Author: sometimesmary

Exploring the digital world as a UOW Digital Communications student.

Botched Butts and Illegal Eye Surgeries

The unfortunate reality of some of the more dramatic beauty trends is that not everyone can afford them. In developing countries where most people cannot afford some procedures, regulations may not always be as strongly enforced as they ought to be.


In the Philippines, while there is the FDA to regulate and approve ‘safe’ items, there is also a fair amount of products available that are extremely unsafe and causing controversy. A great example of this is skin whitening products, there are a lot of skin whitening products that have high levels of mercury in them. According to Dr. Bessie Antonio, president of the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology (PSCOT), “Skin contact with mercury-added cosmetics can cause serious dermal problems, including discoloration, inflammation, itchiness and tiny bumps … can eventually damage the brain and the kidneys.’’



While many products have been recalled or made illegal it still remains that those products will be available and appeal to both extremists and some poorer persons, thus there are serious cases of skin disfigurement.


Many countries have had issues with with counterfeit botox and illegal surgeries, for example in Thailand there is an abundance of illegal practitioners that have little to no training and are cheap and therefore targeted towards the lower classes. In 2012 Thai actress Athitiya Eiamyai, 33, died due to a botched filler injection in the buttocks by an unlicensed practitioner.


Hang Mioku


While a lot of the more extreme beauty trends may be treated as normal and trivial procedures in some cultures it is pretty shocking to see what desperate persons will do to be beautiful. A South Korean lady named Hang Mioku became obsessed with silicone injections. After using regular silicone she started using black market silicone injections, and then eventually switched to cooking oil which ultimately left her face dramatically enlarged and permanently disfigured.


The ugly side of cultures with high levels of cosmetic alteration is unfortunately disfigurement and sometimes death.



Eyelid tape time!

I decided to try a different autoethnographic approach this time. While I am not going to get double lid surgery, I am going to try eye lid tape which gives the illusion of a double eye lid without the procedure. Eye lid tape is an extremely popular product in Asian countries where double lids are uncommon and they are sold in the same section as other cosmetic products such as false lashes.


I obtained the tape from Sydney CBD’s China Town for only a few bucks so it’s super inexpensive. Eye lid tape is double sided, very thin and slightly curved. In order to apply them you must peel the white stripes off of the piece of tape, there are two which are evenly split in the middle. I will be applying them using tweezers as they appear to be pretty small. I am super curious what it feels like to wear them and put them on, and although I already have a double lid it will be interesting to experiment with them to see how I might be able to change my eye shape. Here it goes…


It is harder to put on than I expected, I guess I am not as confident on where my crease lies or maybe it’s because I don’t really need it. The tape, although slightly curved, seemed to be more straight which I suppose is because of eye shape of their targeted consumers, although I didn’t really realize there would be such a dramatic difference. I had to really bend the tape a bit which may have rendered it’s effectiveness a little. The tape has a pretty strong adhesive, I’m not really sure what I expected but they stay on pretty well and it was a little annoying when it made contact with my skin when I didn’t want it to. Once you found the crease properly it just merged in with your eye shape and became a bit more difficult to remove


It made a weird skin line/fold on my eyelid that you could see when I closed my eyes. Now thinking back on one of the Get It Beauty episodes, I remember seeing one of the hosts close her eyes revealing a weird line on it. Originally I thought it might be a scar from eye lid surgery, but now after playing around with the tape I suspect it was that.


It felt like what I expect it would, it is kind of like wearing false lashes in the sense that you can feel a slight weight there, but you get used to it and it’s pretty comfy otherwise. It blended in enough with my skin and was small enough that it was kinda difficult to take off however, once I found an end it was one quick and easy peel. I think like most makeup related products it just takes practice to be good at using it



Even though I do have a double lid already, it really did open up my eyes which I suspect might be part of the appeal of double lids. Double lids make you look like you have wider, brighter eyes and that makes sense to me because that’s what mascara, white eye liners and highlighters are for (clueless people I apologize for the terminology here). It is not just a fascination that some Asian countries have, big eyes is a beauty ideal in many countries around the world including Australia and it took me all this time to realize that we sorta do the same thing, just maybe not as extreme. Which makes me question the whole idea of Westerners constantly accusing some Asian beauty ideals of being racist and aiming for caucasian appearances. If it is a race related ideal for Asians to want bigger wider eyes, what is it for Caucasians?

Compare this…

…to this

While I might not have been that good at placing the tape, I managed to play with it enough that I started changing my eye shape and finding out how this product might benefit me. In short it’s kind of a way to reshape your eyes but with something more natural looking than something like eyeliner which is usually used for that in beauty industries around the world anyway. I find it funny that this far in I can still subconsciously refuse to associate beauty products simply because they are foreign to me.


While eyelid tape is something you have to get used to it’s not uncomfortable, it is cheap, relatively easy to use and much less extreme than surgery. While it isn’t a product that I feel is relevant to me, I can see the appeal of it.

Plastic Surgery in South Korea

I know… yet another post about cosmetic surgery, but the thing is cosmetic surgery in Asia (especially South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines) is pretty damn popular. However, this time I’m going to take a slightly different autoethnographic approach and tell you guys about a brief chat that I had with one of my South Korean friends about her first hand cultural experiences with cosmetic surgery.

South Korea, is currently the leading country in number of cosmetic surgeries performed annually. The double eyelid surgery, also known as blepharoplasty, is the most popular procedure. This is where an extra fold of skin above the eye is created, and it is visible when the eyes are open. Only around 50 percent of the East Asian population is born with a natural “double lid.” Turns out that rhinoplasty is also one of the top cosmetic surgeries performed in general and in the continent of Asia with 1 in 5 South Korean women having plastic surgery done.

According to my South Korean friend it has become somewhat traditional for teenage girls to expect some form of cosmetic surgery as their high school graduation gift, it was an equivalent to getting a car as a graduation gift which is what I am used to. Thus, many girls and students will come to their first days of university with a much different face to what the graduated high school with. My friends experience tells me that cosmetic surgery is common among teenage girls and it made me interested what the age group for such procedures seemed to be popular amongst. According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) 20 per cent of women between the ages of 19 and 49 in Seoul have admitted to have had surgery.


Apparently, many patients come in with photos of celebrities and ask for surgeries to make their features more alike. Idealizing popstars so much, wanting to look like them explains why pop stars were so heavily featured throughout Get it Beauty and Belo Beauty 101 as mentioned in previous post and reinforces the idea of a heavily embedded celebrity culture when it comes to self image in countries like the Philippines and South Korea.



Medical Tourism in the Philippines

So this time I watched another television show, but this time it was from the Philippines and it has a cosmetic surgery focus. The show is called Belo Beauty 101 and it was created by and for the Belo Medical Group – a large cosmetic surgery and beauty product company in the Phillipines that was founded by Vicky Belo. The show explains the basics of cosmetic surgery procedures and always has various guests that are both everyday people and celebrities, in each episode these guests have various procedures done. While the show is hosted by Vicky’s daughter, Cristalle, the celebrity guests talk with Vicky about their experiences and what they recommend. Belo Beauty 101 has been running since 2007 and is in both Tagalog (the national language of the Philippines) and English. If you want to watch the show and you only speak one of those languages (I assume English) be prepared to be occasionally confused by the constant switching back and forth between them.



I watched a few random episodes from season 7 which is the most recent season. When I originally saw the description for the show I expected it to be a bit more graphic as it had mentioned that it showed the actual procedures being done. While it does show some graphic footage it is sped up and the editing cuts from one scene to another very quickly in the procedure scenes. Additionally, the show seems to have more of an emphasis on the stories of persons undergoing procedures and the results achieved rather than the actual procedures.


I was also surprised to learn about a lot of smaller basic procedures that exist. In one episode a male celebrity wanted to get rid of his love handles so he consulted Belo, they decided a good procedure would be to freeze his cellulite in that area to kill the fat cells. I didn’t know that was a thing until now… Honestly I couldn’t stop yelling ‘JUST EXERCISE!’ at my laptop screen but I had to remember that this was a cosmetic surgery show, they aim for slender but they like to get there the easy way as depicted by Belo Medical’s Instagram.



Celebrities are really open about their plastic surgeries and Belo Medical has various celebrity ambassadors and sponsors. This ties back to the episode of Get it Beauty that I watched where celebrities were heavily featured throughout the episodes, there isn’t as much of a stigma around plastic surgery so some celebrities don’t seem to feel the need to hide it that much.


When you look into their services and products it becomes much more apparent that they provide more than just traditional cosmetic surgery, I mean they have various skin care product lines and weight management programs that don’t necessarily have anything to do with liposuction. So would I call them a hybrid or just acknowledge the fact that in more advanced cosmetic surgery countries there are just way more options?


For the Philippines there seems to be insufficient statistics regarding how commonplace cosmetic surgery is and what the most popular procedures are, however I was able to find statics regarding the Philippines’s major medical tourism industry. This means that their surgeries are so cheap that it attracts hundreds of thousands of foreigners who otherwise could not afford it. Additionally the Philippines is already a bit of a tourist destination, thus many patients have recovery vacations thereafter their procedures. Now the sponsor from the first few episodes of Belo Beauty 101 season 7 makes sense, the sponsor company was a resort at Boracay island. In 2006 the Philippines earned an estimated $200 million from medical tourism which put it up in the same league as established medical tourism areas like Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.


Whilst I did know this was a thing in Singapore, I didn’t know it was a thing in my mother’s homeland… oh wait! Yes I did, my family and I used to go to the Philippines to get dentistry work done because we couldn’t afford to do everyone at once in Australia. Good job Mary! Really putting two and two together there…



Get It Beauty

Get It Beauty is a Korean television show that teaches Korean women about current trends,  how to achieve various looks and how to use beauty products. I decided to watch this show because there is an abundance of Get It Beauty episodes on YouTube that have English subs. While the subs are not the best and there are moments when they subs don’t change for a while even though the hosts are talking, thus although they do reduce language barriers in my research there are still problems with it.

Before even watching an episode I was sort of surprised to find out that South Korea has entire shows dedicated to make up, beauty trends and the beauty industry. This reinforces the idea that South Korea has a much more involved beauty culture.


Each episode is a different theme or topic, the particular episode that I watched is about the colours orange and pink. I know… not exactly what I’d personally find that stimulating, but it is still impressive to see them flesh out an entire episode about two colours and only talk about it in regards to lipstick.


The contestants on the show all seemed very interested in the information about the colours pink and orange that the MC’s had to offer, in every episode they seem to be really into whatever is happening. This is a bit weird to me because although some episodes were great and had useful tips, some I found really boring… kind of like the pink and orange episode. Maybe I’m just not used to it or this genre of entertainment is not quite for me but I don’t think I could be as invested as the contestants featured on the show. It did however remind me of reading magazines like Cleo and Cosmo that give you endless beauty tips, but in a more direct and personable way, thus I do see the appeal.

The contestants and MC’s spent a few minutes discussing whether or not they thought pink or orange looked better on various persons and which colour they personally preferred. What was interesting about this was how thoroughly kpop girl bands and their members were featured throughout the episode and in general. I mean I am used to the idea of celebrity culture but literally every look and comment was compared to a celebrity, all of the contestants sort of seemed to be celebrities too and occasionally there were also celebrity guests.

Boss Coffee

I should probably remember that ‘globally famous’ includes sometimes being famous in other countries that don’t revolve around my life. Why is it so weird that Tommy Lee Jones is a spokesperson for Boss coffee? It’s not, and I need to remind myself of that.



In this series of commercials for Boss coffee Tommy Lee Jones plays an alien who has come to earth and is learning about it and the people that inhabit it. In every commercial he has a new profession where he comments on human behaviour as strange but then always ends with something along the lines of ‘but they have alright canned coffee’. If you haven’t seen them, please do, because they’re both funny and classic Tommy Lee Jones. This is not the first promotional campaign Jones has signed up for, he is in fact quite popular in Japan and has recently signed on to join SoftBank’s long-running series of White Family commercials. In all of Jones’s commercials he plays his classic deadpan serious  and yet likeable persona.



Apparently Jones visits Japan regularly and genuinely enjoys the culture and country so much so that Japan is the only country he still visits while promoting his films. After the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, Jones was the only foreigner to sing in a commercial intended to raise the countries spirits with other Japanese celebrities. Not only has Jones become such a familiar face and active member within Japanese media but he seems to have developed such a strong personal relationship with the people and culture of Japan.

I guess in a way my original reaction of ‘what?! why Tommy Lee Jones?’ just ties back to the stereotype of Japan being weird. I mean looking at why Tommy Lee Jones is so prevalent there, watching the commercials and enjoying them myself, I can understand why this relationship exists… or at least I think I do.

Fair isn’t fair

So this post will be a little bit different to my others ones simple because of I will be discussing something I am already somewhat familiar with thanks to growing up with a Filipino mother. My first introduction to skin whitening lotions occurred when I was 9 years old and standing in a lotion aisle at a supermarket in Manila. I was dumbfounded… It was one entire aisle dedicated to lotion, most of which had skin whitening properties. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around how this was such a popular and commonplace product. After wandering around shopping malls and getting stared at ad complemented by almost everyone because I had fair skin for a Filipino, and then watching television and realizing that half of the celebrities were also half Filipino and half white like me, it became apparent that being white and pale had been fetishized within the Philippines.



While exploring these Nivea commercials on YouTube it seems clear that this is not just some fad in the Philippines but a cultural aspect across numerous Asian countries including India, South Korea and Pakistan. And it’s not just lotion either, the continent of Asia apparently spends a collective $18 billion a year on skin whitening products including lotions, pills, lasers, creams and surgeries for both men and women. Apparently nearly 40 percent of women in Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines used skin whitening and lightening products. It’s safe to say that these commercials are extremely commonplace in Asian media.


My first impression of these skin whitening lotion commercials is that Filipinos and Indians are clearly more comfortable with trying to alter their appearances and secondly I think that it is a little bit racist and unsafe. Additionally I get the impression that there are a lot of fair famous people like the celebrities featured in the commercials. However, looking further into the cultural contexts of these commercials it appears that it is more about class than anything else. If you are fair then people assume you are rich and stay inside all day, but if you are darker (regardless of genetics) it is assumed that you are poor and work in fields all day.

It is argued to have historical origins during the Han period where it was ideal for high class women to be almost stark white. Some historians also attribute this trend to Western influence especially after World War II as some may have seen Americans as the ‘winners’ and you know… everyone wants to be a winner. Some countries like China take it a whole step further, women go swimming in full clothing, and walk everywhere with umbrellas or giants hats to protect them from the sun.


I find it extremely intriguing how some of these Nivea commercials accurately represent these standards and how in depth they are in various Asian cultures such as that of the Philippines or India. Below is a independent documentary about skin whitening in India and how the ideals are strong enough for grounds of discrimination.

Japanese Commercials

I’m in love with Japanese commercials, partly because it’s strange to me and partly because they have a unique appreciation for Tommy Lee Jones. I had seen a few here and there but hadn’t thoroughly explored them until more recently.



Apparently when watching Japanese television there isn’t as clear of a distinction between the show being aired and the commercial break. From what I’ve seen and been told by my friend Kyle, who studies Japanese and has done study abroad in Japan a few times and whom also introduces me to awesome Japanese tv shows, Japanese media seems to be much more fast paced. My first impressions of the commercials in this video are not only are these insane but quite a few of the commercials, whilst eye catching, are unrelated to the product they’re selling. While I do let out a classic sigh of ‘oh Japan…’ when watching these intense segments I’ve come to think ‘well… what about American television and the insanity of Honey Boo Boo?’ To be honest I’ve just succumbed to the stereotype of Japanese people being weird and haven’t just viewed it solely as ‘entertainment’, and that’s something that I will have to work on.


When thinking about what media I will explore and what specific countries media I will research I have to admit that I am scared of confusing cultures. Yes, I know a bit about Japan, South Korea and China but linguistically, culturally and even ethnically I don’t know enough to actually tell various countries and cultures apart (yes I know I’m a little racist and I’m a terrible Asian). Additionally when I think about countries that aren’t South Korea, Japan, China and the Philippines (because I’m Filipino, not because it’s popular in Western media) I realize that I really don’t know anything about their digital cultures. Personally I’ve never looked at commercials and media for other countries such as Mongolia, but now I am pretty curious to find out what their overall style is.