Dermatologist Talks Asian Beauty Tips

Ep 13: Asian Beauty Trends and Faux Pas

What is the ideal face shape in Asia? What are the various Asian beauty trends that are marketed to achieve this ideal? In this episode, join Dr. Teo Wan Lin as she discusses beauty trends such as jade rollers and face-slimming facials. Listen on as Dr. Teo breaks down the most common beauty faux pas – overlooking the importance of lifestyle factors in improving the skin’s overall health and appearance. 

Asian Beauty Trends and Faux Pas

A slim, small v-shaped face is often known as the ideal of beauty in Asia. Is a V-shaped face the ideal face? Join me, Dr. Teo Wan Lin on this episode of Dermatologist Talks-Science of Beauty podcast, where I share my perspectives on skincare, beauty trends and the latest dermatology news. Today, I’m going to be talking about Asian beauty trends and faux pas with Chelsea, who’s got some questions for me as well. 

Chelsea: That’s right! I actually remember someone telling me that the ideal face size is one that’s smaller than the size of your own hand!

Korean Golki Therapy is a method of remodelling the face and body through unique bone massage techniques to realign the bone structure. What are your thoughts on that?

Dr. Teo: In terms of Asian beauty trends, I think what I find one of the strangest would be Golki therapy. This is where the therapist uses a lot of manual force to reshape one’s facial bones – to achieve an ideal v-shaped face for example. I obviously have never experienced that. But physiologically, it is incredibly brutal to have this sort of therapy. Because, someone is literally attempting to fracture one’s facial bones in order to achieve a smaller face shape.

I do not think it is possible for the therapist using any sort of method to actually reshape the bones in a single session. As our adult bones are not malleable (they are all calcified). What I have heard from people who have undergone that is that it is simply very painful.


However, what we are aware of is that massage-treated skin explants express anti-ageing dermal proteins via mechanotransduction. It also has anti-inflammatory effects on muscle nucleoporin3, and accelerated mitochondrial synthesis. Marked morphological skin changes have also  been observed on 3D-CT imaging post facial massage which directly relate to facial muscle relaxation and subcutaneous fat changes and this has been shown to improve mid/lower face fullness with high participant satisfaction rates. This is according to a 2018 study published in JAMA Dermatology. So yes, it is likely that participants do observe some changes in their facial structure after.

However, I personally feel that one could be exposed to certain traumatic risks when undergoing certain Asian beauty trends such as this treatment. While I do not think it is very common to sustain a facial fracture from such a procedure. On top of skin bruising, it is also possible to have fat necrosis. This is due to the extreme amount of force that is exerted on the face. If there is any sort of improvement from this treatment, it would not be coming from one’s facial bones. But from the trauma of the entire experience, which I can imagine can only be extremely painful. I do not think that it is advisable or safe. 

What about other Asian beauty trends like jade rollers?

Dr. Teo: Jade rollers have also been used for centuries in China as an anti-ageing beauty tool. Facial massage using a roller has been shown to increase blood flow by up to 25% for more than ten minutes after the massage. This means there is better absorption of cosmeceuticals after application on skin. It can also improve vascular dilatation response in the long-term. This is as the endothelial cells in the massaged area produces more nitric oxide, which is known to be a potent vasodilator. Regular facial massage can also improve lymphatic drainage and stimulate collagen production.

Chelsea: Nowadays, face-slimming facials are also one of the more popular Asian beauty trends!

How do facials make your face smaller?

Dr. Teo: Our definition of facial has to shift from the traditional spa beautician mold. This is where extractions and massages are performed to the medical equipment used in dermatologist offices. Something that does indeed help to slim the face and has evidence-based long-lasting results is a machine known as high-intensity focus ultrasound (HIFU). What that does essentially is that it targets the SMAS (superficial muscular aponeurotic system) layer.

It is best envisioned as the curtain rail where the layers of your skin (epidermis, dermis, subcutaneous fat) and the muscles are all hanging on this curtain rail. When you lift it up -as indicated by high-intensity focus ultrasound – where the technology targets, you will see a noticeable lifting and shaping towards a v-shaped face. This has nothing to do with your bone. But it does result in fat necrosis which causes some shaping of the face, making it look smaller. Facials, in the sense of the traditional facial massages, I think is of very limited value. 

What are the alternatives to face-slimming facials?

Dr. Teo: The trend should be moving towards devices that can be used at home. They should also be models of technologies that we use in the office. For example, radiofrequency is something that is safe for use at home. My team and I worked on an FDA-approved radiofrequency device last year known as the CollagenUp Wand. It helps to tighten the skin via action on the dermis. This can overall lead to increased collagen formation and gradual shaping of a v-shaped face with sustained use. 

Chelsea: Moving on to our next segment on Beauty Faux Pas.

What do you think are the top beauty mistakes amongst Asian women today?

Dr. Teo: I would say practicing  in Singapore, the proportion of Asian patients that I see, by virtue of Singapore’s demographics is certainly greater than that of other races. I don’t think these beauty mistakes are specific to Asian women. But in general, I feel that one of the greatest misconceptions about beauty is that it’s all about whatever you apply and external treatments you can do. All that is valid. In dermatology, we advocate the use of a cosmeceutical skincare regimen. On top of that, effective aesthetic treatments such as lasers, peels, high intensity focused ultrasound. These all work at different levels of the skin, and there is definitely an effect.

However, you have to understand that most aging occurs due to either environmental or biological factors. It’s really a combination of both. We can’t really control the biological aging aspect, as it is simply related to chronology. So the older you get, you’d expect that there will be some level of age-related cell senescence. This is the gradual falling asleep of your cells of every single organ, including your skin as you grow older. That is partly influenced by genetics as well. But lifestyle is a very significant factor in the aging concept.

The skin aging exposome

The skin aging exposome is directly related to your lifestyle factors. These are: lack of sleep, disruption of the circadian rhythm, which means that instead of following the daylight hours for activity, you’re a night owl. But nocturnal activity is not the way our body is designed to function. All that will lead to disruptions which the body then views as stress. Furthermore, a poor diet is another lifestyle factor that can affect aging. We know that there are foods that are not beneficial for skin, for example, dairy is one of these categories of foods. The foods which are beneficial are those which have high antioxidant content. In particular, we’re talking about the content of polyphenols which tend to be highest in colorful fruits and vegetables. To neglect all of these lifestyle factors and nutritional aspects is really quite foolish.

Chelsea: Now we know all of these factors such as sleep, exercise, diet, and genetics that really contribute to skin aging.

What about the examples we see in media of celebrities or influencers who make it seem so easy to have perfect skin. What are your thoughts on that? 

Dr. Teo: I do come across some profiles of influencers or well known celebrities who seem to be showcasing their supposed “superior” genetics. Where they are at a certain age and they don’t do anything at all, or something really basic. Similarly, there are those who claim to have a head to toe makeover on a regular basis. In which they are using all sorts of cryolipolysis machines and aesthetic dermatology intervention. They then claim that as the holy grail to anti-aging.

One thing though, is that no matter how diligent you are with these cosmetic procedures or even your skincare routine, if you continue to be sleep deprived, to sleep late, smoke and have a poor diet- you WILL age faster than your contemporary who does take care with these lifestyle factors. By the way, this is likely to be as important, if not more than your own genetic tendencies. So in a sense, all is fair. You may think that a good-looking individual has won the genetic lottery being born that way. But time and age in this case is a great equaliser. That’s when your day to day decisions can affect the way you look.

Apart from a good diet and a good sleep schedule, is there anything else we can do to help improve our overall skin health? 

Dr. Teo: I feel that the difference is with someone who is really living a healthy lifestyle, and that includes exercise. High intensity interval types of exercise (HIIT) has been shown to be more effective in combating the aging process as opposed to other types of exercises. Dietary intervention as well, will certainly improve the body function. I feel that the biggest mistake is not understanding that all these lifestyle factors play a very big role.

In terms of how well you respond to treatment as well, I find that my patients who are generally living a less hectic lifestyle, who incorporate a regular exercise regimen and have a nutraceutical based diet where they are incorporating lots of plant-based antioxidants in their diet, tend to have a much better response when we perform an intervention. 

Chelsea: That’s really insightful. I think that our listeners will be fascinated to know that there are so many factors that all impact the health of our skin. Thank you all for joining us. Dermatologist Talks: Science of Beauty is a podcast that keeps you updated on the various developing perspectives in the field of dermatology, skincare, and beauty related topics. You may follow Dr. Teo Wan Lin on her instagram at @drteowanlin, and remember to click on the subscribe to stay updated on the latest episodes. We’ll see you in the next episode. 

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Views and opinions expressed in the podcast and website are our own and do not represent that of our places of work. The content here should not be taken as medical advice. While we make every effort to ensure that the information we are sharing is accurate, we welcome any comments, suggestions, or correction of errors.

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