Reader Submission: How Common is Plastic Surgery?


“Your nose will look gorgeous with a little nose job. Care to try?  Every part on your face already looks pretty, except this…” 

A make-up artist at the make-up counter where I decided to have my makeup done for my senior prom told me. Surprisingly, I wasn’t pissed off at her statement (as should be expected for the average person) but stunned wouldn’t have been an understatement. 

“Oh, really?” Looking at her nose to confirm her authority of this uncalled for suggestion, I asked her cordially, “Will it hurt a lot?” “No, not really,” she replied, and shrugged. 

I am not a stranger to the idea of plastic surgery because it is quite common in Thai celebrity society, and the news represents it all the time. Moreover, I am fully aware that just like women in other cultures, especially Asians, Thais are really obsessed with the idea of “perfect beauty.”  But since when has this become a casual, common conversation topic for two total strangers? 

Thinking back to the conversation I had, I can’t help but wonder how at ease this woman spoke about this personal comment - plus a potentially harmful, invasive medical operation - which should otherwise offend her female interlocutor, as it sounds even to my forgiving ears so condescending, and on the natural appearance of another woman to boost. But she sounded totally normal, like a friend suggests another best chum to buy a lipstick. 

During the past 10 years, aesthetic plastic surgery has become more and more common for people. Among the most popular for Thai ladies are nose jobs (rhinoplasty), double eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty), botox (botulinumtoxin), face-lift, and v-line surgery (if we look only on the face). The higher demand of the surgery creates the greater variety of choices, packages, and costs for people of all walks and wallets. 

Sadly, this kind of ideology penetrating people’s mind does in some level affect the confidence of people. Some people will surely feel not satisfied with their own body images or even feel bad about themselves. When I was in high school, a friend of mine who visited her Korean friend’s family told me how shocked she was when her friend’s parents offered to take her to a famous surgery clinic to fix her beauty. Now, this offer can make many Thai girls squeal in delight and can even be used as bait and reward for achieving good grades or entrance into famous universities. 

City people, especially teenage women, are prone to do plastic surgery, one or another type. This starts from the upper-middle class and has trickled down to the middle class and now almost everyone can just save up their money to acquire some surgeries. The main influences of this phenomena in my opinion, is media representation. Thai media often reveals photos of Thai celebrities and actors showing several stages of surgery they have gone through, aptly dubbed “before and after.” Some actors and actresses dare to talk about their surgeries publicly, adopting adamant attitude that it is a personal right to become more beautiful and a courageous, to accept what they have done. As such, in the country where teenagers usually look up to the celebrities and want to be like them, reinforced by Korean trend craze, they are quick to adopt this instant beauty trend of plastic surgery. The more people do it, the more acceptable and normal it has become in Thai city society. 

That said, there are still people who go against it for several reasons, namely potential health risks, the value of authenticity, and self-image and esteem. These, however, can easily be set aside once girls listen to other women complimenting, “how beautiful she has become with that nose-job or double-eyelid surgery,” and eagerly urging one another to try.

This trend is not just happening in Thailand but also other Asian countries, and even more popular in South Korea and Japan, the origins of the world’s famous drama, pop brands, and make-up trends. A wide variety of beauty tour package choices to South Korea are widely available for Thais of all ages and genders to choose from to fit their budget. Recently, many South Korean beauty clinics have even opened in Siam Square, the most famous, high-end shopping streets and teenager meeting point to meet the ever-increasing demands for upgrading beauty in Bangkok, Thailand. Why not? From my own experience and anecdotes of others, once a knife is cut into a face, less fear one will have to change things, and at that point you have already enrolled in a loyalty program of professional, medical beauty modification services.

Kawisara | Bangkok, Thailand

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