China's Generation Z joins cosmetic surgery craze

Lin is among a growing number of Generation Z-ers who are seeking cosmetic surgery in the hope that it will tip the scales in their favor in school, workplace and their love lives.

Less than a month after taking the national college entrance exam, 17-year-old high school graduate Lin Li said on social networking platform Xiaohongshu that she wanted to get a nose job and a double eyelid surgery before entering college.

The post garnered more than 1,000 replies in just two weeks -- some recommended plastic surgery clinics, while others suggested that she should resort to makeup skills instead of going under the knife at such an early age.

Lin is among a growing number of Generation Z-ers who are seeking cosmetic surgery in the hope that it will tip the scales in their favor in school, workplace and their love lives.

According to a report released by So-Young, a NASDAQ-listed Chinese online plastic surgery marketplace, the number of medical aesthetic consumers in China reached 20 million by the end of 2018. Among the people who booked cosmetic treatments on So-Young, 64 percent were born after 1990 and 19 percent are post-millennials.

In a bustling shopping center in downtown Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province, many plastic surgery institutions have set up counters to promote all kinds of cosmetic procedures ranging from facelifts to Botox injections.

A consultant surnamed Ding, who is in charge of a counter, said she had received many high school graduates in the past month who inquired about medical aesthetic services.

"The summer vacation 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 said.

"The most popular procedures include blackhead removal, pore-minimizing treatment, canthoplasty and double eyelid surgery," she added.

Wan Neng, vice director of plastic surgery at Huaian First People's Hospital, said the hospital's peak season for cosmetic surgery usually comes in August as many young students, accompanied by their parents, flock to the hospital to consult about procedures.

Wan said the boom of China's medical aesthetic market is fueled by "rising incomes, the influence of celebrities and people's growing desire to look good."

He added that Chinese parents have become increasingly open-minded about their children getting a helping hand in the looks department, which has helped unleash 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 parents deem it as a way to increase self-confidence, thus respecting and supporting their children's own decisions," Wan said.

Growing concerns

Amid the rising plastic trend, experts have pointed out the risks of cosmetic surgery.

Li Qian, a senior doctor from Nanjing Maternity and Child Health Care Hospital, said plastic surgery has very strict technical requirements, which have been overlooked by some people who attach more importance to looks than health.

Despite tightened regulation, unlicensed doctors and clinics, shoddy operations and exaggerated advertisements also pose major threats to the country's beauty-loving youths.

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 mulling building an evaluation and management system of 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 said.

They should think carefully rather than blindly following the trend, she added. 

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