Light cosmetic procedures a cut above for young people
Right after her college entrance exam, 18-year-old Deng Lin (pseudonym) underwent a "double eyelid" surgery, which creates an eyelid crease that makes them appear larger.
Like many Chinese high school graduates, Deng wants to start college with a better look. As demand surges for such procedures, the summer vacation becomes a peak season for aesthetic surgeries.
Yang Lu, head nurse at CRT aesthetic medicine hospital in north China's Tianjin Municipality, said the hospital receives dozens of graduates per week at the busiest time, and the double eyelid surgery is the most in demand.
"These operations have been popular in China for many years with mature techniques and offer a significant boost to appearance," said Yang, adding that one needs to wait for up to more than two weeks for these procedures in her hospital.
Their popularity is an indication of the changing attitudes toward cosmetic surgery in China. A 2020 report by the Chinese Association of Plastics and Aesthetics showed the scale of the Chinese plastic surgery market is expected to reach 300 billion yuan (46.25 billion U.S. dollars) in 2022.
Fueling this trend is the popularity of what some industry insiders call "light cosmetic procedures" -- those that are minimally or non-invasive such as cosmetic injections or laser treatment.
According to Yang, these procedures offer a more convenient, relatively safer, and cheaper alternative compared to traditional surgeries, which are often riskier and involve a longer recovery time.
"Aesthetic procedures have become as common as skincare," said Wang Yuan, 27, employed in the financial sector in Beijing. "I can have a botox injection in as little time as it takes to finish a meal, with little discomfort."
Compared to facelift surgeries that may take two to three months for recovery, the injection is a much more convenient alternative for young white-collar workers like Wang.
The cost, which is around 3,000 yuan per injection, is also less than that for a full operation.
A 2020 report by the cosmetic surgery branch of Chinese tech giant Meituan showed young people like Wang constitute the major consumer base for aesthetic medicine, with over 78 percent users aged between 20 and 30.
There is a strong demand for anti-aging procedures among these customers, with orders in this category surging 88 percent at the June 18 shopping promotion in 2020 from the same time in 2019.
In the past, many people pursued a more radical change to their appearance with plastic surgery, but now they are more inclined to have injections or minor fixes that add to their original beauty, Yang said.
"People have become more rational," she added.
Despite this, some experts have warned of the risks that accompany these procedures.
"Even the smallest surgery causes wounds and wounds bring risks," said Li Hongwei, a doctor with the Hospital Affiliated to Nankai University in Tianjin. "People need to understand that from a medical point of view any surgery leaves marks on the body."
Consumers need to find qualified institutions and doctors for conducting these procedures, he warned.
The Chinese government issued a circular calling for stricter regulation of the country's beauty surgery industry in April last year, requiring strict approval and management of qualifications and licenses as well as intensifying random inspections.
"Consumers should always get a clear idea of the risks from the doctors beforehand," Li said.