South Korea is now the world’s leading supplier and consumer of cosmetic enhancement. According to a recent report by the New Yorker, it is estimated that between one-fifth and one-third of women in Seoul have undergone the cosmetic knife.
The reminders are everywhere, typically as posters and advertisements plastered in magazines, at train stations, shopping malls, even along the highway as you drive – and all providing a compelling before and after visual. Having – or at least considering – some form of cosmetic enhancement is no more foreign to South Korean women than their Australian counterparts thinking about a cut and colour.
If you were in doubt of South Korea’s worship of the aesthetic, the typical patient questionnaire prior to a procedure may convince you otherwise. Questions seek to understand why you want surgery (‘a job’, ‘a wedding’, ‘to gain self-confidence’ or ‘at the suggestion of others’) and if you desire a ‘natural’, ‘different’ or ‘very different’ look. ‘Upload a selfie without using Photoshop’, ‘get a lover’, ‘find a job’, or ‘enter a beauty competition’ are the options provided in response to what the patient wants to achieve from surgery. Just imagine if your daughter argued these points to you. In a perfect world, my feminist hand would slap her down.
And yet it was always inevitable that I would find myself here – sitting in a public reception room, my face slathered with numbing cream.
I’m on display for all the world to see. Or at least to those who are also seeking out some form of cosmetic enhancement found on the top floor of a building on a small island in South Korea.
I’ve been before, mind you. For laser treatment. But I’ve convinced myself that’s an appropriate and rather adult – almost responsible – course of action to take for skin preservation. And it worked wonders.
Today though, I’m doing what I swore I would never do – inject my face with Botox.
I’m here on a whim too. Not merely 30 minutes ago, I was five floors down at the dentist. Apparently, I consider a course of Botox as an appropriate way to treat myself.
To be fair, I am expecting a consult only. I don’t expect to be ‘done’ immediately. But ‘done’ I am. Within 45 short minutes, I’ve been injected. No muss, no fuss.
Until about 48 hours later.
When it kicks in.
I’m not sure what I expect, but it actually does not occur to me that the injected areas will be numb. I feel like I have a headband around the top of my forehead. When I wake each morning, I immediately feel the area, anticipating that I am somehow wearing a tight piece from McEnroe’s tennis wardrobe.
But that’s not the worst of it. I may be wrinkle-free around my eyes, but the lack of movement means I have chipmunk cheeks and an evil smile. Apparently removing the movement from your eyes can make your top lip curl. There’s a fair chance you’ll think I’m snarling at you.
Now, I have plenty of girlfriends – both here and in Australia – who have told me in no uncertain terms that I should look ‘refreshed’, not ‘possessed’. The observation is irrelevant. The damage, albeit temporary, is done.
And leads me to the next important point. A recent Marie Claire article claims a growing percentage of practitioners in South Korea do not have the appropriate qualifications. There are stories of dentists and anaesthetists (or ‘ghost’ doctors) performing surgeries with frightening results.
The price of course doesn’t help, and is one of the reasons I succumbed. For just $120, one could argue I got what I paid for. Thankfully, come mid-October, this will be just another South Korean experience I can laugh about – and with my real face.
Aside from the fact that I hate the result, I won’t ever do it again, even if with a better practitioner. I simply don’t like the feeling of my face not moving. It feels strange and unnatural.
To the sisterhood, I say do what you want. There is absolutely no judgement from me. And when the majority of you remain wrinkle free in our senior years, I expect the same in return! 😉