SHANGHAI: Armed with photos of famous stars, ever younger people are undergoing plastic surgery.
Many teenagers and children are not satisfied with just trendy clothing or hair dyes any more. At the same time, the new generation no longer goes by the idea that the natural skin and hair colour given to the child by the parents is sacrosanct.
Many, for whom money is not an issue, are turning to plastic beauty.
While surgery is still a personal matter, media have started calling on people to rethink aesthetic values, pointing to the increasing number of procedures.
Sensational cases reported by xinhua.net include children not old enough to go to school.
In one instance, a six-year-old child asked for double eyelids. Another mother insisted a doctor plant two dimples in her three-year-old daughter to cultivate her sense of being a "model."
Xiong Xiangfeng, vice-president of Shanghai Ren'ai Hospital did not give out details on the cases. However, the hospital is advertising three plastic surgeons from the Republic of Korea it has under contract.
Xiong did say more and more teenagers go to the hospital, usually with their parents, seeking the services of one of these plastic surgeons. Most ask for double eyelids or a higher nose bridge.
Following conventions of the beauty industry, plastic surgeons refuse people below 18 without obvious physical defects.
"The media should not focus on the age problem because every case is unique and age is merely a relevant indicator in judging the necessity of an operation," said Li Qingfeng, a well-known plastic surgeon and standing deputy director of the cosmetic surgery division at the Ninth People's Hospital - one of China's most authoritative plastic surgery hospitals.
Li personally doubted the authenticity of these two reported cases because he did not think any normal parents would do this.
He did say, however, that children with deformities should go through operations as quickly as possible to better integrate into society.
Li has planted noses for many children, most from remote areas of the country, whose noses were bitten off by rats.
"If only they were rich enough to have the procedure before they are old enough to be aware of the defect," Li said, emotionally.
More than 100 operations are done in the hospital every day, he said. About one-third of the patients are students who want to become more confident and improve their chances of getting a good job.
"Possibly more than 90 per cent of us, including me, want some change in our faces to be more beautiful or more presentable, if the technology is reliable and affordable," said Sun Shijin, director of the Psychology Research Centre of Fudan University.
As economic conditions improve, more people can afford to worry about their looks.
"It is a process for people to learn that beauty comes from within and it is not just skin deep," Sun said.
Sun also said that when the industry is hot, it is necessary to develop the technology and legislation.