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The “Yaeba” trend in Japan is not so different from American cosmetic trends

Orthodontia and the pursuit of correcting crooked choppers is big business here in the US and Western cultures. While certainly used for reasons other than aesthetics, the primary purpose for seeing an orthodontist is to correct a misaligned mouth.

Historically, a straight smile was a status symbol, implying that those bearing braces or corrective devices came from families of financial means. The actual word “orthodontia” comes from the Greek word orthos, meaning “straight” or “proper” or “perfect” and odus from “tooth.”

In Japan, dental beauty trends are quite different, where a popular look called Yaeba is desirable. Yaeba means “double tooth” in Japanese and describes a sort of “fang effect” where teeth are crowded to the point of pushing the incisors into a prominent display in the mouth. A multitude of dental “salons” in Japan offer cosmetic procedures by which dentists actually implant artificial teeth to induce overcrowding, forcing the incisors into a more prominent place in the mouth or adhering plastic covers to the tooth to lengthen and sharpen it.

This vampire look is cited as attractive and desirable and celebrated by Japanese culture. Celebrities showcase this look and women endure pricey procedures to achieve it. Creating these intentional imperfections is meant to make a woman appear more endearing and approachable.

Naturally, Yaeba occurs in young children and babies whose teeth have not fully developed and who have small mouths. While Western trends eschew overcrowding and aim for picket-fence, pearly whites, our society also idealizes youthfulness. These intentional imperfections are really the same beast dressed in a different outfit: a way to infantilize women and sexualize child-like appearances.

I think it is important to draw the parallel that focuses on infantilizing women, idealizing innocence, and pushing procedures that aim for a more youthful appearance, but I also believe there is a bigger, more basic issue at hand.

I also acknowledge that my own cultural context puts me at a disadvantage in terms of being able to objectively evaluate this trend. It is easy to magnify differences in cultural definitions of beauty. While I appreciate and am fascinated by the measures of attractiveness and standards of beauty in other countries, one thing remains glaringly obvious: Everywhere, women are in the business of changing our bodies and appearance to fit some ideal. This is a transnational epidemic.

Cosmetic procedures that aim to create Yaeba are not too different from breast augmentation, plastic surgery, or liposuction. It is still attempts to alter one’s natural self, subjecting the body to risky and costly cosmetic procedures in the pursuit of perfection, or in this case, imperfection.


7 thoughts on “The “Yaeba” trend in Japan is not so different from American cosmetic trends

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  1. Hey Heather! I’m glad you acknowledged your own cultural context in this. My favorite part of this post: “One thing remains glaringly obvious: Everywhere, women are in the business of changing our bodies and appearance to fit some ideal. This is a transnational epidemic.” It’s so true. Great post. Thanks! 🙂

  2. Thanks Stacey! I felt it was important to touch on the fact that my background is one in which straight teeth were the mark of a larger social symbol and that differs between cultures. But this idea of having a beauty ideal is something that is worldwide and I find it fascinating, albeit troubling.

  3. You now need to make a post about the disturbing new trend from Japan that has now hit overseas. Looking like a living doll, girls photoshop the hell out of photos, glomp makeup and fake lashes on. Use circle lenses to make the eyes look bigger wich is known to cause damage to the eyes and sometimes blindness. It’s been all over the news.

  4. Great Tip Amanda!!! Do you have any links to share or email me? I’m definitely going to try to dig up some of my own research!

  5. Hilarious! only coz i have fangs and am looking on google for images of how they look corrected. find it funny that in other cultures, they want what i already have : )=

  6. I should totally move to Japan, my teeth naturally look like this. Yay, I’ve finally found a place where my fangs are in fashion!!!

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