Asian vs. American Beauty Standards

From face to body, American and Asian societies strive to meet cultural standards proving that beauty is subjective.

Beauty is idolized across the globe. Individuals strive to meet the cultural ideals of beauty. Each culture has its subjective view of what constitutes beauty, for which gorgeous icons are portrayed in the media. 

Beauty standards vary across the globe, but the most notable difference exists between East Asia and America. 

Asians favor innocent-like beauty and slim physiques, Western standards seek sensuality and a more prominent hourglass figure. 

East Asian society emphasizes looking as thin as possible. Korea expects its idols to have a 9-1 ratio where the body is nine times as long as the head. 

While American standards are not known for expecting precise proportions, they also have high standards for women’s bodies. 

American standards fluctuate. The 50s brought a desire for a full figure while still staying in the hourglass form. Stars like Marilyn Monroe were envied for their “perfect” curves despite their bodies being considered “plus-size” now. 

The early 90s increased the popularity of extremely thin body shapes. Models like Kate Moss and Twiggy flooded mainstream media with their waif-like physiques. 

With the rise of these idols came the heroin chic revolution, which popularized features usually associated with the drug. Despite these models being icons of their time, their bodies do not achieve the ideal physique that American women desire. 

In the 2000s, curvier figures such as those of Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez became popular. Despite this influence from the 90s skinnier bodies like those of Paris Hilton remained desirable. 

Kim Kardashian is perceived as a beauty icon with her tan skin and tall, hourglass figure representing a slim-thick body, which led to a renewed emphasis on working out to achieve this standard. 

You can find transformation montages all over social media. 

Many speculate that Kardashian’s body is enhanced by a butt enlarging procedure. 

Women find her body so desirable that they spend thousands of dollars on surgeries, such as the Brazilian butt lift (BBL), a cosmetic procedure where fat is sucked from “unwanted” areas such as the thighs, hips, or belly and injected into the buttocks. 

Despite its popularity, the BBL procedure has the highest mortality rate of any other cosmetic procedure. 

There is a high risk that the fat being transferred can enter the bloodstream and cause a blockage in the lungs, which can be fatal. 

Although it is the most fatal cosmetic procedure, with a 1-2 in 6,000 BBL procedures resulting in death, it is also one of the most popular. 

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported that 20,000 people got a BBL in 2017, a number much higher than in the early 2000s. 

Irene, a K-pop idol, is one of the chief icons in the K-pop industry in East Asia. 

Beauty experts claim that she meets beauty standards with her slim, tall body and fair skin. 

Irene debuted in “Red Velvet” in 2014, and gained popularity for her idealistic physique. 

“Any beauty standard really narrowly defines what beauty is and has a really harmful impact on everyone,” Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator Ursula Chan said. 

The problem with influencers and celebrities and projected ideal body types is that their influence causes their followers to want to meet the standards of beauty they represent by being surgically enhanced. 

According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Korea has the highest plastic surgery rates of any other country, with more than 2,500 plastic surgeons in Korea in 2019. 

Some of the most popular surgeries performed are rhinoplasties and double eyelid surgery. 

Many native Koreans are born with a single eyelid. Men and women across Korea have opted to get this procedure to create a double eyelid. 

Idols such as Jennie and Rose from Blackpink have double eyelids. Aside from the eyelids, East Asia also prefers big eyes, contrary to the West, where sloped almond-shaped eyes are preferred. 

A surgery commonly used in Korea for lips is called the “cherry lip” surgery, resulting in fuller lips. This style became popular in the K-pop industry, as idols such as members of BTS and many other K-pop idols have these lips. 

Modeling the Kardashians, Western standards are all about full, round lips that are even coated over the sides with lip product to give them more volume. 

In America, the ideal facial structure is an oval face shape. 

In contrast, Asians aim for a slender, seed-like face, including a jawline that tapers into a v-shape with slightly curved sides with no sharp angles. 

The cultural debate over standards for beauty as to which is more idealistic continues, but this discourse is not settled with an easy answer. 

Beauty ideals differ in each region. What one finds beautiful the other dislikes. East Asia and America are examples of the fact that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. 

One beauty standard cannot please everyone because beauty is and forever will be subjective.