Your plastic surgery questions answered

An interview with Dr. Chung WooJin, Korean cosmetic surgeon


PHOTO: Ingimage

Plastic surgery’s a funny thing. The more commonplace it becomes, the more people question it. Is it safe? Is it right? How much will it cost me? Beauty bloggers hawk it, and celebrities flaunt it, while the rest of us tug at our eyelids, imagining how we would feel with an extra crease or two.

While the internet is overflowing with information about plastic surgery, there’s no better means to satiate one’s curiosity than by consulting someone who sculpts faces day in, day out.  A couple of weeks ago, we spoke to Dr. Chung WooJin, a Director at ITEM Plastic Surgery clinic in Seoul, who told us that his definition of beauty is “facial proportion, satisfaction, and self-confidence.”

In his 14 years of practice, Dr. Chung, who specialises in facelifts and eyelid procedures, sees four to five patients a day. Some of his patients include Huirong, a blogger from My Fat Pocket, as well as some Korean artistes trying to forge a career (according to Dr. Chung, the celebrities who have already “made it” in the Korean entertainment industry haven’t had as much work done as we think).

Naturally, we bombarded Dr. Chung with questions. What is his idea of the “perfect face”? What is the hardest procedure to perform? And what’s the difference between what’s popular in Korea, than say, Japan or Taiwan?

Click through to see what this Korean plastic surgeon had to share about the latest trends in plastic surgery – as well as to see some “before and after” photos from his clinic.

What are most popular cosmetic procedures?
Breast implants and butt jobs might be popular in the West, but it’s a different story here in Asia. Everyone knows that eye and nose reshaping surgeries are popular among people in their twenties, while people aged forty and above usually opt for age-defying procedures like facelifts. And in general, most women in Asia want a slender face, so Dr. Chung has seen more people coming in for facial contouring surgeries. But as counter-intuitive as it sounds, they also request fat grafts to enhance the volume of their faces, especially in sunken areas like the cheekbones and temples. Which brings us to the second question…

What is the “perfect face”?
Plenty of people who go under the knife forget that the “perfect face” is all about proportion (Don’t believe us? Just look at those stars who went a little crazy with the Angelina Jolie lips). On the wrong face, big eyes can look buggy instead of bright, while slender chins could look weak instead of refined.

Faces have a golden ratio the same way architectural structures do. Doctors use this metric to analyse the proportions and positions of your eyes, nose, eyebrows, mouth, and chin.

The most up-and-coming trend in cosmetic surgery? Skull reshaping
One of the biggest fads in cosmetic surgery is skull reshaping, which uses Osteobond, a surgical bone cement, to give the back of your head a rounded shape. Dr. Chung explained that while this surgery was developed to save the lives of those with whose skulls hadn’t completely fused, it only recently became as aesthetic procedure for people discontent with their flat heads. With a more rounded shape, he explained, caps will fit better and hairstyles will look fuller.

What is the most difficult surgery to perform?
Surprisingly, eyelid surgery can be difficult even though it appears basic and commonplace. Dr. Chung explained that while operating on “virgin eyes” (that is, natural ones) can be quite simple, working on eyes that were subjected to a botched procedure is not as straightforward.

What are the most requested celebrity faces? 
People want Han Gae-In and Song Hye-Go’s faces, Lee Min Ho’s nose and Kim Tae Hee’s eyes. But Dr. Chung reminded us again that the “real famous actresses” prefer less invasive procedures over full-on surgery. A little Botox here, a little injection there. It’s the ones who desperately need a breakthrough that go under the knife. 

How does Asian plastic surgery compare to plastic surgery in the West? 
“Most Asian people want a Caucasian face,” Dr. Chung said. “And Caucasians want Asians’ faces.”

While there is an ongoing debate about whether or not people get plastic surgery to change their race, Dr. Chung commented that people usually opt for features that are considered unusual within their own racial group. For instance, while Asians ask for more pronounced eyelids, some Caucasian men request that their double eyelids be removed.

What are the most common misconceptions about plastic surgery?
“Plastic surgery is not magic,” Dr. Chung said. “It can improve but cannot completely change your face.” No matter how much bone shaving you do, or how many cheek implants you get, you cannot change the basic structure of your skull – as well as your face’s tendencies to fall into a particular position. People can fret all the want when their chin job doesn’t turn out like they expected, but in any case, there is only so much a doctor can do.

How much does it cost?
Getting your eyelids done can cost anywhere between S$1300 to S$6400 – and there are extra charges if you need to redo a botched surgery (as opposed to coming in with “virgin eyes.”). A nose job costs between S$3800 – US$9000.

How do you safeguard yourself against botched or unsatisfactory results?
First, you need to wait until you’re old enough to get plastic surgery. As anyone who’s reached adulthood knows, our faces don’t usually “set” until we’re in our twenties – and even then, it might take awhile for leftover fat to disappear or for us to grow into our noses. Dr. Chung says you need to be at least 19 years old before deciding on a chin job, and 21 before opting for rhinoplasty.

Beyond that, you need to pick a doctor with whom you can communicate. “The most important thing is that the doctors and the patients see the same goal for a surgery,” Dr. Chung said, adding that his definition of beauty is “face proportion, satisfaction, and self-confidence.”

Some patients want a simple nose job, and that’s it. Others have a specific face and body in mind. Even if the person’s ideal look takes 10 surgeries, most plastic surgeons will attempt it. But Dr. Chung warns against plastic surgery candidates who only have a vague idea of what they want to look like. If they come to him saying they “want to look beautiful,” but have no specific procedures in mind, then he runs the risk of giving them an unsatisfactory face since beauty is subjective. Unlike haircuts, there is no “surprise me!” in plastic surgery. It is only when doctor and patient can see eye-to-eye on the type of look that the person wants that the procedures can begin.


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