Whether or not legal limits should be imposed on cosmetic surgery is a fiercely contested question, but it’s not one that has an easy answer. If someone wants to spend $5 million a year on plastic surgery, have their eyes hooded and their tongue split and forked to look like a snake, it’s none of our business, right? Maybe. Maybe not. Whether or not a certain type of cosmetic surgery is controversial is a matter of opinion.
Beauty (like controversy) is in the eye if the beholder. Or, as the French poet Baudelaire wrote in a poem titled “Beauty”: “I am as lovely as a dream in stone.” Of course, when it comes to plastic surgery, it’s not “stone” being used to create a “lovely dream” but gel silicone and Restylane filler. From the extreme and dangerous to the bizarre and absurd, these 7 cosmetic surgeries have a lot of controversy that surround them, let’s see what you think.
7. Multiple Plastic Surgeries
For some people, plastic surgery is an addiction –an endless pre-op, post-op cycle in search of perfection. Former Playboy model Sarah Burge, known as the “Real Life Barbie,” is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having over 100 cosmetic surgeries. Heidi Montag, the star of MTV’s “The Hills,” had 10 plastic surgeries in a single day, and she’s better known for her cosmetic overkill than she is for her role on the once popular reality TV series. Cher, Joan Rivers, Lil’ Kim, and Jocelyn Wildenstein are all cosmetic surgery addicts. What type of work have these people had done: nose jobs, tummy tucks, eye lifts, cheek implants, lip augmentations, cosmetic dentistry, chin reductions, jaw reshaping, facelifts, breast implants, removal of breast implants, fat transfers, liposuctions, soft tissue filler injections, laser treatments, and the list goes on and on.
However, if plastic surgery is an addiction, then shouldn’t it be treated just like other addictions? If so, where is the moral and ethical line drawn, and who draws this line? Should there be a cap on the number of cosmetic surgeries a person is allowed to have depending on the circumstances?
6. Horn Implants- Cost: $500-$1500
In the 1990 David Lynch film, “Wild at Heart,” Sailor (played by Nicolas Cage) says to his girlfriend Lulu (Laura Dern), “Did I ever tell ya that this here jacket represents a symbol of my individuality, and my belief in personal freedom?”
Body modification artist Steve Haworth developed horn implants in 1994, and a New Zealand woman was the first person to undergo the procedure. With horn implants, small pieces of Teflon (coral and silicone are sometimes used too) are inserted subdermally into the forehead. In time, when the skin is ready, the implants can then be repeatedly removed and larger ones added -a process that Haworth refers to as “dermal elevators.”
Since 1999, Steve Haworth has been the Guinness World Record holder for “the most advanced body modification artist.” Nevertheless, horn implants can result in numerous complications. Not only is infection ever-present, but internal and external scarring is common. Tissue reabsorption, contamination of the implant, nerve and muscle pressure, and shifting and migration of the implant is also possible.
The same cosmetic process used for horn implants is used in penis bead implantation. Also known as pearling, love beads or yakuza beads, this genital modification has a small but dedicated following, and is done to increase physical stimulation. Horn implants and pearling, while controversial, are (as Sailor said in “Wild at Heart”) symbols of individuality and personal freedom.
5. The Chugay Tongue Patch- Cost: $2,000
The Weight Loss and Diet Control market is an $80 billion dollar a year industry. From Bile Beans and the Graybar Stimulator to Weight Watchers and the Atkins Diet, people looking to lose weight have embraced all manner of fads and fly-by-night trends over the years. The Chugay Tongue Patch, however, is probably the most controversial weight-loss procedure ever developed. So, how does it work?
For a month, a stamp-sized piece of mesh is surgically implanted into the tongue so that eating is so painful that only liquids can be consumed. The tongue patch, developed by Nikolas Chugay, medical director of the Chugay Cosmetic Surgery Clinic, is a torture device designed to force you to diet. Patients lose 15 to 30 pounds on a liquid diet, but the dangers of the procedure far outweigh the rewards. A liquid diet may not only cause hair loss, fainting, gallstones, and coma, but the body, when it doesn’t get the protein and nutrients it needs, will start eating its own muscle and organ tissue.
4. Ear Pointing, or Elfin Ear Surgery- Cost: $3,400-$6,500
Ear reshaping is nothing new. Otoplasty is a common surgery used to correct misshaped or deformed ears, which are often the result of birth defects or injuries. Having the top portion of the ear snipped, reshaped, and stitched into a elfin point, however, has become a trendy but controversial cosmetic procedure, especially on the West Coast. “Lots of people out there (West Coast) have an inner vision of themselves and they want to share and express that to the world around them,” says body modification artist Steve Haworth. Unlike horn implants, however, ear pointing is and irreversible. Infections are a serious concern, but more importantly there’s a risk the ear will end up permanently mangled or demolished.
3. Pubic Hair Transplant- Cost: $7,500-$9,500
While many American women are shaving, waxing and lasering away their unwanted hair, women in South Korea and Italy are having pubic hair transplants. In some cultures a natural looking pubic area is thought to be a sign of fertility, while other places around the world (obviously not wax-happy Brazil) simply think that a lot of hair in the pubic region is more attractive.
For a pubic hair transplant, cosmetic surgeons use micro-graft technology. A strip of scalp is harvested and the skin divided onto pieces that contain 1-3 hair bulbs each. The surgeon then prepares the transplant area by making small receiving holes with a laser or scalpel. In order to give patients the best result, cosmetic surgeons mimic their natural pubic patterns. If not controversial, a pubic hair transplant at least seems unnecessary, especially considering the old adage: shaving makes the hair grow back twice as thick.
2. Iris Implants- Cost: Unknown
Originally developed for people with eye problems, like albino hypersensitivity to light, intra-ocular implants permanently change the color of the eyes. Cosmetic iris implants are illegal in the United States and Canada, but that hasn’t deterred people from seeking a more desirable eye color in cosmetic surgery clinics in South America. Complications from iris implants can include eye inflammation, bleeding, and glaucoma, not to mention the worst-case scenario: permanent blindness. The implants are mounted directly in front of the iris, and with little room to move, they can rub, causing severe eye damage. No matter how badly you wish your eyes were China blue instead of puppy dog brown, color contacts are a better solution than risking blindness.
1. Leg Lengthening- Cost: $120,000
Many of us wish we were taller, but how much pain are we willing to endure to gain 3 extra inches? Leg lengthening involves having the leg bones broken in four places. Steel scaffolding is attached to the outside of the legs with metal pins sticking into the bones; these pins then need to be rotated every day for months as the process pulls the bones apart one millimeter at a time.
Leg lengthening was originally created to fix developmental deformities, but it’s become a popular underground cosmetic procedure amongst stature seekers. Psychologist Ellen Westrich, who works at the Institute for Limb Lengthening in New York, describes a condition called “short stature dysphoria,” where patients are deeply dissatisfied with their height: “This is an interesting group of patients. They tend to be extremely successful at work or very focused on their studies. You’ve heard of the Napoleon complex. In a way, compensating for their height gives them a heightened sense of themselves. They may be very happy with their life but being short makes them very unhappy.”
Leg lengthening is a punishing procedure. Months of excruciating pain, a constant risk of infection, and grueling and intense physical therapy is a lot to endure for a 3-inch boost of self-confidence.