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Beauty at High Cost
Cover Stories Series 2012> Beauty at High Cost
UPDATED: March 31, 2012 NO.14 APRIL 5, 2012
Cool Down the Craze

Recently, news about plastic surgery has caught the attention of the public. A young woman with the Internet username "pink baby" has spent more than 4 million yuan ($635,000) on over 200 cosmetic surgeries during the past 13 years. The first operation was done on her eyelids when she was 16. Since then, doctors have operated on nearly every part of her body, some parts more than once. Nonetheless, these expensive operations didn't bring her beauty or the perfect figure that she desired, but have left her in constant pain.

Of the more than 200 plastic surgeries, 70 percent were repairs after failed operations. Despite that, she still couldn't resist the lure of cosmetic surgery and became addicted. Worse still, due to substandard and often illegal operating procedures, the injected substances in her body are like bombs that could explode anytime, with disastrous consequences for her health.

The story of this woman reflects the worrying situation of China's cosmetic surgery industry and the over-emphasis on appearance in Chinese society.

Alongside the economic boom, the quality of Chinese people's lives has greatly improved, which gives them more ability to pursue beauty. Cosmetic surgery is appealing to many ordinary Chinese, not just stars in the entertainment business. Since the 1990s, a plastic surgery department has been established in almost every hospital in China. Entering the 21st century, the business is more prosperous than ever.

China saw over 3.4 million plastic surgeries from 2009 to 2010, among which 1.8 million are surgical operations, according to an investigation conducted by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. With this number, China ranks third in the world in terms of the number of plastic surgeries.

The total production value for China's plastic surgery sector reached 300 billion yuan ($47.58 billion) in 2010, with more than 20 million people working in the business. During the past decade, the industry has witnessed a 40-percent annual growth.

High demand in the market leads to the existence of some substandard plastic surgery institutions, increasing the risks of having cosmetic surgeries. According to the China Consumers' Association, during the past decade there have been 20,000 consumer complaints annually because of failed plastic surgeries. The astonishing number tells us that about 200,000 Chinese people have been disfigured to some degree by plastic surgeries in the past 10 years.

Compared with other countries with developed plastic surgery industries, China has lax supervision on the industry or even none at all in some places. Some advertisements for plastic surgery make it sound "simple," "painless" and "with no side effects at all." It is hard for consumers to clearly apprehend the truth. The reckless pursuit of being good-looking and over reliance on plastic surgery make more and more people willing to risk their health to receive such operations.

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