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Bagel Heads are a type of body modification that involves injecting a saline solution into one’s forehead to create a circular bulge under the skin. The cosmetic practice reportedly began in the 1990’s, but was popularized in the 2000s by body modification enthusiast Jerome Abramovitch. A renewed interest in the procedure occured in 2012, when the National Geographic television show Taboo aired a segment showing several Japanese residents receiving bagel head saline injections.
On February 5th, 2003, body modification enthusiast Jerome Abramovitch appeared in an episode of the reality television show Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, in which he was introduced as “the man with the inflatable forehead.” In the episode, Abramovitch injected saline into his forehead to make a large spherical bulge. On July 11th, 2005, the Internet news site BoingBoing published a post titled “Man inflates forehead for art,” featuring a photograph of Abramovith (shown below). On June 16th, 2009, the alternative entertainment site BizarreMag published a post titled “Body Inflation,” which referred to the saline forehead body modifiers as “bagelheads.”
On June 29th, 2009, the entertainment blog The Frisky published a post about the practice titled “Bod Mod Trend – The Bagelheads,” reporting that the practice dates back to the 1990’s but was popularized by Abramovitch in the early 2000’s. On June 30th, the men’s interest blog Manolith published a post titled “Bagelheads – Japanese Up Their Weirdo Cred With Latest Fad,” which noted that while the inflated forehead would only last one night before deflating, the procedure could lead to a variety of side effects, including headache, infection and stretched skin.
2011 Vice Interview
On June 17th, 2011, the alternative culture blog Vice published an interview with photographer and journalist Ryoichi Maeda, who brought the saline forehead injection procedure to Japan. In the interview, Maeda revealed that he first learned about the saline injections from Jerome Abramovitch at the 1999 Modcon body modification conference. In 2003, he was injected with saline with Abramovitch, who then gave him permission to bring the procedure to Japan.
On August 7th, the pop culture blog Oh No They Didn’t published a post titled “Japanese Bagel Heads Are Here!” Interest in the bagel head body modification saw a significant resurgence after National Geographic aired the Taboo episode “Extreme Bodies” on September 23rd, 2012, which featured a segment on bagel heads (shown below).
On the following day, the women’s interest blog Jezebel published a post titled “The Latest Beauty Trend: Bagel Head,” which included a summary of the Taboo episode. On September 25th, The Daily Mail published an article about the episode titled “Could The Bizarre ‘Bagel Head’ Look Be Japan’s Most Extreme Beauty Trend Yet?” The same day, the viral content site BuzzFeed posted a YouTube clip of the Taboo episode. On September 26th, The Huffington Post published an article titled “‘Bagel Head; Saline Forehead Injections: Japan’s Hot New Beauty Trend.” On the following day, the procedure was covered by The Week, the tech blog Mashable, the Vancouver Observer, Geekologie and a compilation of bagel head photos were published on BuzzFeed.
On September 29th, the Japan Times’ blog Japan Pulse published an article titled “Bagel Head Trend is a Big Distortion,” reporting that the practice was called “seerin durippu” in Japan (“saline drip” in English), but was too expensive to be considered a significant trend. The article also cited quotes from an interview with Japanese subculture blogger and TV host La Carmina, who made a significant contribution to the National Geographic’s Taboo episode but expressed skepticism towards its prevalence in Japan, as perceived by the Western news media.
“It is not a trend even among the most hardcore body modification types,” she said. “It’s expensive. It takes specialized equipment. Most Japanese people don’t even know about it.”
The same day, the entertainment blog MStarz reported that many Japanese residents had never heard of the bagel head trend.
The Huffington Post – Bagel Heads Saline Forehead Injections – Japans New Hot Beauty Trend