Body modification is nothing new - from skin adornment to shape changing, the practice is as old as ancient rituals. But today, physical alterations that change the shape of the body rank among the most dangerous body modifications. Taken to extremes, procedures to radically alter the body's form can be harmful and even fatal. Body shape modifications such as breast enlargement, butt injections and thigh gap surgery are primarily sought by women. This isn't surprising, given that it's generally recognized that the female of the species are under the most pressure from external forces, particularly the media, to maintain youth, beauty and style. But believe it or not, men are among those who undergo painful surgeries like corset training - to create a tiny waist - and multiple cosmetic surgeries to achieve a 'doll-like' look.
Motivated people with the means to do it can sometimes take their quest for perfection to life-threatening extremes, spending thousands of dollars to alter their bodies and in the process becoming unrecognizable as their former selves. Maybe you view it as a personal choice and a private matter - do you! Or perhaps you believe it's rash and dangerous, the potential personal risks of the surgery both physically and psychologically outweighing the aesthetic value.
Many of these changes aren't easy to make, and they're even more difficult, and in some cases impossible, to undo. Some individuals who journey down the path of radically changing their shapes regret it and describe their behavior as an addiction. Others who makes unconventional choices in pursuit of their ideal appearance find the process fulfilling. Take a look at these five, the most dramatic of currently popular body modifications, and decide for yourself - a dangerous trend, or a simple fashion statement?
5 Waist Training
Waist training, also called tight lacing, aims to achieve the wasp-waist look. With rigorous corset training the body eventually conforms to small-waisted contours. The downside: this restricts breathing, blood flow and the lymph system. Corseting can deform internal organs - as those who autopsied such females during the days of Victorian corset fashion attested. All that fainting wasn't an act. Waist training isn't solely a female obsession. Fakir Musafar, a leader of the Modern Primitive movement, posed for a portrait as "The Perfect Gentleman" in 1963 with a cinched waist, and has maintained a tiny waist throughout his life.
Penny Brown, pictured above, uses waist training to achieve her childhood dream. She wants to be a human Jessica Rabbit, the animated character from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The 25 year-old has had two surgeries to increase her breasts to an O-cup. She endures a tight corset for up to 23 hours a day to make her ample figure closer to her cartoon ideal's hourglass shape, according to UK's Mirror.
4 Butt Injections
Celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian and Sofia Vergara have certainly done more for female body acceptance than the heroin chic look of the nineties - and today, for most women and men, bigger is better when it comes to booty. Yet the quest for a bigger butt can have serious complications.
Vanity Wonder, author of Shot Girls, revealed her obsession with getting a bigger and bigger butt in competition with other dancers. Wonder spent more than $15,000 on butt and hip injections. The illegal shots delivered silicon for enlargement. But because of infections, her behind became lumpy - so she tried more injections to smooth it over. Her butt is now so big it's difficult to find clothes to fit. She admits she'd rather have a smaller butt and that she's lucky to be alive. Claudia Aderotimi, a university student from the UK who wanted to be a hip hop dancer, died after receiving illegal butt injections in a Philadelphia motel room in 2011.
3 Thigh Gap
Some surgeons admit a "thigh gap," a space between the thighs when a person stands with knees touching, isn't possible for everyone to attain. Differences in bone structure and quantities of body fat mean that no amount of liposuction will give the gap to everyone who wants it. Reportedly, some women take pictures of model Cara Delevingne to illustrate how they want their thighs to look. A few men seek this surgery, too.
The procedure to achieve this often unhealthy ideal usually involves puncturing the skin and vacuuming out fat under anesthesia. Other versions use "fat-freezing" or a laser. Possible complications include uneven fatty lumps, scarring and infections at the punctures. Removing too much fat from the thighs can cause unattractive changes in the legs' proportions.
The thigh gap has an enormous social media following. Many enthusiasts post about using extreme dieting and exercise to achieve the look. In all the uproar and obsession over the thigh gap, a basic fact is often overlooked: Having thighs that touch is entirely natural for most women, and not a flaw that needs to be fixed.
2 Human Barbie
Many women have aspired to look like Mattel's iconic Barbie doll, and some have gone to extremes. Human Barbie Cindy Jackson holds the Guinness World Record for the most cosmetic procedures at the time of writing. Jackson underwent 47 cosmetic procedures including 9 full surgeries. The price: $99,600. The procedures listed on her website include jaw reshaping, cheek implants, chin reduction, breast implants, filler injections, liposuction and fat transfers.
Valeria Lukyanova and Dominika Oleynik of the Ukraine stand out for their close resemblance to actual Barbie dolls. Lukyanova says she has had only one cosmetic surgery, breast augmentation. She uses contact lenses and stylized makeup and credits her Barbie figure to exercise. The extreme factor: Lukyanova aspires to be a 'breatharian'. A breatharian takes in nourishment solely from the air, without food or drink. As if 'pro-ana' social media groups weren't enough, here's a real starvation role model.
1 Human Ken Doll
Brazilian Rodrigo Alves and Justin Jedlica from New York have gone under the knife to get sculpted muscles without the gym time. No makeup tricks for these guys, they've had their faces altered through cosmetic surgery.
Rodrigo started changing himself through surgery at age 20 because he'd been teased for having a big nose. He has reportedly spent more than $168,000 on cosmetic procedures. Injections in his arms to make them look more muscular resulted in such severe infection he was at risk for amputation. If the infection had reached his heart, it would have killed him. This hasn't stopped his quest for more surgeries.
Justin Jedlica began his plastic surgery odyssey at age 18. In an interview with the Daily Beast he recalled feeling euphoric after his nose job. Jedlica distinguishes between cosmetic procedures and full surgeries, of which he's had 19. The human Ken doll's plastic surgery total to date: $170,000 on 149 procedures. His husband approves of the surgeries. They've been together for five years and had a civil union ceremony in 2013. He's still striving for perfection. On Oprah, Jedlica discussed designing his own muscle implants.