China's plastic surgery industry preys on young people's 'appearance anxiety'
China’s plastic surgery industry preys on young people’s ‘appearance anxiety’
Published: Aug 31, 2021 07:33 PM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Violet (pseudonym), a 26-year-old English teacher at a high school in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, recently went to a cosmetic surgery clinic after feeling pressure by her colleagues and even her students, many of whom have become addicted to undergoing plastic surgery in the pursuit of a prettier face or figure.

"As a young woman, living in Chongqing and Chengdu [the capital city of Southwest China's Sichuan Province] is as stressful as there are so many people with beautiful faces who like internet influencers walking down the street. No wonder I am always single as I am not attractive in my appearance," Violet told the Global Times in a pessimistic tone, admitting that she has a serious problem with "appearance anxiety."

She said that every year after taking the national college entrance examinations, a certain number of her female students will always undergo "double eyelid" surgery to make their eyes appear bigger, and that most of her female colleagues have become "regular visitors" of many cosmetic beauty clinics.

"I admit that a person with a pretty face and a fit figure can have better opportunities finding jobs or seeking help from others," she said. 

The Chinese medical beauty industry has boomed over the past decade. According to a research report on the medical beauty industry issued by CITIC Securities in July, the market value of China's medical beauty industry is expected to reach 1.3 trillion yuan ($201 billion) by 2030.

However, seduced by the opportunity to turn a hefty profit, a large number of so-called "beauty care institutions" actually operate illegally. Statistics show that in 2019, there were about 13,000 qualified medical cosmetology institutions in China, 15 percent of which carry out surgeries they are not licensed to do, while the number of unlicensed medical cosmetology institutions outnumbers those with license, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday. 

Many young people, including high-school students, have become the targets of these institutions during the summer holiday. They take out eye-catching ads claiming they are selling "medical beauty products worth several hundred yuan or even thousands of yuan at ultra-low prices" on social media to entice young Chinese, according to Xinhua.

Deng Liqiang, director of the China Health Law Society and an expert in plastic surgery, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the prosperity experienced by the beauty care industry is highly related to the social problem of "appearance anxiety," and that this problem has been rampant, especially among the young generations. 

"I have seen a 16-year-old girl go to a clinic for breast augmentation surgery," said Deng.

"The young trend in the cosmetic surgery field will continue distorting the values of younger generations if the authorities do not conduct a strict crackdown," he added.

The State Administration for Market Regulation on Saturday issued a draft on its official WeChat account containing guidelines for the enforcement of medical beauty advertising, noting that it plans to ban medical beauty advertisements that prey on people's "appearance anxiety."