Plastic Surgery in Korea-My Dirty Little Secret

I have a secret. Ok, it’s not really a secret to anyone who knows me in person but I’ve never blogged about it so same thing, right? If you don’t blog about it, it never happened? Anyway, about a year ago, I decided to go under the knife and get plastic surgery in Korea (gasp! I know…) I realize that not everyone agrees with having surgery done to change your looks, and I respect that. This was a very personal choice and one that has strongly affected how I feel about myself. I strongly believe that as a women, we should be proud of who we are and love ourselves despite our flaws. But I also believe that the decision to get plastic surgery is a personal decision that no one but that person can ever truly understand. This is not a post condoning or bashing the use of plastic surgery, just simply my personal experience with it. And I won’t be going into much detail about Korean culture and their practice except to say it’s extremely popular and something about seeing my 12 year old students getting eye lid surgery to look more ‘Western’ is a little more than odd and troubling to me. End rant. (if you want to see more photos of common surgeries in Korea, click here)

This was something that I had been wanting to do since middle school. You see, I had extremely dark circles under my eyes. Not the type that you get when you’re tired or will go away with a cold compress (trust me, I tried all home remedies and almost every product on the market). This was the type that was hereditary. I went to several dermatologists over the years and they all said the same thing. There was nothing I could do. My veins were simply too close to the surface of my skin, giving me a purplish effect under my eyes that looked like I hadn’t slept in days and then got into a bad fist fight.
Before. The dark circles were improved by 30-40% after the surgery
So when I came to Korea and heard that it was a common procedure to be done, I was on board. Korea is famous in Asia for it’s plastic surgery. People come from all surrounding countries to have procedures done here for their experienced surgeons, cheap prices (the same procedure in the States is quadruple in price!) and high tech equipment. In the first and only consultation on a Friday night, the doctor sat me down and told me that my dark circles would never completely go away but he could improve them by 30-40%. It’s not what I wanted to hear but it would be such a change that would be worth it in my mind. Even that small of an improvement would mean that I wouldn’t feel like I had to put on makeup before running to the store real quick or before going to the gym or beach like I was used to doing.
The gist of the procedure was that they would remove fat out of my leg and put a thin layer under my eye to act as a buffer between my veins and my skin. So essentially I now have butt fat in my face. A fact that my husband was sure to point out. My doctor had great English but let’s just say it wasn’t perfect. When he was trying to explain the procedure he tried to tell me that the fat’s survival rate in my face was 30%. He slipped and told me that my survival rate was 30%. Well that’s reassuring. I went on to ask him how any of these surgeries he has performed. He paused, looked at the ceiling (while I was on the other side of the desk panicking) and came back with the answer of ‘Ohhh, around 1,500’. It’s a whole lot more common that I thought!
After the procedure that night, I would be able to go home just two hours later. I remember lying face down on the table (since they would first cut into my leg), starting to panic as they strapped me down to the table (something I’m sure doctor’s in the States do after the patient is knocked out), the nurses giggling because it was their first foreign patient…and then passing out. When I woke up in the recovery room my first words to the doctor were ‘I love Korea’. Yea, I don’t do so well with anesthesia.

korean plastic surgery My wounds the next day. The two small bandages on either side cover up one stitch each and are where they went in. Thankfully my glasses covered most of it and while my kids looked at me funny, most of them didn’t even notice.

The whole experience was far less painful than I had anticipated. I felt pressure on my face but with the light pain meds I was given, I was still up and around the next day. I could also take the two single stitches on either side of my cheek out the next day which Jeremy happily played doctor for. The only down side is that in true Korean fashion, I had no sick days so I had to return to work on Monday. The pain wasn’t a problem so much as the fact that it looked like someone took a crowbar to my face. And I wasn’t about to get any sympathy from my boss who returned to work two days after a breast enlargement and who did the same after breaking her collarbone. There were a few stares but for the most part I think people are used to seeing people walking around right after getting surgery done, or when they’re supposed to being the hospital. Like this guy who left the hospital to watch a rugby game.

All in all, I was very happy with my experience and the doctor I chose. But more than that, I’m happy with the results. I still wear concealor under my eyes most days but use a fraction of the amount and no longer feel like I have to in order to avoid people asking me what happened or if I was tired. It was a decision that while controversial, I am so glad that I went through with.

  • Rita

    Good post! inspirated me a lot. ive been thinking to take it also in korea since it seems so much cheaper compared to america. and according to this it should be so good

  • mina

    This is so interesting. I’ve heard some horror stories of people getting plastic surgery overseas. Happy that things worked out well for you.

    When I was in Japan, I met a man with two daughters who was basically acting as if saving up for eyelid surgery was equivalent to setting aside money for tuition. He said it was expensive to have daughters because they all “need” this surgery. I understand wanting to change something about yourself but it seems sad if it’s become some sort of standard.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing this.

  • Jay Lee

    wow! 30% survival rate :O! actually, I did square jaw reduction in south korea, as mentioned above review, tech of plastic surgery is quite advanced in korea with reasonable price and satisfied result as well lol

    • Jamson Lee

      hey, I also wanna hv surgery in my jaw :S ,where did u get that? and could u share the price?

      • Jay Lee

        they have english consultant, name is Jefferson I guess
        Here is the email address
        should be better ask them

        • Jamson Lee


  • Samseo

    Plastic surgery is going high up nowdays and it is a one which helps to show our beauty to outside world.

  • Julie

    Hi. I am so glad you post about this as I’m considering this treatment too. Maybe you could share about the price for this treatment? Thanks.

  • Elina Mark

    plastic surgery become popular in every area of world.

  • Chloé Arnold

    Wow, never would have thought to do that in another country. But I think it is great! Love that you are brave enough to share your story with us!

  • David Alessi

    your blog is amazing! thank you so much for your creative inspirations and thank you for sharing. please visit

  • Samantha Krause

    I’m too much of a baby to ever get plastic surgery, but see nothing wrong with it. I loved your comment about your husband- just make sure then whenever he kisses you on the cheek to remind him exactly what he’s kissing as well!

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      haha! he did such a great job with it! he said it was practice for when our kids get stitches haha

  • Anja Van Der Vorst

    Thanks for being open and honest about this; cool! I had plastic surgery about 20 years ago. It ended a deep insecurity after having being ridiculed and named names for 20 years. It was life-changing and I am so happy that I did it!

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      thanks so much! i’m so sorry that you were being ridiculed! people can be so harsh and i know how that goes. it’s sad that people can so openly judge others based on looks.

      • Anja Van Der Vorst

        Yes, there’s a lot of suffering due to bullying!

  • Alison Pirtle

    I love your experience with the doctor… 30% survival rate! Ohhhh, Korea….

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      haha i wouldn’t expect anything less! i feel so grateful for how great he was though, despite his english mistakes : )

  • Megan

    Oh wow, I had no idea there was a surgery like that! I have heard that like 90% of the people in Korea have had plastic surgery, though. I don’t see anything wrong with it. I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to do it and I don’t really have the desire to now, but that could definitely change in the future!

    xo Megan, Lush to Blush

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      it’s so crazy how popular it is! i think there is definitely moderation that needs to be there though. some people can easily go overboard and turn it into an unhealthy obsession. but used the right way, i think it can be a great help for some people

  • Emily Finta

    Wow, I have really bad under eye circles too but I always thought it was something that I was stuck with. I can use concealer to cover the purple but you can still see the line/indent. I might have to consider getting it fixed someday. Thank you so much for sharing this!

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      i’m so sorry you deal with the same thing! i still use a little bit of concealer because unfortunately they will never be completely gone. but at least it’s a whole lot better than it used to be!

  • Anna

    I had no idea this was even a thing. I’ve always had dark circles for the same reason and the thing that I dislike most is the ‘you look tired’ comment if I’m not wearing make up. I even had teachers at school being concerned. That’s when my mum got all annoyed and shouted ‘it’s hereditary! What is wrong with people!’ Anyway I agree, it’s a personal choice and I’m all for it if someone wants to get something done. The only thing I hate is when I watch films and someone says – she should really get her nose done, or that chin sorted. That’s just sad.

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      i didn’t either until i moved to korea!i got that same comment ALL the time! it’s so annoying! which is why i’m so careful not to say it to other people! and i agree. i think it needs to be a personal choice, not something brought on by other’s comments or criticism

  • Sarah Benson

    I also have dark circles under my eyes but I never even knew that you could get plastic surgery done for this!

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      they are such a pain to cover up! i’m sorry you have a problem with this as well!

  • tara’s doing stuff

    i’m just going to echo the sentiments already here and say that it’s a personal choice and who is anyone to judge why someone chooses to have done. i think we often thing plastic surgery as the big things – the boob job, the nose job, liposuction – when it’s also the smaller things (not to say that making the choice is small or that it’s small to the person but i hope you know what i mean!) anyhow, kudos to you and thanks for for sharing!

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      yes yes yes : ) thanks for being so supportive! i think it’s definitely a personal choice and with moderation and a healthy outlook, it can be a great thing for people

  • Andrea Hernandez

    Kudos to you! I admire your honesty!
    About plastic surgery, I used to make fun of it growing up (as a teen) but really, if needed, why not? I have been pondering about my boobs, my nose, and hey maybe my under eye circles too! Although I’ve already accepted my nose…but boobs after baby and then maybe someday…I’ll fly out to Korea too and take care of my asian eyelids that seem to suck in/hide all of the make up I put on them…ha!

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      i used to hate my nose as well and thankfully i’ve come to like it. exactly why i think people should wait till they’re older to make that big of a decision!
      and it just goes to show that some things that you hate other people find beautiful because i personally love your eyes : )

  • DarylSchmidt

    I love that you posted this. I think plastic surgery is so stigmatized, which is weird considering how common it is! I’m glad it has helped you and that you are happier for it!

    <3 Daryl


    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      i think it’s a matter of respecting other’s decisions as long as they are in a healthy matter!

  • Sara || Kitty Baby Love

    Wow I didn’t know that was a kind of plastic surgery you could get! I think plastic surgery is fine for people who have a general sense of well-being- but maybe just really want X done as a treat. I think it gets dangerous when it becomes almost a NEED for it to happen or else self loathing ensues.

    People are always changing their appearance anyway- hairdos, makeup, tattoos, braces… plastic surgery takes it to the next level but why not if it helps that person feel even better about themselves.

    I’d get plastic surgery for my tummy sag after two babies. I’m skinny and feel great about my body, but it’s a nuisance when i’m sitting or want to wear form fitting clothes. It would just be great if that extra bit weren’t there.

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      i couldn’t agree more with what you said in the first paragraph. everything in moderation and i think that it can still be done in a completely healthy way. and i’ve heard so many similar stories after childbirth. so sad that after you do something so amazing, it has to change your body!

      • Sara | Kitty Baby Love

        Yeah but you know, I also know a lot of mamas who had multiple babies with tight bellies still. Part of it is luck of the draw too! >_<

  • Helene

    wait, they are 12 years old and getting surgery?! i think you have to do whats best for you! so if you want to do it, do it!

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      sad isn’t it! i was shocked when my student came in with bandages on her eyes!

  • Chantal

    I’ve heard that plastic surgery is cheap here! I don’t think I have anything I’d really want to fix… though I keep telling my husband I want Botox in my forehead now 😛

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      haha and that’s cheap here too! it’s amazing the prices in korea. even our lasik eye surgery was more than half of what we would pay back in the states

  • Asia @ The Cracked Lens

    Personally, I don’t like it for myself. I’d never get it but if anyone else does then that’s their choice. It’s their body. I don’t think your procedure was very small in the world of plastic surgery so it doesn’t seem so bad :)

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      exactly. there are some procedures that i definitely disagree with but i for sure wouldn’t press my opinion onto them for getting it done

  • Andi Perullo de Ledesma

    I think to each their own! I would never ever in a million years judge a person on whether or not they had plastic surgery. I’m so happy that you’re happy with the results! You’re so brave for sharing your story!!

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      and that’s my biggest thing. it doesn’t bother me that some people disagree with what i did, as long as we can both respect each other’s viewpoint!

  • Brittany Fry

    If I was in your situation and they were able to fix it I would totally take advantage of that. Of course this all seems off the wall to us here in the US but they just have different concerns there. I am glad this worked out for you though!!!

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      i’m just glad i was able to do it and for a fraction of the price as the procedures in the states! they’re outrageously priced!

  • Bonnie Rose

    I would get that same procedure done if I had the opportunity. I’ve noticed one of my sons has the same thing. Its nothing I would point out to him or complain about to my kids because I’m hoping to raise them with a stronger self image than I had of myself growing up. You are right, its a personal decision. I have several best friends who have had breast implants and boy I would definitely get that done too if I knew 100% that I was not going to be pregnant again. Many wouldn’t but if you are doing anything for anyone else but yourself than maybe plastic surgery is not the best route. Anyways thanks for sharing darling. x

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      thanks so much bonnie. i hope that i don’t pass this down to my kids but if i do i want them to be more confident about it than i ever was. then when they’re old enough (over 20’s for sure) then its their choice

  • LauraInWonderland

    I don’t think I’ll get plastic surgery, but who knows, maybe when I’m older. Can’t really tell you, because I change my mind A LOT. But I know for sure that I think it’s ok to get plastic surgery. It’s ok to change something about yourself that makes you unhappy. After all, it’s kind of like getting a tattoo, right? I mean yeah, there are way more risks to a surgery, but it’s similar in a way. You change your body to make it look better. Everyone should decide themselves whether or not they want to get surgery or not. To be honest, I don’t get why people get all judgy about this topic.

    Oh and when I had surgery on my leg, I woke up and said “Why can’t I smoke in here. Give me the phone. I want to order Chinese food!” So yeah, you’re not the only one who doesn’t do well with anesthesia :)

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      i was the same way when i was younger! i would change my mind a lot. that’s why i’m so glad that i waited until my mid 20’s to get it done. i don’t think that any type of surgery should be a spur of the moment thing. you should think about it for years to be sure that you really want to go through with it.
      glad i’m not the only one who can’t handle anesthesia ; )

  • Molly @ The Move to America

    I’ve never had plastic surgery, and it is not a route I would choose to go down, but I know that it is a personal thing, and if there is something that you wish to change and have wanted to do so for some time, then it is up to you to make that decision. It all boils down to how you feel about yourself and only you have to live with how you feel, so do what makes you feel happy.

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      exactly! whether you agree with it or not, i don’t think it’s a big deal, as long as both sides respects the others viewpoint!

  • Katie Cook

    THanks for sharing this Chels! I love that you are so courageous and genuine about your life! And I totally agree you did the right thing! If it’s something that you could fix, why not? Love ya girl!! xxoo Katie

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      awe thanks friend! i really appreciate it!

  • Megan

    I think it’s pretty similar to the idea of wearing makeup honestly. Women wear makeup to make themselves look prettier or to cover certain things up, because it makes them feel better and more confident. Plastic surgery is the same, just ya know, permanent, so it definitely needs a bit of thought beforehand. I have really red cheeks all the time, and if there’s an operation to fix that, I’d definitely consider it. Kudos to you for doing it in another country too!! I hate even having a normal doctor’s visit in France!

    • Bonnie Rose

      I have to agree with you Megan. Its a more permanent choice of decisions many of us do anyways. There are many things I do to accentuate my look that to be honest if I had the opportunity and means it would be a great time saver to just have a procedure done.

      • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

        i completely agree with you girls, and like i said above, if you don’t go overboard with it, i don’t see a big problem

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      i think that there’s a line not to be crossed with it. i have no problem with what i’ve had but there are certain cases that i would never support a person going through with. my biggest thing is corrective surgery like your cheeks or dark circles!

  • Juls Nicholl Stimpson

    I applaud you for sharing this very personal story! There is so much taboo around plastic surgery, but I agree with you that it is a very personal choice and one only you as an individual can completely understand! I have had bags under my eyes since i was a child and I am now 30. I would love to get surgery to get rid of them but in Ireland the cost is extortionate!
    Good for you Chelsea x

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      thank you so much. i’m so glad for the positive response i’ve gotten!

  • Sarah Burton

    I had no idea you could get plastic surgery for this! I’ve never been a fan of the whole idea (although each person can make their own decision because it’s their body), but I struggle with the same issue. It’s hereditary and you’re right…there’s nothing you can do to completely get rid of it with makeup! After reading about how simple this procedure is, I would definitely be more open to it. Which surprises me because I was always so against it! I’m glad you are happy with the results and that everything went smoothly!

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      i just hated trying every.single.product out there and never seeing results. the commercials that claim that they have a miracle solution irritate me because none of them work!

  • Caroline L.

    I didn’t get to comment the other day – but congrats on moving back to the States! I’m excited to see where you’re taking your blog, and also that you get to enjoy being at home again :)

    As for plastic surgery – I really think it’s a personal decision. My one caveat is that I feel like you should be over a certain age (18? 20?) firstly because it takes time for your features to fully develop and so maybe whatever is bothering you evolves as you grow; secondly, as I feel that plastic surgery is a personal decision, I feel that at a young age, one might be doing it for reasons other than that. Anyway, I’m happy that you were able to get that done for yourself – I heard plastic surgery in Korea is phenomenal!

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      awe thanks caroline! i definitely agree with the age restriction. i used to be self conscious about my nose but as i grew older i became more than ok with it and i’m so glad that i never went through with anything! certain things you grow to like over time!

  • Tina @ Girl-Meets-Globe

    If money were no object I would actually get a tummy tuck. I wouldn’t normally do it, but having twins and gaining all my weight in my middle section leaving me with stretched out and stretch marked skin, now I would totally get one! There are less invasive ones, supposedly. However, I still don’t see it as being something I would ever do.

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      i’ve heard so many stories similar to yours. i understand people’s concerns with going through with it but i’m glad there’s at least the option that open!

  • Cole Nemeth

    I see nothing wrong with someone making a personal decision to get plastic surgery. And I, too, had no idea you could get surgery for that! As long as you had a good experience and are glad with your results. :)

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      i didn’t know that there was a surgery for this either until we moved! i’m so glad that i was able to go through with it!

  • Quinn

    My in-laws still go back to Korea whenever they need to get a check up (plane ticket + doctor’s visit or surgery is still cheaper in Korea if you don’t have insurance in the US). And most of the women in my husbands family have had at least 2 cosmetic surgeries.

    I say if it makes you feel a little more confident in every day life, good for you! :)

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      it’s SO much cheaper! i completely understand why people do it. the doctors and equipment are just as good but a fraction of the price!

  • Kenzie S

    I didn’t know that you could get plastic surgery for that, you learn something new every day! I would totally get a nostril reduction if I could, in fact I would if I could afford it and was ever in Korea.
    How interesting that the guy is still wearing his hospital gown.. Ha ha!

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      i didn’t either until i moved to korea! i’m so glad that i did it though!

  • Kim

    Wow, I had no idea there was a surgery for dark under-eye circles! I have the exact same issue, and in the winter when I’m pale, I have been known to look like a war survivor. Luckily, I currently live in Africa so my tan normally masks the darkness… that and foundation! I don’t think I’d ever go under the knife (I’m a scaredy cat!) but its fascinating to read several accounts of the culture surrounding plastic surgery in South Korea. ….But what about a proper After shot?? 😉

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      i have the same problem in the winter, it is magnified by my paleness! so instead of heading to the tanners, i went under the knife ; )

  • Lisa C

    I can’t believe that guy wearing a hospital gown at a game. He couldn’t get some real clothes?

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      it’s actually really common to see people walking around certain areas especially outside hospitals in just hospital garments!

  • Alex Fahey

    Oh my gosh! Thanks for sharing your story. I have to admit I started laughing out loud when I read your first words were ‘I love Korea’. I’ve been thinking about getting some moles removed while I’m here because it’s so cheap. Back in the states, it was like $300 for one mole since the insurance wouldn’t cover anything that was considered cosmetic. I’ll have to look into this more. And while I think the plastic surgery thing here is a bit intense, I think it’s everyone’s personal choice on what they do or do not get done.

    • Chelsea @ Lost in Travels

      i would definitely check into it there. the prices are so much cheaper but the doctors and equipment are up to US standards that we’re used to!