Why Do Scandinavians Have Small Noses?

Noses are a very important factor in people’s visual identities, not just on a personal level but also regionally, racially, and ethnically. There have always been (stereo)typical images of different people groups based on their noses.

One such image is of Scandinavians with small noses, and it’s quite interesting to think about why this facial feature has developed in this particular way. 

Scandinavians generally have small noses as an adaptation to cold and dry weather.

This adaptation often happens as a way to deal with such weather, and since Scandinavia is still a cold place, the adaptation may have become more prominent than in other regions. It can also be a stereotypical image.

This article will discuss the factors that have influenced nose shapes throughout human evolution.

This will help the reader understand why this facial feature has developed in such a way among Scandinavians.

Also, see Do Some Scandinavians Have Dark Hair? to learn more.

What Influences Nose Shapes?

Scientific data heavily implies that nose shape has primarily developed as an adaptation to the weather.

In the case of small, narrow noses, they have developed as an adaptation to cold and dry weather. [1] 

As early humans migrated out of Africa, they were moved into increasingly colder areas with low humidity. This has led to many anatomical changes in their physiques, including their noses’ shape. 

Having a small, narrow nose is a big advantage in cold climates.

It allows the air to get heated and moistened as it travels through the nose. [2] This helps minimize heat loss and warm up the body since it allows less cold air to be breathed in. 

This feature is observable everywhere in similar climates.

For example, the broad, flat noses of East Asians and Siberians are also likely a result of an adaptation to cold climates, even though they’re not pointy like European noses. 

Interestingly, small noses can sometimes be found in hot climates, for example, in Ethiopia. In such areas, heat loss is surely not a problem.

This fact might imply that humidity, or the lack thereof, is a major factor influencing nose size. 

In other words, even if an area is hot, a small nose can still be an advantage if it plays a role in humidifying the air as people breathe it in.

Scandinavian Noses

It has been mentioned that ancient humans evolved smaller noses as they moved into regions with colder climates, so what does that have to do with modern Scandinavians?

Even though there have been many climate changes throughout history, and they’ve even affected Europe, which is not nearly as cold as it was millennia ago, Scandinavia is still a very cold place. 

The constantly cold climate has meant that small noses are still an advantage, especially in cold winter months.

This might explain part of the reason why Scandinavians have a reputation for having small noses.

Although truth be told, Europeans generally are not known for being big-nosed. 

Another reason might be that the ancestors of Scandinavians mixed less with populations from warmer and less dry climates.

This may have helped them preserve this distinct facial feature, which has changed among other Europeans. 

The more south one travels in Europe, the bigger the noses get, at least stereotypically.

There is a higher chance of finding a person with a big nose around the Mediterranean than in colder parts of Europe. 

In those hotter regions of Europe, having a smaller nose is not a big advantage, and the population may have mixed more with people groups with slightly bigger noses. 

Also, see Are Scandinavians Nice? to learn more.

Do Scandinavians Really Have Small Noses?

While it’s true that cold and dry regions are typically home to people with small noses, it is important to acknowledge the existence of stereotypes regarding facial features.

Since noses are such a prominent facial feature, there are lots of stereotypes and exaggerations based on them.

For example, Jews are often stereotypically presented with oversized, hooked noses, while ancient Romans are stereotypically imagined as having hooked noses. Similarly, the idea of Scandinavians having small noses might be a stereotype and exaggeration rather than a firm fact. [3]

This is certainly part of the equation. It is possible that other Europeans, as well as Americans, have created this stereotypical image of Scandinavians with particularly small noses.

Some Scandinavians even find this idea offensive. [3]

In other words, while people in Northern Europe and other cold places may have smaller noses on average, it might be that many people in those regions don’t have noses that are so significantly smaller than usual. 

Also, see Why Do Scandinavians Have Blue Eyes? to learn more.

What Other Facial Features Are Common Among Scandinavians?

High cheekbones are another trait that is often associated with Scandinavians.

They are particularly common among Scandinavians with Sami heritage.

While this facial feature is often seen as attractive today, many people tried to hide it in the past because Germanic Scandinavians saw Sami as uncivilized. [4]

Light skin is also a trait that is commonly attributed to Scandinavians.

They are generally rather pale. However, many Scandinavians today have non-Scandinavian heritage too, so it’s not that unusual to see someone with skin that’s a bit darker. 

Many Scandinavians get tanned during the summer months.

While it might not seem like the best place for sunbathing, the exposure to UV rays is quite high because the ozone layer is thinner there, so many Scandinavians get a few shades darker in summer.

Their diet is also rich in vitamin D, which helps with tanning. 

Scandinavians are also remarkable for their height. While they’re not the tallest in Europe, they’re still tall enough to tower over many, if not most, people in many other countries. 

The people of Scandinavia also typically have lighter hair.

Of course, it’s not strange to find a Scandinavian person with black or dark-brown hair, but it’s also more common to find someone with light hair.

All these characteristics mean that Scandinavians are often seen as attractive people. 


Scandinavians typically have small noses because of the cold, dry weather. However, the smallness of their noses might also be an exaggeration or stereotype.

Also, see Why Are Scandinavians Houses So Colorful? to learn more.

[1] Source
[2] Source
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[4] Source

Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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