Surgery for a Permanent Smile

“Valentine anguloplasty”—surgical up-turning of the corner of the mouth—is having a moment in South Korea.

South Korea has long been a pioneer of human improvement through words ending in “-oplasty.” The country has helped paved the way for double-eyelid surgeriesdimple injectionscalf reductions and even double-jaw surgery, to name a few.

Now South Korean plastic surgeons are taking on surgery that alters the appearance of emotion. Cosmetic tweaks like Botox have long minimized furrowed brows and frown lines. But a new technique called “Smile Lipt” carves a permanent smile into an otherwise angry face. The procedure, whose name combines “lip” with “lift”—get it?—turns up the corners of the mouth using a technique that’s a milder version of what Scottish hoodlums might call the “Glasgow grin.”

Glaswegian thugs missed out on a potential fortune; the Seoul-based Aone Plastic Surgery has patented the procedure, according to the clinic’s blog. For $2,000, it now offers patients the chance to be thus transformed:


Before on top; after on bottom. (Aone)

Here’s what you’re seeing, in the words of Aone’s Facebook page:

“After Smile Lipt surgery, mouth corners lifted upward even with just a little bit of movement and makes smiling lips, thus the middle part of upper lip won’t be lifted to show the gum. If gum is exposed with smiling, Smile Lipt is the most effective and simple method. At the same time, the smiling feature becomes very elegant.”

This 23-year-old shows that dudes can rock Smile Lipt, too. [Aone]

Put another way, Smile Lipt helps gummy smilers smirk less gummily. It also might benefit “patients with short mouth,” says the Aone blog, and "young people with innately downturned mouth corners.” People with those afflictions suffer psychologically, says Dr. Kwon Taek-keun, head of Aone. ” Even when you are looking like your normal self, people keep asking you: ‘Why are you frowning?’” Dr. Kwon told Korea Real Time. “That’s a lot of stress.”

The procedure is, as KRT reports, increasingly popular among men and women in their 20s and 30s—especially flight attendants, consultants and others in industries aiming to offer service with a smile.
Oddly enough, despite its newfound popularity among young people, Smile Lipt is reviving an old trend. “Valentine anguloplasty,” as it’s known medically, has been around for 50 years, though few Western plastic surgeons perform it anymore.
But Aone claims it has upgraded the older procedure. “Western people… didn’t have the concept of adjusting muscle balance,” says Aone’s blog, explaining that its technique has a different “lifting direction” that moves the muscles used for smiling “up toward the cheekbones.”
In essence, it can make patients smile...even when they’re not smiling. That could prove problematic during “funerals, breakups and fights with your significant other,” as RocketNews24 notes.
But as with the popularity of other cosmetic procedures in South Korea, which have made it hard for the natural of face to compete for jobs, permanent smiles may, too, become the norm. 
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Gwynn Guilford is a reporter and editor for Quartz.

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