Is the “bagel head” body modification dangerous? Probably not, but it will freak you out.

By Seriously Science | October 22, 2013 9:00 am
Figure 2. Bagel head. Image courtesy of La Carmina (

Figure 2. Bagel head. Image courtesy of La Carmina (

Last year, the internet went wild over the “bagel head” body modification that was apparently popular in Tokyo. As it takes a while for science to catch up (thanks, in part, to peer review!), the first research article about the “bagel head” was just recently published. Along with using some of the original pictures that went viral (the photographer collaborated with the authors), this paper discusses possible complications that may arise. Apparently, it’s not really likely to cause any health problems at all — except for queasy feeling you might get from watching the YouTube video after the jump!

The “bagel head” cosmetic modification: myths and medical complications for dermatologists to consider.

“On September 23, 2012, the television program Taboo on the National Geographic Channel featured individuals in Tokyo undergoing the “bagel head” cosmetic modification. Dermatologists may encounter patients who undergo the bagel head procedure and subsequently present with a cutaneous infection. The purpose of this article is to delineate the bagel head procedure, note responses to sensationalist claims made by the media about this procedure, and discuss potential medical complications from this procedure. Specialists and primary care physicians who encounter reports of a specific extreme body modification for the first time should review discussions of the modification by its critics and advocates in order to assess potential medical complications from the procedure more accurately.”

Bonus quote from the full text:

“The procedure takes two hours, but the desired welt may take one hour to form. As the saline is infused, the client may experience a stinging sensation and the feeling of liquid trickling along the head and face or headache. As the saline infusion nears completion, the client may become somnolent. Four hundred milliliters of saline are ultimately infused into the person’s forehead to create the welt into which the certified “piercer” overseeing the procedure presses his thumb to create an indent and thereby cause the welt to look like a bagel.

Bagel head procedure. Image courtesy of La Carmina (

Bagel head procedure. Image courtesy of La Carmina (

The episode of Taboo that featured the bagel head procedure has sparked more discussion about the procedure among various media outlets. The sensationalism of this media coverage has misinformed individuals about the procedure. The company of La Carmina, who is a television host and blogger on fashion, was involved in the production of the aforementioned episode and has expertise with the bagel head procedure. La Carmina makes three arguments to counter erroneous reports about the bagel head procedure. First, the procedure is rarely performed and not a trend among the Japanese. Maeda is cited as saying that he has performed about 10 forehead saline infusions per year since 2007. However, there are likely other persons who provide this service. Second, the procedure is not permanent, as the saline is absorbed or urinated out in 6 to 24 hours. To note, Abraham writes that the welt is present for at least 16 hours. Third, precautions are taken so that the procedure is not dangerous. This protocol involves the performance of the procedure by a certified piercer only when the clients are well rested and sober, and with the use of a sterile saline drip, gloves, and face masks.”


And if images aren’t enough, here’s a video of the procedure:

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Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
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