There were over 14.7 million procedures performed by licensed plastic surgeons in 2011 globally according to International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons. What countries top the list? South Korea followed by Greece, Italy then the United States. So what are millennials around the world doing to themselves for “one part perfection and two parts preservation”?
To understand South Korea’s obsession with beauty, we have to look at a brief history of the country. From 1950 to 1953, there was a brutal civil war that left the country in economic depression, infrastructural devastation and a large population living in poverty. This led to an intense and strategic rebuilding of South Korea. It wasn’t until the 1990’s that South Korea began to see a surge in wealth and the development of a middle and middle-upper class that had more substantial discretionary income. And today, South Korea is a booming multi-trillion dollar economy with the largest population of people with internet access, high wages and incomes and is home to the world’s leading technological companies such as Samsung and LG. The economic up-rise of the 1990’s is key to why South Korean millennials are beauty obsessed.
South Korean parents and grandparents of millennial children spoil this new generation. This is a different era of life with money. And with money comes a new pop-culture of fashion, beauty, fame, style, and many, many must-haves. So it should not come as a surprise that one in five South Korean women has had some form of cosmetic surgery compared to around one in 20 in the U.S.? With this said, there is a cultural belief that beautiful people are more successful. Here’s a look at what’s trending for South Korean millennials. By the way, Miss South Korea 2012, who is 23 years old, was recently exposed as having had some work done and is quite open about her procedures, dubbing her Miss Plastic.
Blepharoplasty aka Double Eyelid Surgery
This is the most popular surgery requested and performed in South Korea. The procedure consists of cutting the eyelids and removing excess fat and skin to create a fold in the upper eyelid for a rounder, open, more western look. It has become so popular that it is common as a high-school graduation gift. There’s little taboo to getting this and is perceived more as a beauty treatment rather than surgery. Mother’s encourage their young teens to get this surgery or at least prep them for what is part of growing up Korean. To be beautiful and successful, like pop-stars and celebrities, it’s a must for young Korean women.
BB, CC, and DD Creams
Originally created in Germany, the blemish balm, BB, color correcting/color control, CC, and most recently the dynamic do-all, DD, cream is a must-have item in every Korean and now American millennials makeup bag. It’s more than a foundation, moisturizer or cover-up, they are multi-functional and multi-beneficial creams that can whiten, brighten and tighten skin, give SPF protection, clear pores, moisturize and add a healthy glow. This isn’t just for millennial girls; guys are in on the trend too!
Seoul is home to the beauty belt of Korea and in this beauty belt is now home to two official Barbie Salons. The first one opened in January of 2013. For Korean millennials, the ideal beauty is Barbie. She is the iconic western vision that many Korean girls dream of looking like. The salons are decked out in Barbie pink and the menu of services can transform you into the Malibu princess. There are also services for men and surprisingly, men frequent the place for quick Ken hairdo’s. They even offer a range of Barbie salon products. Originally, the target was women 18-25, however, since opening, they have seen a broader range of clients and a higher than expected number of men.
Yes, it’s true. The super secret is facial exercises. Women, as young as teens, start facial exercising on a regular basis in Korea. The goal is to create a “V” line shaped face. This is a where the face slims downwards from the brow-line, through the high cheekbones all the way down towards the end of the chin creating a “V” shaped face. There are a ton of online Korean facial exercise tutorials. It’s free and women can do it in the privacy of their own home. And it’s quite common for Korean women to own several face, cheek and chin lift-up bands, which support the facial exercises.
Originating from Japan, bird poop facials became a huge trend throughout Asia over the last several years. If you’re wondering what this facial consists of, it is Asian nightingale excrement mixed with rice bran, and yes, it must be nightingale since nightingales live on seeds producing the natural enzyme and active ingredient, urea. Urea can also be found in several beauty products. Why? The concoction exfoliates and clears the complexion while whitening the skin. It’s a trending beauty regimen, in New York sessions known as “Geisha Facials” start at about $180.
Japan never ceases to amaze us with new and creative beauty treatments. The most recent and bizarre facial trend includes live snails crawling on your face. The secreted snail mucus reportedly contains proteins, antioxidants and hyaluronic acid, which help skin retain moisture, reduce inflammation, remove dead skin, and heal damaged skin. The beauticians, “snail keepers”, at the Clinical Salon in Tokyo sourced 5 snails from an organic snail breeder. The snails are kept on a strict organic diet of organic vegetables, including carrots, Japanese "komatsuna" greens, spinach and Swiss chard. Who is the clientele? They are 30-something women eager to try anything for beautification. It’s no surprise that this was coming. In the past several years, snail face creams, serums and masks have surged in popularity particularly in Japan and South Korea. These “escargot” treatments may soon be hitting a major salon near you.
In 2011, 142,394 procedures were performed in Greece translating to on average, one in 79 Greeks having had procedures such as liposuction, eyelid corrections, tummy tucks, breast enhancements, and Botox injections. Even though 2011 was a tough economic year for Greece, it didn’t seem to affect the drive towards beauty perfection and preservation. It’s the Greek version of the “lipstick index” – when times are bad, do something to make yourself look and feel better.
Liposuction is the most popular procedure performed in Greece. It’s no longer “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. Millennial women are eager to look good for their prospective husbands and will go to extremes to near perfection as beauty is considered a valued currency in this market. Beauty opens up opportunities in the workplace as well as in finding a suitable husband. Another reason why this procedure, along with other plastic surgeries such as breast augmentation, rhinoplasty, etc. is gaining momentum? Costs have dropped nearly 40% for procedures due to the economic downturn.
Honey, olives, olive oil, sea salt and oregano may sound like the ingredients for a recipe. In fact they are Greek ingredients for beauty recipes. On the other end of the spectrum from expensive surgical procedures, due to the deep economic depression, young Greek women have had to go back to long tried and true beauty DIY rituals. They lather honey on irritated skin or just to soothe and soften the skin for a healthy glow. Olives, a staple to the Greek diet, has a high mineral and anti-oxidant content that is proven to fight ageing and help maintain moisture in the skin. And the olive oil is used to hydrate skin. Mixed with sea salt, it can create a natural scrub to clean pores, boost circulation and reduce cellulite. Oregano, eaten as an herb, used as oil or taken as a pill helps keep Greek women looking young.
Italians have always been known to show off their beauty. Both Italian men and women pride themselves on bella figura,presenting themselves with the best appearance at all times and at any cost. Beauty has been a part of Italian art and culture for centuries. However, today’s millennial Italians have their own ideals of beauty and how to attain that perfection.
There are chronicles of old-world Italian beauty secrets. From olive oil cure-alls, egg white facemasks, homemade salt scrubs, virgin olive oil for hair conditioning to eating parsley for fresh breath, these old-world secrets are handed down from generations and still used today. “Throwback” is a trend that is global and this is one country where beauty has a cool cache with “throwback” remedies and treatments.
Skincare, Sunless Tanners and SPF
Italy can conjure up images of sun soaked coasts of beautifully tan men and women sipping wine in cabanas with the calm sounds of the sea. Unlike Asian countries, being tan has been synonymous with beauty for Italians for generations. However, in recent years, there has been a rise in skin cancer. According to data from Unipro, the Italian skin care sector has grown to a €1.37 billion (about $1.8 billion US dollars). Largely this includes creams, oils, anti-ageing creams and products with SPF protection. Italy (and Europe as a whole) has better sun protection products than we do in the U.S. Why? Young Italians, largely the millennials, are more aware of the damage the sun can cause on the skin. Italians, especially, are the driving force behind the growth in sun-care in Europe. A skin cancer cream withrhenium-188, a previously rare and expensive radioactive isotope,was successfully trialed in Italy and could be available as soon as 2014 in Europe.
The United States
The U.S. is home to reality TV stars, pop stars and the idea that anyone can become famous overnight. This is especially true for millennials who grew up watching overnight fame happen for many on YouTube. Consequently, there is a drive towards physical perfection.
Plastic Surgery By The Ages
Other countries perform more plastic surgery per capita than the US, however, with the sheer numbers in our population, we are still the plastic surgery capital of the world. We also start procedures at as early an age as the Asians. According to Dr.Mark Malek as reported for American Society Of Plastic Surgeons, the average age for a first nose job is between 13 and 19 years old. Breast augmentation happens between 20 to 29 years old. In the 30’s begins liposuction and botox. Between 40 and 45, we see eyelid and brow lifting. And finally the full-face lift happens most often after 55. Here’s an interesting look at young plastic surgery trends from Dr.John Williams:
Anti-Aging Market Driven By Millennials
Boomers are the real target consumer market in this industry. They will be pumping billions of dollars into this market of the next several years; however, there is a younger market looking at this category as preventative practice. According to a report by Global Industry Analysts, consumers between the ages of 25 and 30 are increasingly more interested in anti-aging topical skin treatments. The trend is supported by the idea of prevention. Also, the advertising speaks to more than just Boomers. You don’t see a lot of “older” models or celebrities in the ads anymore. You get few older celebrities that still adorn the pages like Andie MacDowell (age 55) for L’Oreal and Jennifer Garner (age 41) for Neutrogena. But, in terms of anti-aging, 20s seem to be the new 40s.
Around the world, we can see that millennials are jumpstarting the preservation of their youth. Whether it’s going under the knife or buying into lotions and potions, the anti-aging industry can’t ignore this group. Millennials everywhere are looking for simple solutions for one part perfection and two parts preservation when it comes to aging beautifully.
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