February 2, 2015
Dawn Poh

It’s finally time for the next milestone of the journey! So far, all you have been treated to are the pictures of my heavily swollen face – suffice to say that they are probably not the best candidates to show you the results of my surgery. During the post-surgery consultation with Banobagi, Dr. Oh advised that it would take a month for the final results to surface, and 3 months for the results to be permanent. The wait felt like an excruciatingly slow revelation of a present, or perhaps a gradual unravelling of an intricate plot – I had no idea what to expect and each day brought about a new change. The first steps towards my new face began with the visit to Banobagi a week after the surgery. The purpose of staying in Seoul a week longer was not just for recovery or leisure, it is also to ensure that you receive all the post-operation care and support that Banobagi offers.

Most of the incision sites were in my mouth, but there were also two extremely discreet cuts made around the front of my ears in order to access the cheekbones. They were hardly noticeable when fresh, and completely invisible now (no one I’ve asked to look for them could find where they are!). This is in no small parts thanks to the care I’ve received at the hands of Banobagi – they have provided everything I’ve needed. I was handed a bag containing peroxide, cotton swabs and scar gel in order to clean my incisions in the days leading up to my (absolutely painless) stitch removal. I do not remember any anaesthesia being used and I still did not feel a thing.

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With Claire, our consultant and translator, who somehow manages to look impossibly gorgeous and fresh while I lumber about like a cave troll early in the morning.

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Dr. Oh meticulously examined my face and declared that everything was going as expected. He also took the time to answer all my questions (somehow I had a never-ending flurry of them) and assured me that all was well. This was very different from what I’ve read about other people’s experiences online – the most frequent complain I’ve encountered was people criticising the lack of aftercare at their respective clinics. At Banobagi, there was no end to the amount of follow-up they provided. They even observed pictures of me before and after the surgery (taken professionally at their studio!) to consider all aspects of the result.

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They also had various instruments to aid in the process of healing – I’m not clear as to the exact science behind this machine, but it promises to relieve fatigue and improve skin renewal by increasing the amount of oxygen within the capsule.

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There was also this machine that felt a little bit like a sauna – steam gently comes through the gaps between slabs of wood and warms the capsule to a nice, cozy temperature. I am almost ashamed to admit that I completely dozed off during the 30 or so minutes I was inside. It felt like a supremely luxurious spa experience more than anything else!


If I had felt doubt at any point in my journey, one look at this cardboard standee was enough to allay any doubts that I wasn’t in the most capable hands in the entire country.

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We also encountered a lot of Chinese tourists at the centre – it seemed to be the top choice for a lot of people travelling for surgery, and Banobagi had a few in-house Chinese consultants as well. We later found out that their popularity is because Banobagi has been recognised for outstanding contribution to their field by no other than Xi Jinping (!!!!). If I had any other residual doubts, they were completely eradicated.

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I had to fly back to London shortly after the surgery, so there are gaps of a week or so between the pictures. Even in that short amount of time, the progress was rather astounding. I felt normal and not at all like a swollen beast, and none of my housemates even noticed that something was off. This was precisely what I had asked for – I wanted a slightly improved version of myself, instead of a giant, noticeable difference. I wanted to look different, but only enough for people to puzzle over what has changed. The most frequent question I got was whether I lost weight, or changed my makeup because I now looked softer and younger. Success!

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Taken just a couple of days apart: the scars in front of my ears are completely invisible and my jawline has shrunk slightly as well!

I even felt human enough to start taking pictures again… Despite having to deal with an itchy compression headwear every night and not being able to chew on hard food still, I was really excited at what is beginning to emerge. Now that 3 months has already rolled around, I can’t wait to post pictures of the final results! Stay tuned. x

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Read more about our experience here:
Part one

Part two

Part three

Part four

Part five

Part six

December 18, 2014
Arissa Ha

I can’t believe it’s about four months since my surgery with Banobagi. For those of you who have sent well wishes through comments, emails and Instagram, thank you so much. I really appreciate the concern.

The picture below was taken around three months after the surgery. It’s hard to describe but I still behave like I have a flat chest. I’d be amazed at how good I look in bikinis or low-cut tops all while forgetting that I have to buy clothes with a little more give in the chest area now.

Read more

December 1, 2014
Dawn Poh

Here it is! Finally talking about the next step of our experiences with plastic surgery and Banobagi. Remember how I promised in the previous post there would be funny pictures? Well, here they are in all their brutally honest hilarity – I can laugh at them now along with everyone else, but it was hard not to feel sorry for yourself when you felt like crap and looked like you had the most severe case of mumps known to medicine.

I remember thinking in the haze of post-surgery anaesthesia that everything would only get better from here. After all, my face felt like they were distended to their maximum capacity and couldn’t possible get any larger. Note to self: apparently swelling reaches its critical peak one to two days post operation. Note to self 2: it can and it will get bigger.

The good news is that it truly will get better from this point onwards. The bad news is that it would not be a very enjoyable ride until then. I was icing my face fanatically, hoping that it would have an impact on the rate of swelling (or deswelling, to be specific). Two ice packs come with the compliments of Banobagi, an extremely thoughtful gesture on their part since the ice packs take turn chilling in the fridge. Sleep for the first few days largely revolved around ice pack changing times. Fortunately this task was made easier with the presence of a large fridge in the kitchen area of the guest house.

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Upon arrival to the guest house, Banobagi has also thoughtfully provided us with instant porridges and soy milk. I have been unable to ingest anything besides water for the past 48 hours, so soy milk almost feel like a complete meal in exchange. Porridge was completely beyond my capabilities at this point and my only sustenance was a steady supply of soy milk and banana milk which I purchased from a convenience store right around the corner. I do believe that the other guests who did not have jaw surgery were provided with meals (which looked and smelled absolutely scrumptious). It sounds more miserable than I actually felt. My appetite was somewhat dampened and I did not really feel hungry very often.

Blood had also somehow collected under my eyes, giving the impression of rather severe eye bags. These went away after a couple of days though and did not affect me all that much. I think the most uncomfortable aspect of the whole recovery process was that I was not able to brush my teeth. I had to use antiseptic mouth washes provided by the clinic and was warned against using toothpaste until all the internal sutures have been removed.

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The days passed by rather quickly. I spent my entire stay there catching up on TV series and movies, and generally just dicking about online. Short walks interspersed this routine and helped keep cabin fever at bay.

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Banobagi is located in the Gangnam district of Seoul, and there wasn’t really much to do at night. I didn’t feel up to shopping and cafe hopping (the two major Korean pastimes, it seems) so I just wandered around the neighbourhood. I felt incredibly safe, and as mentioned no one gives you a second look even if you were all bandaged up like me. The highlight of my nightly walks is always this veterinary practice/boarding house. I just stood outside and stared at all the cute dogs like a creep.

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My favourite one in particular was this dog which always seemed so friendly and relaxed! Anyone knows what breed this may be? I thought it might have been a beagle cross but I’m not too sure. Whatever it is, it is adorable.

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Day 5 was when I was promised there would be a big change. The recovery brochure assured me that the swelling would decrease immensely once the bandages have been removed. I hadn’t even realised how tight they were until I was removing them – it was rather painstaking since they were incredibly sticky, and yanking at it really irritated the sutures in front of my ears. The removal process worked exponentially better after I have soaked the bandages in oil-based makeup remover. I believe coconut oil or even olive oil would work as well.

The bandages constricted the fluids to my face and the swelling went away incredibly quickly now that it was able to drain downwards. I found that sleeping with my head elevated really aided in the process as well.

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Now that the both of us felt better, we moved out of the guest house and checked into a hotel in the heart of Myongdong! A large part of the recovery process was really in the mind and I really felt leaps and bounds better now that I was able to get outside and do things. With a pair of sunglasses and a face mask, I could almost pass as normal (albeit with passing resemblance to Michael Jackson). I have went without washing my hair for six days now, way too long in the summer heat. You can see from the picture on the left how grotty it looked. It felt even worse. (I think my mum would have an aneurism if she found out how long I went without a wash.) I was planning to find a hair salon for the sake of convenience, but having found none with a reasonable price I took the task upon myself. Here it is looking much cleaner on the right. The right side of my face remained much more swollen and I kind of looked as if I had a stroke.

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I was finally able to ingest semi-solid food at this point as well! We treated ourselves to ginseng chicken porridge but some parts of it still remained too hard for me to eat. Smoothie King proved to be a godsend! It was rather agonising because I wish I had sampled all the street food when I still could.

Find out how it went in week 2 in the next post! I could already see a difference then, and would love to know what you think about it!


Read more about our experience here:
Part one

Part two

Part three

Part four

November 11, 2014
Dawn Poh

Have you ever gotten an item and subsequently wondered how you managed to survive without it in the first place? Few possessions have made it to this list for me – there is my iPhone, personal cloud storage device…and then there’s Leyden.

As with Aide de Camp‘s entire range of camera bags, Leyden is pure functionality jammed packed into an attractive exterior. Of all the camera bags I have carried throughout my years shooting there hasn’t been any contemporary nearly comparable in style nor quality.


My lenses and camera body are well and truly safe thanks to the dual layers of protection Aide de Camp provides in their bags. Removable camera inserts make it possible for this bag to suit my every need – regardless of whether I’m carrying a compact 40mm lens or a 70-200! My usual gear is incredibly bulky (Canon 5DMkIII with 85mm f/1.2) and up until Leyden, I have never found a suitable way of discretely porting it around. The protection and discretion are truly invaluable assets when I’m out travelling!

There are compartments for just about everything. Clearly lots of thought has went behind the creation of this bag because I have never compartmentalised my items more efficiently than I have with Leyden! Passport, SD/CF cards, flash, passport, phone…everything has their designated place in this bag. Take out the inserts and you will still be left with a multitude of pockets and zippered compartments, and best of all, a padded shoulder strap that makes carrying even the heaviest of things a breeze. It’s small wonder why I’ve hardly been using anything else… I honestly think Leyden has curbed my desire to buy myself a graduation bag because I simply don’t see this level of thought and detail even in luxury brands these days.




Every photography enthusiast I have shown this bag to were so impressed by it that we wondered why Aide de Camp hasn’t taken the world by storm…yet. I have no doubts that they will make their way to everyone’s Christmas list! 😉 I certainly want another one… (it’s Valencia, hint hint). I’m sure this would make an incredible gift for anyone who wants something gorgeous and functional to house their camera gear in! Aide de Camp will well and truly live up to its name of being your most invaluable assistant!

Shop Aide de Camp bags

October 24, 2014
Dawn Poh

Now that Arissa has talked about her experience, it is time for me to share mine as well! For those who have missed out on the previous posts, you can track our updates via this tag – we will be writing about our progress frequently, so do check back often! :)

Dealing with the the technicalities first, much of my pre-surgery guidelines were identical to Arissa’s – I was to fast for 8 hours prior to the surgery which was a breeze given that my operation was scheduled for 9AM. All I had to do was to be mindful not to drink any water before bed and after waking up.  I refrained from putting on any makeup and removed my nail polish the night before. Do not worry if you forget, however – the nail salon inside Banobagi can deal with that easily. With the overnight stay at the hospital in mind, I packed accordingly – I had comfortable clothing, an extra set of underwear, as well as my computer. I knew that I would be wearing the hospital gown for most of the stay, but I wanted something easy to slip into when I get discharged.

I had a final consultation with my surgeon, Dr. Oh, right before the surgery. This was particularly important because I had so many questions as a result of endlessly fretting about the procedure the night before. I conveyed to Dr. Oh my expectations, and he patiently listened to me and explained to me what he felt needed to be done. I was afraid that I would lose all definition in my cheekbones due to the zygomaplasty and I wanted a sharper, more V-shaped face with a slightly more prominent chin. Dr. Oh assured me that there is still going to be definition in my face with the added benefit of a narrower jawline, and I went out of the consultation feeling relieved that we shared similar views. My jitters were also put to rest because I had a better idea of what to expect during the surgery – rather than wondering endlessly and feeling apprehensive about what was going to be done to my face, it was oddly calming to know the exact procedures. For me, the fear of the unknown far outweighs my fear of surgery itself.

I changed into the hospital gown and my belongings were placed together in a duffle bag provided by the clinic. After waiting for a few minutes in a comfortable reception area, I was taken to the floor where the operating theatres were situated. Even though it was rather early in the morning, I remembered that the floor was bustling with activities and I was immediately whisked off into one of the rooms. Through Claire, our consultation/translator, the nurses explained that an IV was going to be inserted into my wrist and I would be instructed to breathe through a mask. The last thing I remembered was a strange, tingling sensation on my face before I fell unconscious.

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I took this picture whilst waiting in the reception. I wanted one last honest picture of myself so as to form a basis of comparison when everything has healed!

Also, it is quite funny to juxtapose it against these pictures, taken around 30 minutes after I was woken up from my six-hour long procedure.

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Much of my memories from this moment remains foggy (attributed more towards the effects of anaesthesia rather than the failures of my own memory, I’d like to think). Oddly, the only sensation that stood out to me was not pain as I had previously anticipated, but rather a deep sense of weariness. I felt like I have undergone the most strenuous journey in my life without actually being conscious during it. Coming off the anaesthesia was the most uncomfortable part in this segment of the journey –  breathing was laboured as my mouth was obstructed and my sinuses were clogged with surgical fluid, and the remnants of the anaesthetic gas burned the back of my throat. This was simultaneously accompanied by a throbbing headache that made it even harder to focus on anything. No water was allowed for the first hour which was not exactly what my parched throat wanted to hear, but at the same time I did not even think that drinking was possible. The surgical drain inserted into my cheeks blocked most of the oral cavity and I was unable to move my jaw. My tongue felt swollen and sluggish and my mouth was filled with the taste of old blood. When I felt slightly more functional, I sent the following picture to my parents:


The drains were inserted into my lower jaw through my cheeks to drain internal bleeding, I presume. Nurses came around twice to empty the pouch during the night. I had to change the ice pack on my face every couple of hours. The process involved a slow shuffle to the refrigerator, at which point I took the opportunity to observe the other overnight patients. Many were similarly bandaged up and none of us really managed to sleep for anything longer than half an hour at a snatch. Time really crawls by under all these discomforts, but I managed to pass most of it drifting in and out of sleep and talking to my friends and family over facebook. Skyping was out of the question unfortunately since I was unable to speak at all. All communications to the staff had to be conveyed with vague noises and gestures, which is funny in retrospect but sort of a pain at that time. I thought back to my secondary school days when my class watched a film on Helen Keller – rather than empathize with the rather touching story, the lot of us budding sociopaths proceeded to mock her inability to communicate by grunting and slamming our fists down on tables for an entire week. I briefly questioned whether this is how karma comes full circle.

Anyway, the time came for us to be discharged and for the nurses to remove the drains. I did not know what I expected (and truth be told, did not even think very much about it), but I don’t think anything would have quite prepared me for this step. Let me preface this by stating that I do not think I have a low pain tolerance – I had all my wisdom teeth removed surgically simultaneously, have had 15 stitches sewn on my big toe when I nearly severed it, and degloved part of my knee amongst other injuries that were part and parcel of a very active childhood. When the nurse failed to notice that she had not removed one of the stitches cleanly and ripped the drains out (along with bits of my flesh) however, it was the first time in my adult life that I felt tears coming as a direct result of the pain. It all passed rather quickly even though the memory of this still makes me squirm slightly.

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We were sent back to our lodgings with a course of antibiotics, ice packs, antiseptic mouthwash, as well as hydrogen peroxide to clean our stitches with. Claire kindly accompanied us to collect our medication and walked us back to our rooms, where we would remain for the next few days as we slowly regained strength. On the first day, I thought my swelling couldn’t get any worse. But the swelling only ballooned more on the second and third day and my face became so comical that my pictures sent my mum into fits of laughter. I will be posting these pictures on the next post, so do check back! x

Read more about our experience here:
Part one

Part two

Part three

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