Is 'Perma-Smile' Plastic Surgery Really a Fad?

Young woman with a Smile Lipt. Photo by: anthissomesh*t/Reddit
Call her the Courtney Stodden of South Korea.

A photo of a young woman with her lips devilishly curled up surfaced on Reddit a few days ago. User anthissomesh*t claims that the unidentified girl underwent a "new plastic surgery in Asia that curls the corners of your lips."

The authenticity of the photo cannot be verified, but the procedure to permanently plaster a smile on one’s face seems to actually exist in South Korea, the world’s epicenter for radical elective surgeries. According to AONE Plastic Surgery Clinic in South Korea, the Smile Lipt (Lipt = Lip + Lift) "lifts up mouth corners by adjusting muscle balance around the mouth corners."

In 2012, Dr. Kwon Taek Keun, founder of AONE, spoke about the "mouth corner lift" surgery at an international convention for plastic surgeons, saying that congenitally sagged mouth corners are quite common.

Plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Ritu Chopra, who practices in both New York City and Beverly Hills, told Yahoo! Shine that in the West, procedures done to alleviate sagging areas around the mouth would involve injecting fillers in the corners of the mouth to push the muscles out, adding that in the United States, doctors strive to give their patients a natural look that doesn’t look modified.

"There’s a major difference between surgery in Asia and the U.S," Chopra said. Stateside, there's still a stigma ascribed to those who go under the knife (why else would so many of those Real Housewives continue to deny they've had anything done?), but in Asia, a woman's latest enhancement is often proudly showed off like a badge of honor. In fact, one in every five women in Seoul has undergone some type of cosmetic procedure, according to a 2009 survey by Trend Monitor.

Aone Plastic Surgery Clinic in South Korea before and after "smile lipt" surgery. Photo: Aone Facebook

While there’s no doubt that the "corner of the mouth surgery" exists, whether or not the outcome was what this particular patient was hoping for is certainly debatable. "If I saw someone looking like that I would assume it was a botched surgery. It looks totally freakish, like a joker," Chopra said. 

Not only does the girl look a little, well, scary, she also appears to be too young to have experienced the effects of drooping and saggy muscles that would even warrant the need for the procedure in the first place. AONE's Keun claims that the surgery is "even for young people," but Chopra disagrees, saying that it's "completely inappropriate for an underage girl to get elective surgery."

Chopra’s opinions don’t seem to be shared amongst his South Korean counterparts. Reddit user hahaz13, a Korean American with peers in both countries, told Shine via email, "Koreans, in my opinion, are a very fickle and superficial, yet proud people. Combined with the relatively cheap options for plastic surgery, it's not surprising to see it continuing to trend." Hahaz13 continued, "A majority of my Korean female friends have at LEAST gotten double eyelid surgery, and by majority I mean I can probably count on one hand the number of people who haven't gotten it. Some even more (rhinoplasties, boob jobs, jaw/cheekbone reduction, the works). It's like a rite of passage after graduating high school for most."