From breast-slapping and gold thread face-lifts, to vaginal whitening soaps and olive oil penis enlargements, image-obsessed Thais are going to ever-increasing extremes in the quest for beauty.
The self-proclaimed pioneer of breast-slapping says her technique allows clients to boost their bust by at least one bra size.
“This is the beauty by nature — 1 million percent guaranteed,” the eccentric 46-year-old, who has changed her name to Khunyingtobnom (“Madam Breast-Slapper”), told reporters.
Her work is also extremely lucrative: She charages US$600 for two 15 minute sessions covering one breast each and a premium face-slapping service — which she claims can induce slimness — costing about US$1,000.
Having slapped her customers for 28 years, Khunyingtobnom said that her own small breasts prompted her late grandmother to pass on the little-known art, which she applies to about 20 customers each day.
In a country where ideals of beauty carry particular weight, even in image-conscious Asia, it is not only women who are seeking to enhance what nature has provided.
Alarmingly high numbers of Thai men inject olive oil, beeswax, silicone and paraffin into their genitals, in a misguided bid to enlarge their penises, a Bangkok urologist said.
Skin lesions or serious infections are commonly the result, said Surat Kittisupaporn of the Police General Hospital, which sees up to 300 patients a month after botched penis treatments.
“The body reacts to the foreign substances. When there is chronic irritation or infection, it’ll be very hard to cure ... it’ll be hard to even walk or take a shower,” he said, making surgery inevitable.
In the worst case, Surat was forced to remove a 50-year-old man’s genitals in November last year after he repeatedly injected olive oil into his penis.
The pursuit of beauty has a long history in the nation, said Professor Suwirakorn Ophaswongse of the Dermatological Society of Thailand.
“It starts from the belief that aristocrats should have white skin and people with dark skin are lower class,” she said.
The influence of South Korean pop culture has boosted the numbers of Thais dashing to the cosmetic surgeon seeking to recreate the surgically enhanced, doll-like appeal of their ‘K-pop’ idols, she said.
Illegal surgery clinics are cashing in on that desire and increasing the risks.
A product promoter, or a so-called “pretty,” died in October last year when a gel-like filler meant to make her buttocks more shapely was injected into her bloodstream. Her friend and fellow “pretty,” Nutchanunt Angkuttarothum, 25, said the tragedy had not deterred her from further surgery.
“We have to always take care of ourselves and look good, otherwise we wouldn’t look different from others,” she said after pouting for the cameras at an event in Bangkok.
In addition to surgery, skin whitening creams, including vaginal bleaching soaps, abound in the kingdom, with many believing that a lighter skin reflects higher status and is more attractive.
It is an image of desirability reinforced by the legions of models and actors who adorn Bangkok’s billboards and star in the country’s wildly popular television dramas.
For the city’s elite, known as Hi-Sos (High Society), more upmarket treatments are widely available.
Between US$13,000 and US$200,000 will get you gold thread face implants, a tradition apparently stretching back to ancient Egypt that its adherents believe tightens and brightens the skin.
The treatment involves strips of near-pure gold being sewn into the skin, forming a mesh which stimulates collagen production, thus keeping skin supple, said Maciej Lichaj, a Polish gold thread aesthetician.
“People in Asia love gold ... they want to have gold outside and inside,” he added.