A "higher standard of beauty" — read: "the leggy, skinny, busty Western ideal that has become increasingly universal" — is leading to a dangerous plastic surgery boom in China.
Since it became legal in the 80s, cosmetic surgery has boomed in China at an alarming rate. Although China ranks third in the world (behind the United States and Brazil) in number of surgeries performed annually, that statistic doesn't take into account the huge number of unregulated procedures performed by unlicensed surgeons or in "beauty shops."
The results are often disastrous. In China alone, over 200,000 lawsuits were filed in the past decade against cosmetic surgery practitioners, according to the China Quality Daily, an official consumer protection newspaper. The dangers are greatest in places like Shenzhen that specialize in cut-price procedures. "Any Tom, Dick or Harry with a piece of paper-genuine or not-can practice over there," says Dr. Philip Hsieh, a Hong Kong-based plastic surgeon. "They use things that have not been approved, just for a quick buck. And people in China don't know that they're subjecting themselves to this kind of risk."
Depressingly, a large number of the operations performed are on women in their 20s, and the most popular procedure, says the Washington Post, is "eyelid slicing - to make Western-style double-lidded eyes." One surgeon quoted in the piece describes this as the result of "a higher standard of beauty;" another young woman, Wang, now addicted to surgery, explains that her quest started because she "wanted to make my eyes more beautiful." Beauty, in this case, would seem to translate to "Western beauty." Says Time, "Asians are increasingly asking their surgeons for wider eyes, longer noses and fuller breasts-features not typical of the race." And this takes its toll.
Wang, now 28, estimates she has had between 170 to 180 different operations, usually six or seven at a time, and on "nearly every part of my body." She had her eyes widened. She had her nose and jaw made narrower, and her chin shaped smaller. Her breasts were enhanced, but "I had to keep having operations to repair them." She had the fat taken out of her hips, thighs, stomach and backside. She even had implants put into her heels to try to make her taller; it didn't work.
This could be the description of any surgery addict anywhere in the world — and that's part of the problem. The western ideal is going global, and the search for "perfection" is particularly distressing when it involves such essential denial of one's appearance — and culture. That this desire is leading to dangerous back-alley operations is, one would think, a clear cry for regulation. But we're not holding our breath.
As China's Obsession With Plastic Surgery Grows, So Too Do The Pitfalls [Washington Post]
Changing Faces [Time]
[Image via Shutterstock]