When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Plastic Surgery As A Way To Look Less "Ethnic" - And Get Ahead?

More and more immigrants think having "Western" features is a secret to success.

The pressure of uniformity leads more and more people to "westernize" their body
The pressure of uniformity leads more and more people to "westernize" their body
Rosalba Miceli

MILAN - Some plastic surgery procedures requests must be treated and analyzed with particular attention and sensitivity. Over the last two decades, plastic surgery has been increasing all over the world, often responding to people's desires to look younger

But more and more, cosmetic surgery is performed on those who want to change the distinctive characteristics of their ethnic origins.

The results, usually inspired by Western models, are not just requested by those in higher social classes – but by all kinds of people, especially those who want to emigrate. Can lighter skin and more Western features really hide that they’re from a developing country and help lead to a better job, higher salary, or more prestigious social circle?

The most requested procedures of “ethnic” plastic surgery for Asians – both women and men – are canthoplasties (to reshape eyes, making them rounder), and rhinoplasties (nose jobs to reduce the size of the base of the nose, defining the bridge). Africans, now and then, undergo cheiloplasties (reduction of lip size), as well as liposuction to re-shape the body.

“It’s a phenomenon like no other that marginalizes people and has complex psycho-social implications that cannot be underestimated by doctors,” explains Professor Mario Dini, Director of the School of Plastic and Aesthetic Surgery at the University of Florence. “In reality, many of these practices are carried out on people with low income, who are looking for cheap, and often dangerous solutions. People trust in facilities in their own countries, but often security and hygiene guidelines aren’t strictly applied. Not to mention the huge "do-it-yourself" underworld, or the use of often banned products."

Changing one’s body to change one’s life

So, from an expert’s viewpoint, should changing or minimizing the traces of someone’s origins be completely avoided? “No, or at least not completely,” Dini says. “Here’s an example: a Middle Eastern nose is objectively large and can weigh down the delicate face of a woman or hinder good looks. Rhinoplasty, therefore, can improve the face and enhance good looks.”

He adds: “There are many requests for skin lightening. If a surgeon indulged all the requests he got, the results would be dissatisfaction and disappointment. The media has emphasized that light skin is associated with being successful, but this is the fruit of the marketing strategies of companies who sell skin-whitening products and sunscreens.”

Professor Dini says people often have unrealistic ideas and believe that a change on their bodies will really change their lives too.

“It’s logical to think that a woman with small breasts will be more confident after an augmentation, in a way that her interior image corresponds to the physical one, but when a patient tries to change their ethnicity, the matter is much more profound and delicate," he concludes. "A foreign patient who wants to westernize their face, which is universally considered ‘successful’, hopes that the scalpel will change their culture too – but this isn’t possible.”

This view is shared by Dr. Genevieve Makaping, anthropologist, journalist and writer from Cameroon. “The risk of unconditionally accepting to operate on patients and respond ‘yes’ to all of their requests is to leave them in a cultural limbo," says Makaping. "The people who want to erase, or minimize, their physical origins usually aren’t completely assimilated with Westerners, and are turned away from their own social groups who criticize and stigmatize this choice because they feel their faces are being discriminated against.”

Makaping says this pressure of uniformity was born in part due to the lack of support and social mediation from the originating countries, as well as in those they want to move to. "Very often the emigrants are left to themselves, with a small capacity of developing their talents, and crushed by a stigma that is part of themselves,” she says.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest