The bagel head look, which is characterized by a large section of ballooned forehead skin with a thumb indentation, is the latest in the Japanese underground world of body modification, according to “Taboo,” a television feature from National Geographic.
To obtain the bagel head look, approximately 400 cc’s of saline solution is injected under the skin through a needle and intravenous line. Two hours later after the liquid slowly inflates the skin, the needle is removed and a thumbprint is made in the center of the puffy area, creating the look of a bagel.
In a 2009 interview by Vice with the bagel head innovator, Ryoichi “Keroppy” Maeda, the body modification artist explained the bagel head look and other forms of physical modification are about individuality.
“Well, you know, people who like extreme body modification want to find their own way of doing things, and they’re always looking for new ways to do that,” Maeda explained to Vice.
“The more progressive the scene gets, the more these people have to experiment and go their own way.” He added that the injections, which last approximately 16 to 20 hours, can be done anywhere on the body—including the scrotum.
At the time of the interview, Maeda claimed no reports of skin sagging had been reported as a side-effect of frequent saline injections.
But are there possible health side effects to the bagel head body modification trend? While no human scientific studies have been done on this particular form of body modification, the injection of saline under the skin is not a new concept.
Veterinarians have been using subcutaneous fluid (SQ) injections for decades as a way to provide hydration to sick animals, and the process is occasionally used in human medicine when traditional hydration therapies are inadequate.
Though no major reports have been made regarding the safety of the bagel head trend, side effects of chronic subcutaneous fluid injection does exist.
A NHS nursing guidebook indicates the following complications can occur as a result of SQ fluid therapy:
- Localized infection from frequent needle use
- Prolonged fluid retention in the tissue, often with a “pitted” appearance
- Redness of the skin caused by irritated capillaries near the surface
In dogs and cats, chronic SQ fluid injections can lead to hypersensitivity in the area of administration, and if care is not taken to avoid air in the intravenous administration line, a condition called subcutaneous crepitus can occur. This is when air trapped under the skin creates a “crackling” sensation.
People looking to participate in the new trend of body modification should seek assistance from a qualified professional.
Because needles are involved, the same care should be taken in regards to sanitation and sterilization as with any other form of piercing or tattooing.