Ugly side of beauty fads

A relaxing facial and pampering pedicure are among the weekend pleasures that many allow themselves in the pursuit of beauty and a few quiet moments. Such indulgences are perfectly understandable. But some go further and seek unconventional salon treatments despite the risk of cellulitis, skin damage or fungal infections.

Others are influenced by passing beauty fads and trends. The current rage, for example, is for the Korean look, as exemplified by popular TV drama artistes and K-pop stars. Seized by the need to achieve some elusive beauty standard, some women and men pursue plastic surgery abroad, take dangerous drugs or go on unhealthy diets, all for the sake of looks. A number who had gone for plastic surgery abroad required corrective surgery back in Singapore. Some were left scarred for life. Plastic surgeons in Singapore say they are seeing more patients who suffered botched procedures done overseas. Language is a barrier and not all doctors there who perform plastic surgery are properly qualified. In one case, a woman who wanted well-defined double eyelids to replace her drooping eyebags found to her surprise that her Korean doctor had removed fat from her abdomen to use for her forehead, without her permission. Now, she looks unnatural.

Such casualties will continue to surface as beauty has become a big industry globally. In 2011, cosmetic (beauty and personal care) product sales came to US$426 billion (S$533 billion). In Singapore, a 2010 survey reported by the Inland Revenue Authority showed that more than 95 per cent of Singaporeans had paid for some form of beauty treatment.

While grooming oneself to a certain degree is something of a social obligation, one should not go overboard and put health on the line. Ultimately, it's better to focus on personal attributes that are more enduring and authentic than to be unduly influenced by passing social fads.