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ONCE upon a time, soft, almost spherical faces were considered appealing. Think the gentle contours of Lin Ching-Hsia's face, the heart-shaped features of Rosamund Kwan, and the roundish mien of Ayumi Hamasaki. Fast forward a couple of decades and the new standard of beauty is a contoured, V-shaped face. And this trend of achieving that perfect V-line is a distinctly Asian one, reinforced by Korean beauty stars and tastemakers who prize a small, taut face as the epitome of feminine (and sometimes even masculine) beauty.
"In 1998, Clarins was the first to speak about a V-shape," says Marie-Helene Lair, scientific communications director of the French beauty brand. "(Clarins founder) Jacques Courtin used to listen to women, to their dreams and opinion. And a group of Japanese journalists told him they had one concern, and that was getting help to refine an oval face."
That simple request led to the development of what was to be a hero product for the brand, the Clarins Shaping Facial Lift, a serum that firms facial features, refines the cheeks and contours the jawline. This year, Clarins launched the fourth upgrade of the elixir, which, like its predecessors, is designed to be maximised by a simple massage technique. However, the fixation with a miniscule mien could have originated from traditional Chinese culture, whereby a gua zi lian or "melon seed face" is a coveted barometer of beauty.
"Traditionally, Asians do favour V-shaped faces and this dates back centuries," says a spokesman from beauty group Spa Esprit. "If you look at historical paintings, the women of renowned beauty are always depicted with such face shapes. Such attributes have been sought after by Chinese and Japanese women for years, and recently by the Koreans. It also represents femininity as men are traditionally defined by a strong, square jaw and a broader face shape."
As with most other bizarre beauty trends, the V-line face shape is very much synonymous with Korean celebrities. There, in K-pop land, the selfie pose of choice is not a duck face pout but a cutesy hand-on-face gesture to accentuate a sharp jawline - or camouflage a less defined one.
"The V-shaped face is considered by Koreans as the ideal face shape and a mark of feminine beauty," notes Pauline Ng, founder and managing director of Porcelain Face Spa. "It is a standard of beauty that's driven by K-pop girl groups, whose members have small, delicate face shapes and features which give them a child-like and girlish charm that is appealing."
Apart from pop cultural influences, the fascination with sharp faces could also be attributed to a more practical quest for balance in one's appearance.
"Asians tend to have smaller, more delicate features that sit well on a V-shape compared to long or square faces," says the Spa Esprit spokesman. "A sharper jawline also represents youth as sagging skin can create a drooping, ageing face. A V-shaped face definitely gives an illusion of a more slender form, compared to other face shapes such as round, square or long which can add an illusion of bulk."
Ready to banish the facial bulk? Here are the latest options for scoring a contoured look, without going under the knife:
Porcelain Proionic Facial
S$406.60 for 90 minutes
The radiofrequency facial have been around for a while because its ability to tone skin has made it a popular treatment. At Porcelain, a highly trained therapist uses smooth, flat electrodes that emit a very specific 448kHz long wave radiofrequency to promote cellular metabolism, blood circulation and lymphatic drainage. This all works in tandem to rid skin of water retention for a firmed-up, slimmed-down face. Another electrode is then applied to deliver waves that penetrate deep into skin tissue, raising its internal temperature to stimulate collagen production, which in turn improves skin elasticity. Great news for those with a low pain tolerance: While certain radiofrequency treatments can be somewhat uncomfortable, to say the least, this facial is very pampering and soothing. The heat sensation is minimal and there is absolutely no pain. And the results are immediate, with a visibly slimmer appearance around the cheekbones and jawline, and lifted eye contours.
Clarins V-Facial Intensive Wrap
Ever wondered why your face might look puffier than usual, and not because of weight gain? Poor lymphatic drainage (and maybe one alcoholic drink too many) might be to blame. The French experts of facial contouring have unveiled a third-generation face wrap to target skin's circulation and innate drainage system. Unlike Korean sheet masks that wrap around the chin and jaw, with "ear hooks" to stretch the fabric, Clarins' mask has the texture of airy mousse and is created to feel like a pillow-soft spa towel. The idea is that the frothy texture is extra-gentle and doesn't tug on skin, causing potential sagging. Meanwhile, extracts of beautyberry, zerumbet ginger and escin from horse chestnut with draining properties, help reduce puffiness.
Chanel Le Life V-Flash
S$148 for 15ml
Talk about instant gratification, this is an ultra-light, fast-absorbing serum that delivers an instant lifting action. Perfect for perking up tired skin after a long night or before a fancy event, the treatment doesn't have to be used daily for immediate anti-fatigue benefits. Upon first application, the contours of the face are subtly redefined with an instant tensing effect. A cocktail of vitamins B3, C and E helps to revitalise, while the line's core ingredient 3.5-DA, a molecule extracted from the Edulis plant with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, firms skin. It's not quite a replacement facelift, but the treatment is useful for maintaining the effects of aesthetics procedures or can be used intensively, morning and evening, for a month if you need that extra lift. Apply with simple massage techniques to amplify its effects.
Spa Esprit Heavy Lifting Facial
S$321 for 90 minutes. From now to Aug 31, enjoy a first-time trial offer of only $150
Too lazy for face yoga? Try this anti-ageing treatment, using ingredients such as collagen-boosting peptides, squalane, hyaluronic acid, and marine collagen, to increase density, flexibility, and firmness in the skin. Firmer skin not only creates the appearance of youth, it aids in achieving a more contoured visage. The facial pumps skin up with essential moisture and restores skin's internal structures for firmer contours. And the key sculptor in the treatment is an Ultra Comfort Modelage Mask that lifts and firms the skin and facial contours, as well as boosts blood circulation. The unique mask comes in the form of plaster compress strips that are applied on the face one at a time by the therapist, before hardening into a cast. This technique further intensifies the lifting effect on the skin for newfound definition.