Less than a month after taking the national college entrance exam, Lin Li, a 17-year-old high school graduate in Nanjing, eastern China, said on a social networking platform that she wanted to get a nose job and double eyelid surgery before entering college.
The post on Xiaohongshu garnered more than 1,000 replies in just two weeks – some recommended plastic surgery clinics, while others suggested that she should use make-up instead of going under the knife at such an early age.
Lin is among a growing number of Generation Z students who are seeking cosmetic surgery in the hope that it will tip the scales in their favour in school, at work and in their love lives, according to Xinhua, China’s state news agency.
A report released by So-Young, a Nasdaq-listed Chinese online plastic surgery marketplace, shows the number of people undergoing cosmetic surgery in China reached 20 million by the end of 2018. Among the people who booked treatments on So-Young, 64 per cent were born after 1990 and 19 per cent are post-millennials (generally defined as those born after the mid-1990s).
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“The summer holiday before college is a good time for prospective college students to get plastic surgery because they have enough time to recover and prepare for university life,” Ding says.
“The most popular procedures include blackhead removal, pore minimising treatment, eyelid and double eyelid surgery,” she says.
Wan Neng, vice director of plastic surgery at Huaian First People’s Hospital, says the hospital’s peak season for cosmetic surgery usually starts in August as many young students, accompanied by their parents, flock to the hospital.
Wan says the boom in China’s cosmetic surgery market is fuelled by “rising incomes, the influence of celebrities and people’s growing desire to look good”.
He says Chinese parents have become increasingly open-minded about their children getting a helping hand in the looks department, which has increased Generation Z’s demand for cosmetic surgery.
In China, children under 18 are required by law to obtain consent from their parents before undergoing plastic surgery.
“Plastic surgery is no longer a taboo for a growing number of Chinese parents. Many consider it a way to increase self-confidence, and a way of respecting and supporting their children’s decisions,” Wan says.
Li Qian, a senior doctor from Nanjing Maternity and Child Health Care Hospital, says plastic surgery has very strict technical requirements, which have been overlooked by those who attach more importance to looks than health.
Despite tightened regulation, unlicensed doctors and clinics, shoddy operations and exaggerated advertisements pose major threats to the country’s beauty-loving young people.
The most popular procedures include blackhead removal, pore minimising treatment, eyelid and double eyelid surgery
Ding, cosmetic surgery consultant in China
According to the National Health Commission, a total of 2,772 cases related to illegal plastic surgery were handled by China’s health departments during a year-long crackdown that started in May 2017.
In light of the irregularities, the commission is considering building an evaluation and management system for plastic surgeons, which will publicly blacklist shoddy operators.
Some experts have also questioned the necessity of plastic surgery itself.
“Young people should learn to prove their self-worth through hard work and understand that beauty comes from both within and without,” Li says.
They should think carefully rather than blindly following the trend, she adds.