face?

By: Dr. Sean Delaney


Many patients present to a rhinoplasty consultation with a desire to make their nose look smaller. Often, they will point out a big hump or large nasal tip, but the size of the nostrils is often overlooked or difficult to describe. In many cases, nostril narrowing can further enhance the appearance of one’s nose.

The nostril is formally known as the ala, derived from the same Latin word ala that means “wing.” This refers to the contour of the nasal tip and nostril rims, which have the appearance of a bird in flight. The overall nostril width is best observed from below and is defined by how far out the nostril extends on each side. In Caucasian ideal nasal proportions, the edges of the nostril should approximate a vertical line that courses through the inside corner of each eye. However, differences in personal preferences and ideal proportions in non-Caucasian individuals allow for variation from this standard.

The nostril width can be further divided into nasal sill width and nasal flare components. The nasal sill describes the horizontal component of the bottom of the nostril, akin to a window sill. Nasal flare refers to the amount of nostril that sticks out from where the nostril connects to the cheek. Excessive nasal flare conveys a “fleshiness” or curvature to the shape of the nostril. We consider the contributions from nasal sill width and nasal flare during the evaluation for nostril narrowing and treat the problem(s) accordingly. Therefore, the nostrils can be reduced by only treating the nasal sill or nasal flare or both.

Excessive nostril width is most commonly a feature that someone is born with. However, the nostril width can also increase from rhinoplasty if the nasal tip is set back. To provide an analogy, imagine a circus tent pole holding up a tent. If that tent pole were to be lowered, the tent now would spread out and redistribute to the sides. In anticipation of nostril widening after setting the tip back during rhinoplasty, we may recommend nostril narrowing at the same time.

If you have been bothered by the size or width of your nostrils, now is the time to consult with a board-certified facial plastic surgeon.

Example of nasal sill and nasa

Example of nasal sill and nasal flare reduction

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.