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Far East cosmetic boom is a fusion of Western influence and Eastern beauty ideals

Article-Far East cosmetic boom is a fusion of Western influence and Eastern beauty ideals

Key iconKey Points

  • Cosmetic surgery in the Pacific Rim is on the rise and continuing to garner interest by young and old alike
  • Some of the eastern Pacific Rim nations have unique cultural pressures that define the region's specific aesthetic trends

Dr. Greensmith
By any measure, cosmetic surgery in the eastern Pacific Rim is on the ascendance and shows little sign of peaking. According to the most recently available International Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) figures, of the top 15 countries with the most aesthetic procedures performed, four are located in the eastern Pacific Rim: Japan, South Korea, Australia and Taiwan.

In one 2006 broadcast, a South Korea-based BBC correspondent reported that, "by conservative estimates, 50 percent of South Korean women in their 20s have had some form of cosmetic surgery." And the trend is not limited to the distaff side. In a recent poll, 70 percent of South Korean men said they would also consider surgical improvements. There are an estimated 1,300 plastic surgeons practicing in the city of Seoul alone.

In statistics cited in a Harvard paper on the topic, 2003 saw a reported 25 percent increase in the number of cosmetic surgeries performed in Taipei over 2002. Across Taiwan nationwide, there were reportedly a million cosmetic procedures performed in 2005 — twice as many as five years earlier. Today, more than 150 of the over 300 certified plastic surgeons in that country practice cosmetic surgery. Ten years ago, they numbered fifteen.

Some of the same factors that have contributed to the boom in cosmetic surgery in the U.S. have fueled similar increases on the other side of the world. However, some of the eastern Pacific Rim nations have unique cultural pressures that define the region's specific aesthetic trends.

Cosmetic Surgery Times spoke with a number of plastic surgeons in the Far East about what is driving their burgeoning cosmetic surgery business, what types of procedures are popular, and whether and in what ways they see the discipline changing. One of the common observations they share is a younger and younger patient demographic.

THE BOOM OF YOUTH "It's good to know the trends of the youth," says Bangkok-based Charan Muhatumurat, M.D., president of the Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons of Thailand. He and many of the doctors say they usually know exactly what their patients want aesthetically because they come in with photos of their favorite movie stars and models. "I'm not a magician," says Dr. Muhatumurat, "but I try to do my best."

Andrew Greensmith, M.D., in Melbourne, Australia, concurs that an element of international media and celebrity is propelling this group to seek cosmetic surgery.

Dr. Walton
"We're talking about the 18- to 30-year-old being a big growth area. It's probably in response to the media coverage — 'The Biggest Loser' and plastic surgery reality shows — for better or worse."

Worse because, Dr. Greensmith says, those shows are also part of the biggest headache surgeons say they face — one echoed by their Occidental colleagues. "It's the unrealistic expectations the shows generate," he laments. "In the shows, there are few complications and the transformations are extreme."

Dr. Greensmith, who did his surgical training in France and England, says that part of the body contouring surge stems from the younger generation being "more overweight than previous generations and they are focusing on ways to look better."

"We're seeing breast augmentation, liposuction and other post-weight loss procedures in the younger group as opposed to the 40- to 50-year-olds," he adds. "They're getting their excess skin removed and having body contouring procedures done."

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