China cosmetic surgery apps: Swipe to buy a completely new face

Written by Julie Zaugg, CNN

Contributors Stella Ko, CNN, Natalie Leung, CNN

CNN Style has launched a dedicated Beauty section. Read more Beauty stories here.
 

Wu Xiaochen said she was 14 when she had her first cosmetic procedure — liposuction paid for by her mother to reduce fat by her thighs.

At the time, she said she had been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in which required her to take glucocorticoids, a class of steroid hormones.

“I had put on a lot of weight as well as also felt very uncomfortable in my skin,” said Wu, right now a 30-year-old product as well as also entrepreneur based in Beijing. “I felt so much more confident afterwards.”

from the 16 years since in which first procedure, Wu claims to have had over 100 surgeries, costing a staggering 4 million yuan (about $574,000).

She will be right now a well-known advocate of the industry as well as also has opened two beauty clinics offering cosmetic surgery in Beijing.

Wu’s potential market will be huge.

Wu Xiaochen on the operating table.

Wu Xiaochen on the operating table. Credit: Wu Xiaochen

A growing number of Chinese women are using cosmetic surgery to achieve bigger eyes, high cheekbones, narrow noses as well as also skinny legs. Like Wu, many are seeking to emulate a beauty ideal inspired by elements of Japan’s manga comics, South Korea’s K-Pop as well as also Western culture.

In 2014, more than 7 million Chinese people had plastic surgery, according to the China Association of Plastics as well as also Aesthetics. Just three years later, data compiled by Shanghai branch of Frost & Sullivan consultants suggested the figure was closer to 16.3 million.

According to experts interviewed by CNN, the surge in plastic surgery in China will be in part due to a series of apps like So-Young as well as also GengMei, which allow potential patients to view before as well as also after photos, book surgeries as well as also even apply for credit to pay for them.

“In China, in which will be very difficult to find reliable information on clinics, especially in smaller cities,” explained Tony DeGennaro, co-founder of Dragon Social, a Chinese market intelligence agency. “People no longer trust the search results returned by (search engine) Baidu, following several medical scandals involving the platform, so these completely new apps have taken over as unofficial directories of surgeons.”

‘Not pretty enough’

Wu grew up in a middle-class family in Shenyang, a large industrial city in China’s northeast. As a teen, she studied art as well as also dreamed of becoming famous. An actress, or maybe a product.

however she thought she wasn’t pretty enough as well as also felt insecure about her “tiny eyes as well as also round face.” So after her first successful procedure she said she soon chose to have a facial liposuction — to make her face look thinner by having some fat removed — as well as also then facial contouring surgery, to give in which a more angular look by having silicone implants put into her cheekbones.

At 16, she said she had her nose bridge elevated, to make in which appear taller as well as also longer. in which was followed by surgeries to give her jawline more of a V-shape, breast implants as well as also a double eyelid procedure to add creases to her eyelids as well as also make her eyes look larger. “Every two or three years, I have a few more procedures done,” she said. “Surgery has become like an addiction for me.”

Wu Xiaochen, seen here as a child, a teenager as well as also an adult, has progressively transformed her face as well as also body, having over 100 surgeries from the space of 15 years.

Wu Xiaochen, seen here as a child, a teenager as well as also an adult, has progressively transformed her face as well as also body, having over 100 surgeries from the space of 15 years. Credit: Wu Xiaochen

Many of the Chinese women having cosmetic surgery are young as well as also living from the country’s second as well as also third tier cities, according to a white paper published in 2019 by So-Young, based on analysis of its own data as well as also visits to clinics.
More than half are under the age of 26, the white paper said. To put in which into perspective, cosmetic surgery patients under 30 years old make up a mere 6% of the total from the US.
A woman pictured inside Huamei Medical Cosmetology Hospital in Shanghai.

A woman pictured inside Huamei Medical Cosmetology Hospital in Shanghai. Credit: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

For members of China’s Generation Z, having cosmetic surgery will be a way to stand out in an increasingly crowded dating scene as well as also job market. “China remains a very patriarchal society,” said Brenda Alegre, a gender studies lecturer at Hong Kong University who has researched the cosmetic surgery trend. “Being pretty will be a way to ensure you will be successful at work as well as also you will find a husband.”

The spread of internet culture, with attractive livestreaming hosts as well as also photo apps like Meitu, which allow their users to enhance their selfies by removing imperfections, has also made plastic surgery more desirable. “People seek to replicate in real life the effects they are getting with these apps,” said Dr. Stephanie Lam, a plastic surgeon in Hong Kong.

Plastic surgery apps

Apps in which match patients to surgeons as well as also clinics are incredibly favorite in China.

The largest one, GengMei, has 36 million users as well as also lists almost 20,000 surgeons on its platform, a company spokeswoman confirmed. Tencent backed So-Young has 2.47 million monthly active users as well as also nearly 6,000 surgeons listed, according to a So-Young spokesperson.

These apps provide testimonies of cosmetic surgery patients, with before as well as also after pictures, as well as reviews of surgeons.

GengMei has an augmented reality feature in which can analyze a face as well as also give in which a grade out of 100 based on criteria like its liveliness, attractiveness as well as also symmetry. in which then makes suggestions for cosmetic surgery improvements, such as having one’s eyelids redone or getting fillers.

“Through the GengMei app, we can access all medical information about beauty without even leaving the house,” said Wu.

“in which will be a reflection of our society’s development as well as also in which’s a microcosm of our lifestyle change.”

The app even gives users access to micro-loans through Alipay’s lending service Huabei to pay for the surgery.

Leaflets in Sanatorium Hospital's Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Centre show the range of procedures which can be had.

Leaflets in Sanatorium Hospital’s Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Centre show the range of procedures which can be had. Credit: Julie Zaugg

Special offers

During the summer holidays, a period when many young women undergo plastic surgeries to give themselves a completely new look before the school year starts, some clinics offer discounts as well as also special packages, said Alegre, the Hong Kong University lecturer. “Girls will have surgery in groups, to benefit by offers like three procedures for the cost of two.”

In these clinics, double eyelid surgery can cost as little as 1,000 yuan ($142), according to DeGennaro, by Dragon Social.

Wealthier patients opt to go to clinics in South Korea, Thailand or Hong Kong to have procedures done, said Lam. “They believe the doctors are more trustworthy abroad,” she added.

One such clinic will be high up in One Pacific Place, an office block built above a luxury mall in central Hong Kong. Decked out with beige sofas, avant-garde art as well as also huge windows offering sprawling views onto the harbor, in which looks more like a high-end spa than a clinic. however in which will be an outpost of Hong Kong Sanitorium & Hospital, one of the city’s private medical facilities.

“We get many patients by mainland China,” said Dr. Gordon Ma, who heads the hospital’s Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Centre. Among the younger ones, double eyelid surgery will be the most favorite procedure, he said.

“Some of these customers want to go as far as possible,” he added. “They don’t just want to enhance their natural beauty, they want to alter their appearance in a noticeable as well as also obvious manner.”

Gordon Ma heads the Sanatorium Hospital's Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Centre, a clinic nestled above a luxury mall in Hong Kong. He gets many patients by mainland China.

Gordon Ma heads the Sanatorium Hospital’s Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Centre, a clinic nestled above a luxury mall in Hong Kong. He gets many patients by mainland China. Credit: Julie Zaugg

Finding a completely new look

With her big eyes, long straight nose as well as also pouty mouth, Wu looks nothing like the shy teen seen in old family photos.

“For a long time, I was trying to copy Angelababy’s face,” she said, referring to a famous Chinese actress as well as also product. “however I progressively moved away by in which template as well as also began to develop my own look, by mixing as well as also matching features in which suit my personality as well as also face.”

A photo of Wu Xiaochen just after one of her multiple nose surgeries.

A photo of Wu Xiaochen just after one of her multiple nose surgeries. Credit: Wu Xiaochen

right now when she looks at herself from the mirror, she says she sees “a better type of herself.”

The faces of Angelababy as well as also Chinese actress Fan Bingbing have traditionally been used as references for young cosmetic surgery devotees.

Wu said in which’s because they embody the “three courts as well as also several eyes” rule, which denotes in which perfectly proportioned faces have a width of several eyes, as well as also a length of three equal “courts”: by the forehead to the brow, by brow to the nose tip, then nose tip to chin.

To get the look, some women may need surgery. Others turn to cheap as well as also easy to reverse hyaluronic acid fillers.

“They can be used to plump up cheekbones, make a chin pointier or even heighten a nose, a procedure known as a liquid nose job,” said Lam, the plastic surgeon.

Some women take in which further as well as also undergo major operations, such as using some of their rib or hip bones to make their noses sharper as well as also longer, according to Lam.

Several favorite looks (by left to right): Chinese actress Angelababy, the "M shaped" lip of Korean actress Yoon Eun-hye, Korean actress Ku Hye-sun's "baby face," Chinese product Liu Wen's single eyelids.

Several favorite looks (by left to right): Chinese actress Angelababy, the “M shaped” lip of Korean actress Yoon Eun-hye, Korean actress Ku Hye-sun’s “baby face,” Chinese product Liu Wen’s single eyelids. Credit: Getty Images

however some Chinese cosmetic surgery patients have began to move away by these celebrity beauty ideals. “They seek out more individualistic looks, for example a face with elf-like features or even a world-weary face having a lived-in quality to in which,” said DeGennaro.

Many of these completely new trends are apparent on GengMei. Among the most favorite looks discussed on the app will be an M-shaped lip, meaning a lower lip having a dimple from the middle.

One user said she decided to have hyaluronic acid injected into her lips to copy “the M-shaped mouths” of South Korean stars Yoon Eun-hye as well as also Lee Sung-kyung.

Another sought-after look will be described as a “baby face.” in which involves a full, round face having a smooth contour, a short chin, a prominent forehead, big eyes as well as also a tiny button nose, according to descriptions posted on the app. Facial fillers, as well as eye as well as also nose surgeries, are recommended to obtain the look.

Another favorite topic on GengMei will be how to make single eyelids more attractive, instead of resorting to double eyelid surgery. in which can be achieved by elongating the upper eyelid as well as also producing sure they’re not saggy or excessively thick, writes one user, referencing the single eyelids of Chinese product Liu Wen as well as also Taiwanese star Jacklyn Wu Chien-lien. Some skin will be removed by the inner as well as also outer part of the eyelid, a procedure called canthoplasty.

Dangerous clinics

however not all surgeries are successful.

Chinese media regularly reports of cases of surgery patients who have suffered adverse effects or even died on the operating table. Cases of medical malpractice often occur in tiny unlicensed clinics lacking the required permits to carry out surgery.

“Some of these clinics use substandard fillers as well as also anti-aging injectables with contaminants or fewer active parts than they should have,” said Lam. She recalled a spate of cases in 2016 where Hong Kong patients went to China to have anti-aging injections as well as also came back with botulism — an illness caused by the botulinum toxin — as well as also ended up in intensive care with breathing difficulties.

Ma of the Hong Kong Sanitorium & Hospital regularly sees patients needing corrective surgery after going under the knife overseas, including in China. “They will for example come in with an eye in which can no longer close properly because of a botched double eyelid surgery,” he said.

Beijing has began to crack down on unlicensed as well as also unqualified clinics.

China’s National Health Commission identified 2,772 cases of illegal plastic surgery, during a year-long operation in which began in May 2017. in which led to more than 1,0 criminal prosecutions, according to a government Discharge. The commission will be considering establishing a blacklist of dangerous surgeons, in which said.
Wu Xiaochen credits her physical transformation with her ability to become a product for international brands.

Wu Xiaochen credits her physical transformation with her ability to become a product for international brands. Credit: Wu Xiaochen

Wu has also had several bad experiences. “One clinic in Beijing used an L-shaped mold to reshape my nose, however my skin was so stretched after the procedure in which I could see light through in which,” she said. She said she had to have corrective surgery afterward.

Despite the risks, China will be quickly catching up to the United States in terms of the total number of cosmetic procedures performed.

By 2023, total revenue will be likely to exceed 360 billion yuan ($52 million), according to So-Young’s prospectus, which cites numbers by consultants Frost & Sullivan.

For Wu, the evidence of the industry’s growth will be all around her.

“Ten years ago in which was difficult to find a person who had done plastic surgery however nowadays in which’s hard to find someone who hasn’t done in which,” she said.

Source : China cosmetic surgery apps: Swipe to buy a completely new face