Plastic Surgery Booms In China

In China, plastic surgery shows you've made it. And more and more people are making it.

Says the New York Times of the dramatic uptick in surgeries, that puts China behind only the scalpel-happy U.S. and Brazil,

The breathtaking pace of transformation for upwardly mobile Chinese - from bicycles to cars, village to city, housebound holidays to ski vacations - now extends to faces. In just a decade, cosmetic and plastic surgery has become the fourth most popular way to spend discretionary income in China, according to Ma Xiaowei, China's vice health minister. Only houses, cars and travel rank higher, he said.

Most of the patients are young — some as young as middle-school — and the surgeries, most often, fall into one of two categories.


The No. 1 operation is designed to make eyes appear larger by adding a crease in the eyelid, forming what is called a double eyelid, said Zhao Zhenmin, secretary general of the government-run Chinese Association of Plastics and Aesthetics. The second most popular operation raises the bridge of the nose to make it more prominent - the opposite of the typical nose job in the West. Third is the reshaping of the jaw to make it narrower and longer, he said.

People say this will "enhance their job prospects." This surgery mania is not confined to China; as Time observed,

In the past, Asia had lagged behind the West in catching the plastic surgery wave, held back by cultural hang-ups, arrested medical skills and a poorer consumer base. But cosmetic surgery is now booming throughout Asia like never before. In Taiwan, a million procedures were performed last year, double the number from five years ago. In Korea, surgeons estimate that at least one in 10 adults have received some form of surgical upgrade and even tots have their eyelids done. The government of Thailand has taken to hawking plastic surgery tours. In Japan, noninvasive procedures dubbed "petite surgery" have set off such a rage that top clinics are raking in $100 million a year.

But no increase has been more dramatic than China's. The change in attitude is no accident; back in 2003, one celebrity talked openly to CNN about becoming the "face" of the hospital which had performed her 12 surgeries. But the PR may have worked too well — because now it's not just hospitals offering the procedures. With the boom, of course, have come the charlatans: beauty salons and other unlicensed practitioners offering unregulated surgeries. The government can't keep up — and maybe isn't trying hard enough to. But for some, the practical concerns are matched by the philosophical. Writes blogger Christina Chew,

I first heard about such surgery from a Korean American friend in the early 1990s. She called the result "Thumper eyes," after the big-eyed bunny pal of Bambi's in the Disney movie. I'm Chinese American and my friend and I, and other Asian Americans, have seen such surgery as a sign that Asian women are trying, at whatever cost, to conform to Western ideals of beauty.

"It's no big deal," observes one woman to the Times. Maybe that's the problem.

Changing Faces [Time]
For Many Chinese, New Wealth And Fresh Face [NY Times]