APAs Under the Knife (Excerpt)
The elevator’s lights blink. With a loud tone, it stops at the sixth floor. The door opens to a wide, dimly lit hallway. Light from an office at the end of the hall beckons, somewhat ominously. Proceeding closer, the mellow classical music grows louder.
Stepping into the office, the receptionist smiles warmly and tells me to take a seat on the industrial-design style leather couch. The office is decorated sharply, with Matisse prints on the wall and hordes of fashion and beauty magazines on glass-top tables. Vicki* — dressed in spandex, chunky shoes, an oversized jacket and sporting a mop of curls, framed by an Oliver Twist cap — walks around the office and decides to take a seat next to me.
“What are you getting done?” she asks curiously.
I laugh a little nervously, and tell her that I’m not here for an operation but waiting to talk to the doctor.
I glance at her heavily made-up, flawless face and curiously ask, “Your face is very nice. What kind of work are you getting done?”
She loses her composure, appears flattered and responds, “Oh, I’ve had some work done,” she says demurely. “I actually had my nose done.”
Our conversation is interrupted when another receptionist — a petite, attractive lady — walks through the door and smiles. Faint stretch marks reveal another visage beneath the pretty smile.
“She’s gorgeous,” she remarks about Vicki. “She’s gorgeous …”
A Perfect Face
With the advent of Leonardo da Vinci’s scientific analysis of beauty in 1492 — which models architecture after the “Vitruvian Man,” whose body is perfectly symmetrical — pages upon pages in medical books have created the foundation of an ideal beauty based on symmetry and balance. Facial beauty has been defined as the achievement of a perfect proportion of vertical thirds, from the crown of the head to the chin, while the width of the face is divided in fifths. Since then, the fascination with achieving beauty has not waned.
With body alteration now a well-accepted procedure in the 21st century, many Asian Pacific Americans are embracing cosmetic surgery as a solution to their bodily flaws. Both surgeons and patients are discovering new techniques for treating APA clients. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASPS), APAs accounted for 4 percent of all cosmetic procedures performed on minorities.
Vicki’s nose job was among the 8.5 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures performed in 2001. From 2000 to 2001, there was a 48 percent increase in the number of cosmetic procedures. The top five surgical procedures were liposuction, eyelid surgery, breast augmentation, nose reshaping and facelift. The top nonsurgical procedures were botulinum toxin injection (otherwise known as botox), chemical peel, collagen injection, microderm abrasion and laser hair removal.
With this growing interest in surgeries and the rising APA population, ASPS predicts that it is just a matter of time before the number of cosmetically altered APAs starts to go up as well.
Under the Knife
Most blepharoplasty surgery takes approximately an hour and a half and post-operative surgery requires patients to return after a week and a half for stitch removal. Patients are advised to use ointment and cold compresses to reduce swelling and dryness. If patients are experiencing pain, the doctor prescribes painkillers like Darvocet or Vicodin. Doctors prescribe follow-up visits to insure that infections do not occur.
Dr. David L. Kahn has practiced cosmetic surgery since 1978 and has had a significant number of APA patients for the past 15 years. He agrees that plastic surgery has changed with technology and culture. Kahn has discovered that Asian faces have different needs and he employs techniques that are specialized for APA patients.
Rhinoplasty, an operation that reshapes the nose, is a popular operation for many APAs, he said. The surgery costs between $2,500 and $7,000. In the surgery, incisions are made and the skin of the nose is lifted from its underlying bone and cartilage support system. Underlying bone and cartilage are removed or rearranged to provide a newly shaped structure. Kahn uses grafts in the nasal tip and uses an L-shaped implant to create a higher bridge and to narrow a nose that is too flat. Then, he applies “struts” in the nose and a mesh material for the bridge.
“Each nose is treated individually.” Kahn said. “If I do Asian eyelids, I put a stitch in that tightens the lower lid and brings it up, it creates less of a round look. People’s eyes look better with an almond shape.”
*Names have been changed.