Asian double eyelid surgery (1896), also called Asian blepharoplasty, eyelid surgery or just “the surgery”, adds a fold or crease to the upper eyelid. Most whites and blacks are born with this fold but only about half of East Asians are. By adding the fold it makes the eyes look bigger, rounder and more like the eyes of a white person.
It started in Japan in 1896, hit Korea in the 1950s and is now common in China too. You can also get it done in America.
It is one of the most common kinds of plastic surgery among East Asian and Asian American women. Most actresses and singers in East Asia have it done. Even Jackie Chan had it done (pictured above).
Here is a before and after picture of Ayumi Hamasaki, one of the best-selling singers in Japan:
Both Chan and Hamasaki look whiter though they are still unmistakably East Asian. Notice that Hamasaki has made herself look whiter in other ways too.
There are different ways to do the surgery, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The most common is the incision method: the doctor makes a cut in the eyelid, removes some of the skin, fat and muscle and then sews it back together with very fine threads to create the fold. It takes about a half hour for each eye. Four or five days later he takes out the threads. Your eyelids look terrible at first but in a few weeks they have mostly recovered.
In South Korea it costs about $1200; in America it is more like $3000.
You can also do it yourself with tape or glue. They sell kits for that. But the effect does not last.
Just like with other sorts of plastic surgery, women do it to make themselves better looking.
But “better looking” according to who? Is it a case of internalized racism, of hating how your own race looks and trying look more like whites?
Large eyes as a sign of female beauty is hardly a Western or white thing. It might even be a human universal. In any case, the surgery is way more common in East Asia – not in America where white ideas of beauty and internalized racism are way stronger.
On the other hand, the spread of eyelid surgery seems to go hand in hand with Westernization. East Asians, after all, are subjected to white ideas of beauty through the world fashion industry – which is based in Europe and therefore pushes a white beauty. And in fact East Asian ideas of female beauty do seem to have been noticeably whitened.
But then why is it less common among Asian Americans? Probably for the same reason why blacks at mixed-race high schools are more opposed to “acting white” than they are at black high schools: because the presence of whites makes internalized racism seem like more of a serious threat.
Thanks to commenter leigh204 for her help with this post.