Plastic Surgeons Dispel the Common Misconception Behind Asian Double Eyelid Surgery

Photo Credit: Wave Plastic Surgery

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), eyelid surgery was one of the top five cosmetic surgical procedures last year. The surgery continues to retain its popularity, not just as a solution for drooping eyelids, but also as a way for patients to tweak a facial feature and achieve the aesthetic look they desire. "Patients are captivated by instant improvements to the face. It's evident in the popularity of apps and filters that change how we can shape and shade our faces," says ASPS president Dr. Debra Johnson. One specific type of blepharoplasty, Asian double eyelid surgery, has long been the subject of controversy and debate about prevailing Westernized beauty standards and cultural rejection.

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Asian double eyelid surgery involves removing a fatty upper lid and creating a crease in Asian eyes that are absent of a fold. In the past, the procedure, which allows the eyes to appear wider, has been criticized as an attempt to westernize Asian eyes and shed cultural identity. Others do not view the brief surgery (which lasts about an hour) as a way to appear more Caucasian, but as a permanent solution to getting bigger, brighter eyes. We reached out to a top plastic surgeon who specialize in Asian double eyelid surgery to help dispel the myth behind this popular cosmetic enhancement.

According to Los Angeles plastic surgeon Peter Lee, MD, who regularly performs the operation on his patients in the growing Asian American community in Southern California, the procedure is far from a means of cultural rejection. “When we describe ‘Asian double eyelid surgery,’ we are referring to creating a supratarsal fold, or a crease” explains Dr. Lee. “An antiquated term that was once used is ‘occidental eyelid surgery,’ which gives a connotation that we are trying to Westernize Asians. However, it has never been about Westernization; it’s about accentuation and enhancement to bring out the aesthetics of the eyes.”  

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Although there are stories like The Talks’ Julie Chen, who revealed on the show that she felt pressure from her agent to undergo the procedure, San Jose, CA, facial plastic surgeon Chase Lay, MD, says his experience with his own patients' motivations show that that prevalent misconceptions surrounding this procedure are unfounded. “It’s very important to note that Asian patients aren’t trying to look Caucasians,” he says. “That’s a ridiculous and marginally racist notion. Asian patients simply want their eyes to look like a different version of their own. They are modifying their appearance to feel more confident and attractive.”

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Dr. Lee agrees and says the surgery should enhance the patient’s eye shape, not alter it completely to fit a certain beauty standard: “Even the term Asian double eyelid surgery I think is improper,” he says. “Rarely are we just creating a double eyelid. Depending on patient’s desires and needs, we sometimes excise skin and fat, enhance the vertical and horizontal length, refine the angle of the inner corner of the eye, etc. I think a more appropriate term is simply ‘Asian blepharoplasty.’”