The famous double eyelid surgery in Asia is becoming so common that most Korean women see it as a simple cosmetic enhancement procedure rather than plastic surgery. With an overwhelming one in three South Korean women between the ages of 19 and 29 turning to plastic surgery, even the more invasive procedures are becoming increasingly normalized.
Just as companies would advertise a new phone, surgery clinics are covering the walls and billboards of Seoul in advertisements promoting their transformations. However, many of these enticing images of satisfied clients were not achieved with a single procedure.
The iconic looks of the most popular K-pop stars and Asian actors are the result of these various invasive and non-invasive procedures costing up to tens of thousands of dollars – proving that not even your favorite idols are born looking like idols.
Here are some of the lesser known but nonetheless popular procedures among Asian celebrities and cosmetic surgery enthusiasts.
Fat melting injection & fat grafting into forehead
These are two non-surgical procedures used to remove/add fat for a more visually pleasing look. Carried out over 3-5 sessions, the fat dissolving injections are injected into the target area to remove fat and shrink down the size of the fat cells. The injection can lead to uncomfortable burning sensations, swelling, redness and itchiness. The injections are made most frequently in the upper arms, chest, calf, thighs and torso.
Fat grafting on the other hand, is extracting fat from one part of your body and injecting it into another area – often into the forehead. This procedure is supposedly meant to give more volume to your face, making it look healthier. Although this is said to be safer than inserting foreign implants into your body, doctors admit it is far from a simple operation. Clients risk the possibility of mild to severe bruising, inflammation and lumps forming as a result of the procedure. There is also the possibility of the result not lasting a significant period of time.
Epicanthoplasty and Lateral Canthoplasty
The Lateral Canthoplasty is known as the outer corner eyelid surgery and repositions the tails of the outer eyelids by making incisions at the outer corner of the eyelids. Both surgeries carry the risk of permanent scarring around the eyelids, prolonged swelling and serious infection.
Skin whitening injection & laser treatment
There are various procedures available for skin whitening from skin peels and injections to lasers, all with their own risks. The “shining injection” consists of hyaluronic acid that is injected on the dermis layer. Common side effects include bacterial infection, bruising and scarring. Some people may also see prolonged redness and swelling or permanent hyper-pigmentation and sensitivity to the sun.
The laser treatment, which shares similar side effects to the injection, requires local anesthetics as the procedure literally removes the outer layer of your skin, one layer at a time, which can be very painful.
Lip thinning surgery
While women in western countries are getting lip fillers to achieve a Kylie Jenner pout, there are women in Asian who go through surgery to get thinner lips. Surgeons hypothesize that women in Asia choose to go through this operation to achieve thinner “Caucasian” lips.
The process involves removing skin from the lips along the vermilion border to create a new lip line. Patients must be placed under local or general anesthetic and the overall procedure can take roughly 15 to 30 minutes per lip. Like many other cosmetic surgery procedures, side effects may include pain, swelling, bruising, redness, infection and allergic reaction.
Nostril reduction surgery
Rhinoplasty (nose jobs) and nostril reduction surgeries are incredibly popular among K-pop idols. The nostril reduction does exactly what it promises – reduce the width of the nose. There are various ways to go about the procedure but they generally all involve manipulating all nasal tissues from the bone itself to the cartilage and soft-tissue.
“Flared nostrils or widely round nostrils can often contribute to an unrefined, overly ethnic appearance,” a Korean plastic surgery clinic writes. Reducing the size of nostrils can be achieved by making incisions on the bottom, outer corner of the nose and stitching it back down or incising the space between both nostrils and the bottom of the nostrils and tying these together, which would result in a sharper nose. After the main surgery, some reshaping and sharpening of the tip of the nose and narrowing down the width of the nostril itself is needed to complete the procedure.
Due to the many sensitive nerves and blood vessels surrounding the upper and lower jaw area, this procedure also has one of the longest recovery periods of anywhere between 12 weeks to 6 months of swelling and pain. If the procedure is not carried out properly, it can lead to other severe complications such as bleeding, teeth damage, infection, decreased blood supply, permanent nerve damage, paralysis and even death. In 2013 alone, there were 14 reported deaths in South Korea as a result of this invasive surgery.
Regardless of whether the procedure is non-surgical or invasive, none of these procedures are without risk. For the average woman, no procedure should be worth risking the possibility of permanent scarring, numbness or death. It’s not surprising to see the appeal of Korean plastic surgery after being exposed to dramatic transformations from celebrities and relentless advertising but at the end of the day, the importance of physical wellbeing should take precedence over a desired look. Perhaps the question we should be asking isn’t why so many women choose to go under the knife but why they feel the need to risk their health to be rid of minor “imperfections.”