Almost everyone has a philtrum! Tell your friends. Then remind them that the philtrum is the grooved space between your nose and your upper lip. Cute isn’t it? Well, it doesn’t end there.
Why Is It Called a Cupid’s Bow?
We knew you’d ask. From an etymological standpoint, philtrum stems from the Greek word “philtron” meaning love potion. Cupid, the Greek god of love and frequent romantic mischief maker is known for striking people with his arrows, which compels them to fall madly in love with whoever they see next. This stands to reason why the Ancient Greeks referred to the philtrum as “Cupid’s Bow,” and considered it the most erogenous part of the body.
For those looking for a more visual explanation, the curves of the philtrum are simply reminiscent of the curves of Cupid’s Bow and the point where your philtrum touches the bottom of your nose conjures the tip of an arrow.
What Is the Purpose of a Philtrum?
But what, if anything, is the purpose of a philtrum and what can it tell us about ourselves? According to the South China Morning Post, a wide philtrum is tied to a strong sex drive. How wide is your philtrum?
The philtrum is vestigial, as it is considered to serve no known purpose in humans. But there are some philtrum enthusiasts out there who claim this supposedly “vestigial” characteristic actually offers our mouth and face the function of better maneuverability.
Think of it like the pleat in a pair of pants that allows the fabric to expand and breath.
So, too, your philtrum allows for:
- Increased articulation and stretching of the upper lip and mouth.
- Feeling for food and grabbing with the lips.
- A wider range of facial expressions i.e. laughing, smiling, snarling, etc.
With facial expression being an enormous component of verbal and non-verbal communication it becomes easy to imagine the philtrum being a handy evolutionary tool. It offers clear advantages in communicating.
Beyond communication, the philtrum could also have something to do with one of our primary senses. According to the National Library of Medicine, our olfactory sense has always played an important role in survival. With that, it’s not hard to postulate that the grooves of our philtrum aid our sense of smell and thus our ability to identify things in our environment, including:
However, Floyd Aronyosi, Assistant Professor at Olympic College in Bremerton, WA stands firmly in the vestigial camp reminding us that, “For humans, it’s the location where two growth planes meet. That’s all…The philtrum is simply the spot where the left half of the face meets the right half.”
If we were to ignore Floyd and look to the stars for answers, we may find Chinese Astrology telling us some very specific things about the different types of philtrum out there.
6 Things Chinese Astrology Says about Your Philtrum
- A deep, long philtrum indicates honesty, kindness, modesty, being popular, patient and persistent, and those who possess it lead long, successful lives.
- A short, thin philtrum is a sign of bad luck, unhealthy habits, hot tempers, and oversensitivity. Basically, short philtrums make bad business partners.
- A wide philtrum means good luck, generosity, success and, as mentioned earlier, a strong libido.
- Narrow philtrum are associated with narrow-mindedness, stinginess, and often suffer from low vitality and are unsuccessful.
- Philtrums that are narrow on the top and wide at the bottom are loyal, sincere and prosperous in their old age.
- Philtrums that are short at the bottom and wide on the top are oversensitive, suspicious, nervous, and typically bad with money.
An even more supernatural explanation is supplied by the Talmud, the basis for all codes of Jewish law. The Talmud purports that God sends an angel to every mother’s womb before birth to teach everyone all the wisdom that we’ll ever need to know. Then, shortly before we’re born, the angel returns to place a celestial finger upon our face, at which time all knowledge is forgotten.
And, you guessed it; the point of contact where the angel touches our face leaves an indent that we know as the philtrum – a small reminder that the purpose of life is to acquire knowledge in order to ascend back towards the state of all-knowingness that we originated from.
Regardless of its origins, don’t go judging a philtrum by their covers. Whether you think it’s vestigial or an evolutionary ornament, one thing is for sure, not everyone’s philtrum is the same.
Some philtrum are more pronounced as it’s a physical characteristic that is passed down genetically, while others can make their philtrum disappear entirely by pulling their lips back until the skin stretches tight. What’s more, some people’s philtrum naturally stretches out smooth when they smile.
If the philtrum is barely present or smooth naturally, it could just be an elongated philtrum. But on the more insidious side, a completely smooth or flat philtrum could indicate fetal alcohol syndrome.
Cleft Lip and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
In utero, as the embryo grows, the palate of our mouth, maxilla, and mandible grow from the lateral aspect inward (the sides of the face toward the middle). The philtrum is formed where the two sides of the face meet in the middle as it develops in the womb. The nasomedial and maxillary processes meet during embryonic development and close, creating the groove along the mid-line of everyone’s philtrum.
When the two sides fail to fuse fully, a cleft lip or “hare lip” can be the result. It is considered a developmental problem when the philtrum does not form properly and creates a cleft lip instead.
The cleft lip is smooth visually as opposed to a fully formed dip. Similarly, a smooth philtrum is often a sign of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) in children, resulting from the mother drinking alcohol while pregnant and impeding development.
While certainly not the most important feature on our face, the philtrum is an interesting little groove that comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s both an erogenous zone, and a constant reminder of our developmental history. Don’t forget it. It could be useful…or maybe not.