A 28-year-old Chinese woman is now paying the price for undergoing a backstreet plastic surgery to plump up her cheeks, which has left her face disfigured and full of hydrophilic polyacrylamide gel, an illegal toxin.

When Xiao Lian was 17, her boss at the shop at which she worked told her that her thin face made her look like a pauper. This, coupled with her own insecurities about her appearance, made her search for procedures that would inject “plumpness” into her face.

According to Guilin Life News, her boss had told her, “Your face is so thin, you look like a pauper and it is not conducive to the welcoming of riches.”

Xiao turned to a cheap clinic as she could not afford the cost of others, but the one she chose turned out to be operating without a license. Over the course of a month, the seemingly legitimate doctor injected the gel into her face ten times. It initially improved her cheeks, and she was content with the result.

Years later, however, Xiao began noticing disfiguration in her facial features, and by 2013 her face had completely swollen; her eyes began drooping and her hair began to fall out. Doctors identified that Xiao had been injected with hydrophilic polyacrylamide gel (PAAG) – a substance that had been used in the past for breast augmentation but is currently banned for use in plastic surgery in China – and now have her undergoing corrective surgery.

Hydrophilic polyacrylamide gel was known to cause complications after breast augmentation, including inflammation, mastodynia (breast pain), and the spread of the gel into surrounding tissue. Over 300,000 Chinese women were injected with the gel over a 5 year period, according to the AFP, with many of them going to the hospital with pain and complications, asking to have the injection removed.