Do I Fit Your Standards?: Asian American Beauty Standards

Alyssa King  5/3/2017


In the world we live in, white is considered better. All around the world white is considered beautiful in these standards: better hair, fair skin, better facial features, etc. Society is also taught these standards so that generations down the line consciously/subconsciously believe this is concept and is becoming normalized. Many minorities around the world are bullied because they don’t fit european standards and are forced to submit to these standards and change their physical appearance such as bleaching skin, cosmetic surgery, augmentation etc. The one race that changes their appearance and is influenced the most over the course of history is Asian American women.

You would think that the definition of beauty standards change over time like clothes and make trends do but that’s not true. The truth is the definition of universal beauty is similar to european or caucasian beauty. Now let’s discuss what these europeans standards are. Number one on the list would be white people’s skin. Their skin is considered beautiful, fair, and overall attractive and appealing. The lighter, the better. Second, thin european/caucasian noses are aesthetically pleasing to society. The thinner the better, as what they say. Third, their european/caucasian eyes. Wide, bright, beautiful eyes is considered appealing and gorgeous, especially blue eyes. Fourth would be straight hair because curly hair is seen as unruly and unprofessional. Fifth, a round, slim, face. These universal beauty standards are encouraged almost all around the world.

Society forces us to believe this concept through media. Subconsciously we really don’t think about what we watch or read unless it’s really bizarre, but minorities are being told that being white is the only way to success. Everywhere you look from magazines, TV ads, to shows, and movies, white people dominate the industry.  All these genres of media, predominantly have white people who usually all look similar. You rarely see people of color, especially asians, in media unless they are extremely close to these standards. In Affinity Magazine, I read that you are, statistically, 80% more likely to see a white women on the runway and 8% likely to see a Asian. People of color don’t have anyone to look up to. Worldwide people are criticized for not having these standards and asians are criticized the most and bullied for their natural features.


Since these standards are pushed and encouraged to be deemed at beautiful, many Asian American women are getting cosmetic surgery. The most popular surgeries that Asian American women get is blepharoplasty surgery and rhinoplasty surgery; double eyelid being number one on the list. Blepharoplasty is the reconstruction of the eyelids.  Naturally Asian people tend to have more fat in their upper eyelid and under the eye which makes it look like they have no crease. Many Asian women are bullied for this natural appearance and are told that they are worse drivers because they can’t see or pull their eyes back to make fun of them. Asian women get upper eyelid surgery to widen their eyes to more of a european woman’s eyes. Most Asian women want the double crease that they have so that they are not bullied. Usually after they get the procedure, they still receive hurtful comments like “You’re pretty for an asian”.


The second most popular is Rhinoplasty aka “the nose job”. Rhinoplasty enhances facial harmony and the proportions of your nose. The characteristics of the asian nose is that it has a thick soft tissue covering the tip of the nose, low cartilage, and wider nostrils. Asian American women get this surgery to get a thinner nose. They want the bridge of their nose heightened, the tip of the nose pushed up, and the nose lengthened.  In the picture above, you can tell the difference between the before and after picture. In the before picture, the nose is a little wider and the bridge isn’t that noticeable, in the after picture, the nose is thinner and the bridge is way heightened and defined. Rhinoplasty is common because it’s very cheap in the cosmetic industry and because of the development of media and standards, Asian american women are getting this surgery more often which is causing bacterial infection, displaced implant and skin thinning. Surgeons have reported treating the same patients more than 3-5 times and at that point the patients usually have no remaining cartilage to work on. Patients are getting surgeries so often that they noses become burnt out.


Not only is this happening in America but the main place these surgeries happen is in Seoul, South Korea; the plastic surgery capital of the world. This country has the highest rate of surgery per capita in the world. Between ⅕ to ⅓ of  women in Korea have undergone cosmetic surgery. There are 400-500 clinics every square mile. Almost everywhere someone turns, plastic surgery is thrown in their face and encouraging to reconstruct your body to feel beautiful. Although one of the reasons plastic surgery are encouraged is because of european standards, the other reasons would be the aftermath of the Korean War. As stated in The New Yorker, after the Korean War, the G.D.P per capita was less than the country Somalia, so this country had to reinvent itself. The idea came about when America offered free reconstructive surgery to Korean war victims and, from there, the chief plastic surgeon of the USA came up with blepharoplasty, requested from victims who wanted to change their eyes. This new look was caught on first by Korean prostitutes to attract Americans and then spread throughout the country and to the USA. So Korea decided that in order to make money, selling plastic surgery was the way. Many doctors have reported Korean women saying they want the “American” look when they come in. All throughout South Korea, the “American” look is advertised for their beauty and success. Along with that, there are advertisements of plastic surgery clinics all around. South Korea, today, has the fourteenth-highest G.D.P. in the world.


So, the Korean war and the influence of American plastic surgery was starting cause to the influence of Asian American women today. Now I will go into detail of how much of european standards are an influence to POC and culture. In the article, Borrowed Beauty, many believe the growing social pressure for Asian women to align with “Western” physical characteristics is another cause. Asian american women are submitting to westernization; Westernization refers to adoption of Western culture, lifestyle, or ideology, among other things, by a non-Western society or social group. As I said before media also pushes this standard in movies, fashion shows, and magazines. If you type in google, beautiful people, the majority of the images are white women or POC that fit the european standard. Asian american women have manipulated their bodies for social prestige, sometimes even religious reasons, or just to feel beautiful and accepted. There was a survey asking Asian-American women why they get cosmetic surgery, and most said they get it to look less like a stereotypical Asian. They believed the surgery helps with getting dates,  a better job, or having a better social life. To sum it up, they never got the surgery for aesthetic purposes but to improve their social status as minorities.

Now not all the reasons behind getting cosmetic surgery are negative. Some Asian-American women get these surgeries for aesthetic purposes. Some women just like to enhance their features just so they can feel more confident; almost like having make-up but permanent. It’s normal for women to not like a certain part of their body. There’s beauty in naturalism and there is beauty in modifications but when it comes to a point that you are ashamed of your physical features because society told you that, is not good. There’s a difference between doing it for yourself and doing it for other people’s sake.

This blog isn’t to say white people are not beautiful, I’m saying white people aren’t the only ones that’s beautiful. To prevent this push on standards on minorities, we should teach children that you are beautiful the way you are. Every feature you are born with is yours and don’t let people push you down for your natural beauty. Teach children to love themselves and teach society to stop bullying people because people don’t fit a certain standard. We’re all beautiful just the way we are.





Works Cited

Aquino, Yves, Saint, and Norbert, Saint Steinkamp. “Borrowed Beauty? Understanding Identity in Asian Facial Cosmetic Surgery.” Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 19.3 (2016): 431-441.

Lah, Kyung. “Plastic Surgery Boom as Asians Seek ‘western’ Look.” CNN. Cable News Network, 23 May 2011. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.

Kaw, Eugenia. “Medicalization of Racial Features – Asian American Women and Cosmetic Surgery.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 7.1 (1993): 74-89.



One thought on “Do I Fit Your Standards?: Asian American Beauty Standards

Add yours

  1. I loved this! Such a good read. I find it interesting that even in Korea the public is affected by European beauty standards. I love the message that we are all taught beauty. If it wasn’t for modern media being so available to young adolescents, and being so concentrated with European beauty standards, children would learn to love themselves more often. Really good read!

    – Alana Mirikitani


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