Zing Tsjeng | Contributing Writer | 1,036 day ago

Pubic Hair Transplants Are (Apparently) Totally A Thing In South Korea

The Debrief: Something to muse on next time find yourself on all fours in a paper thong, about to get a Brazilian

The full bush trend has been in full bloom this year. You couldn’t move for celebrities praising – or sporting – all-natural pubes. On Girls, Gaby Hoffman’s character wandered around pants-less with the kind of luxuriant foliage that would make a ’70s porn star break out into tears of envy. Cameron Diaz titled a whole chapter of her Body Book ‘In Praise Of Pubes’ while Gwyneth Paltrow admitted to rocking a ’70s vibe downstairs’. 

Regular women aren’t immune to the siren song of the au naturel look: in New York, salons have reported an increasing number of girls requesting the full bush Brazilian (read: a regular Brazilian, with everything on top untouched). 

But some South Korean women are going one step further: they’re getting bush grafts. As in, hair transplants for their pubes. According to the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery, the number of operations has soared by 160% from 2010 to 2012. 

Refinery29 reports that the growing trend is down to a cultural belief that pubic hair is a sign of fertility and sexual health. One Korean clinic estimates that 10% of Korean women don’t grow much hair down there, thanks to a condition called pubic atrichosis.

Dr Bessam Farjo, who runs a leading Harley Street hair restoration clinic, says that the trend has been kicking around South Korea for years – It’s only now that technology has caught up with the times. 

‘Since the day I started about 21 years ago, I knew that people in the far east were more interested in this kind of surgery,’ he says. ‘I don’t think it’s a new concept – but people are more aware that transplants are more sophisticated now and are seeking it out more.’ 

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So how easy is it to graft a ready-made bush? It works just like any other hair transplant. Using local anaesthetic, a surgeon extracts about 500 or 600 bulbs of hair where it won’t be missed – like the back and sides of your head – and slots them into tiny incisions made in the pubic area.

Once they’re in, the surrounding skin grabs onto the graft and scabs over. Patients don’t wake up the next day with magical overnight pubes – the brand-new hair doesn’t appear on the surface of the skin until two or three months later. 

Dr Farjo cautions that the transplants grow more like head hair at the start (read: extra grooming time), but ‘if you’re just using head hair to thicken out pubic hair, you will get a nice blend and it’s very hard to tell the difference’. The total cost ranges from £1,250 in Korea to £3,000 in the UK. Ouch. 

So how do girls over here feel about the bush graft, given that getting your first Brazilian was pretty much a rite of teen passage for all under-thirties? 

’Maybe it’s a good thing,’ my friend Sarah muses. ‘People are always saying they don’t agree with waxes and they don’t understand why we need to look like children or porn stars. It’s fucking hard work, too, and men don’t have to do anything! How is that fair?’

But according to one survey conducted by the Arumdaun Nara Dermatologic and Plastic Surgery Clinic in Seoul, pubic hair surgery isn’t solely about tackling a medical condition or liberating yourself from porn standards. Apparently, 74% of Korean women get it done because of a ‘sense of inferiority to the same sex’. 

In other words, it’s still social pressure that drives pubic (sorry) standards – it just so happens that we’re just driven to two different extremes on other sides of the world.

‘Well, that just works on the same premise as waxing,’ argues Sian, 23. ‘It’s still unnatural and creepy in the way that women feel they need to enhance themselves down there to be acceptable. I guess it’s better that it’s not for men, but it’s still seeking approval from someone else about your own body.’ It's also nothing new – plastic surgery is a booming industry in South Korea, and the BBC reported this week that there’s a new backlash forming against a culture where parents will frequently give their teenage daughters double eyelid surgery (to make them appear less Asian) for their birthday. But that backlash hasn’t extended to what women do with their pubic hair. 

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After all, there’s one crucial caveat to this trend: it isn’t the unfettered, untamed bush that’s in demand. According to Dr Farjo, most South Korean women only want transplants on their mons pubis (ie the bit where you’d have a landing strip). One clinic claims that the fan and shield shapes are the most popular with its patients, but having hair around your vulva, asscrack or any of the other places where it naturally grows? Forget about it. 

In other words, this isn’t the anti-waxing trend you’re looking for. Still, maybe we should all hesitate to pass judgment on anybody else’s bush but our own. As Gaby Hoffman put it in one interview, ‘When people want me to talk about whether I think the bush is back, and whether that’s great for feminism, I’m like, “You know what’s great for feminism? Respecting everybody’s own choice.”’

But put it this way: if you gave me a choice between the shaving aisle of Boots or the operating theatre, I know which one I’d choose. 

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Tags: World News Wednesday, South Korea