Social media has an obsession with self-identification. It’s why everyone is talking about what Myers-Briggs or enneagram personality type someone might be. And in the sleep optimization circles, identifying your animal-based chronotype is the topic du jour. On the aesthetic front, you can use filters to help you decide your most flattering color palette based on seasonality. There’s even a new wave of body archetypes taking over on TikTok in the form of the Kibbie method (body typing is apparently back—yawn). Spend enough time on Instagram or TikTok and you may realize you’re an enneagram 5, INTJ, wolf with a deep winter palette and characteristics of soft gamine. Do you feel self-actualized yet?
Whether or not you do anything with this information is irrelevant. The simple act of knowing is far more appealing. And you can rely on filters, quizzes, and the like to identify qualities in yourself.
But sometimes, the answer is much more simple.
Recently I was chatting with top board-certified dermatologist Ava Shamban, M.D., founder of the medspa SkinFive, on my podcast Clean Beauty School. We got on the subject of signature features, and she shared some advice with me on the matter.
What’s your signature feature, and how do you identify it?
“What we call our signature features have a point of beauty and uniqueness about them,” she says, noting examples like Barbra Streisand’s nose, Mick Jagger’s lips, or more recently celebrities like Zoe Kravitz’s sharp jawline or Anya-Taylor Joy’s wide-set eyes.
What’s different about identifying your signature feature is that it’s elemental—no online quiz or database is going to highlight it for you. It’s something that just is. “It’s subcortical; it’s not something you can even think about,” she says. “I’ll literally have someone turn to the person sitting next to them and have that person tell them what their signature feature is. Or I’ll have the person close their eyes in front of a mirror, open them, and instantly find what they think is the most beautiful thing about them.”
She even says, chances are you already know what you like most about your look—even if you don’t openly admit it to yourself. But as we talk about in the episode, it’s important to acknowledge these things: “With a concept like a signature feature, it’s led by psychology: We know that if we look good, we feel better,” she says. “In fact, there’s a principle in psychology called the facial feedback hypothesis. It’s as simple as when you look at yourself and you look good, you feel better.”
Essentially finding what you like about yourself and highlighting it has the ability to lift your mood overall. Now on the subject of highlighting said feature, we encourage you to have fun and do as much or as little as you’d like. With makeup and your look, the only rule is to do what makes you happy.
But if you’re looking for natural enhancement, Shamban explains that there’s, “a principle that’s present in architecture and music that’s called the background noise and signal to noise ratio. So you want to increase signal while reducing background noise.”
In beauty that might mean toning down fine lines, dark spots, and pimples while adding a swipe of eye-enhancing shadow or using simple techniques to contour your cheekbones. “In beauty and dermatology, the goal of all of our work is to highlight and showcase that individual beauty of the face,” she says.