Wednesday, 3 February 2010
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Double eyelids, anyone?
January 25, 2010

A visit to the plastic surgeon – and a first-hand look into the pursuit of beauty and youth in China.

double eyelids


I spent the better part of my past Saturday sitting in the waiting room of a renowned plastic surgery clinic in Shanghai, the No. 9 People’s Hospital (the name certainly doesn’t inspire glamour.) It also turned out to be a first-hand look into the pursuit of beauty and youth in China.

Oh, what work did I have done? An ear job. That’s right. My right earlobe was torn apart by the earring I was wearing. For a week or so, I could perform a gross human trick with my split earlobe. So on the weekend, I went to the hospital to have it stitched together.

Business was certainly booming for plastic surgeons. I went to the clinic at 9:30 in the morning and received my operation at 5:30 pm. As frustrating as the wait was, it was a widely novel and informative experience. Here are my observations:

1. Most popular form of plastic surgery in China: an even divide between all-time favorite double eyelid operation (双眼皮/shuang1yan3pi2) and new comer face-slimming injection (瘦脸针/shou4lian3zhen1).(Note, many Asians are born with single eyelid, but double eyelids are considered beautiful. We are also obsessed with a small face. My take is that Asian faces tend to be flatter (hence bigger). I don’t know what’s ugly about that, but there is an industry dedicated to making one’s face smaller, everything from lotion to plastic surgery).

2. The consumers: girls in their 20s top the list. The aforementioned operations were monopolized by these girls. There were literally five girls coming in for one of those treatments every hour.

3. The dandy (middle-aged) Shanghai men: they certainly live up to the reputation. There were two of them sitting in the waiting room both getting an eye bag removal operation. One man said to the other, “I am also getting a double eyelid job”. The other said, “These eye bags started to show up last week. They seriously bother me.”

4. Privacy: we observe collective privacy in China, i.e. extends to all who seek similar kind of treatment. While in the waiting room, everyone was asking everyone else what kind of work they were getting done, and how much it cost. The long waiting time and auto magazines from 2007 didn’t help either. You had nothing to do but to small talk.

5. Price: expensive by Chinese standards, but not stopping anyone. My ear job cost RMB2600 ($400). Double eyelid and face-slimming were about the same price. Nose job is around ¥4000. Must be a wild bargain compared to the prices in the U.S. and Europe. Medical tourism, anyone?

6. Outcome: my ear is still covered in band-aid and sponge. And the people who went for operations came out with faces covered except for the girls who were getting face-slimming injections. But those didn’t show immediate effect according to the doctor. We shall see.


Jenny Zhu also blogs at Jenny Zhu: A Voice from China



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