Not so fresh-faced

Concerns about cosmetic craze among teens


About half of the East Asian population is said to have ‘double eyelids’, or a naturally occurring crease of the skin over the eyes. So when the Beijing News visited a high school in Chengdu recently it was surprised to find that almost all the students had the feature.

It turned out that many of them had gone under the knife to achieve the look, local doctors said.

Blepharoplasty surgery puts a crease in the eyelid to make the eye look bigger. Other popular cosmetic procedures are nose thinning and jaw shaving. And it isn’t just the girls that are paying for treatment – boys are having work done in similar numbers.

“Other children have done it, so I can’t let my children fall behind, or they will suffer in the future,” one parent told Beijing News.

Cosmetic surgery is booming for the under-nineteens. Pressure from social media is certainly a factor, with the proliferation of looks-enhancing photo apps like Meitu. Indeed, earlier this month a commentary writer for China Youth Daily even argued that it is difficult for many Chinese to accept faces that haven’t been touched up or cleared of blemishes because of the prevalence of photo-editing apps.

Another influence is music and TV shows from South Korea, which tend to promote a distinctive look of paler skin, thinner noses, double fold eyelids and defined jawlines.

Of course, much of that is delivered by the surgeons: South Korea still has the highest rate of cosmetic surgery per capita, with at least a third of women between 19 and 29 having some form of plastic surgery, according to most estimates.

Added to all of that is that most Chinese still only have one child whom they want to marry ‘well’. “Looks count for a lot when it comes to finding a match. And Chinese ideas of beauty are very fixed,” a woman with a teenage daughter told WiC.

SoYoung, a plastic surgery app, puts the growth in treatments at 40% per annum and Gengmei, another app, calculates that the Chinese spent $73.4 billion on cosmetic enhancements in 2018 alone, a figure that includes cosmetic dental work and eyesight correction.

By some counts the market is already bigger than the official number one, America, although there the patients tend to be older.

That is adding to concerns that too many parents are indulging their children’s pleas for surgery rather than resisting them.

Wang Jiajuan, a delegate to the National People’s Congress from Liaoning, has proposed a legislative amendment to prevent children from having elective treatment.

“Children’s bodies are still growing… Moreover, they still don’t have a developed aesthetic sense and they may go for surgery they regret later,” she told the Legal Daily.

The state media outlets are supportive. “For example, a guardian took the child to cut the double eyelids, but the child was fine with his single eyelids. How should the child defend his rights? The unnecessary surgery is essentially depriving the child of the right to choose his own beauty,” was the Legal Daily’s verdict.

The industry also needs improved regulation. Unlicensed practitioners outnumber legal ones by as much as 10 to one in some cities, according to Gengmei, and there are as many as 40,000 botched surgeries a year.

Earlier this month a 23 year-old iumped from a building in Anhui after having nose surgery she was unhappy with. Earlier this year a 19 year-old died on the operating table in Guangxi during a rhinoplasty.

Doctors warn that procedures to produce double eyelids can leave patients with permanently dry eyes if nerves and blood vessels are damaged.

In the entertainment world there are signs of a backlash against the trend. Movie directors Zhang Yimou and Feng Xiaogang have said they won’t cast actors who have had cosmetic treatment and another signal that things could be starting to change is one of the newest buzz words on social media – noble face or gaojilian. This is the opposite of the doe-eyed, v-shaped face personified by stars like Fan Bingbing. Fans of the fresh-faced approach say it is characterised by less make-up and points to an inner confidence about imperfect looks.

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