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Chinese Plastic Surgery Trends You Need To Know About (2019)

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Chinese Plastic Surgery Trends You Need To Know About (2019)

The Chinese plastic surgery market is booming as the social media wave takes over more and more people are turning to the knife to achieve the perfect look. However, the types of surgeries that Chinese consumers go in for tend to differ from other countries.



In recent years, the ‘double eyelid’ surgery has become more popular, even among those under 20 years old in China!  Equally, K-POP and Hallyu culture have had a significant impact on the types of surgeries that people want. With China’s ever-increasing beauty standards it seems like more and more procedures are becoming popular in China.



Chinese plastic surgery



In this blog we’ll cover the latest trends in the Chinese plastic surgery market and some of the apps that have sprung as marketing tools for those in the industry to attract more customers. If you’re involved in this industry (whether on the product or service side) this blog is for you!



Table of Contents: Chinese Plastic Surgery Trends You Need To Know About (2019)



What’s Driving the Boom In Chinese Cosmetic Surgery? Read Now


K-POP, South Korea, and Hallyu


The Rise of Selfie Culture in China


Pragmatism: How Plastic Surgery Makes Job-Hunting Easier


The China Plastic Surgery Situation in 2019 Read Now


The Most Popular Types of Cosmetic Surgeries in China


Age and Demographics Of Chinese Plastic Surgery Consumers


The Rise of Plastic Surgery Focused Apps & Social Media Read Now


So-Young – Tencent Backed App for The Plastic Surgery Community


GengMei – The Meitu Backed #2 Player in The Plastic Surgery App Space



China Plastic Surgery Trends: What’s Driving the Boom in Cosmetic Surgery?



Recent studies by HSBC have predicted that Chinese plastic surgery markets will double in size by 2019. This would make it the third-largest in the world, after the United States and Brazil. By the end of 2019, it is expected to reach the size of 800 million RMB, which is around $122 billion US.



As of 2018, the market had reached 495 Billion RMB (USD ~$70 Billion) according to a report released by the cosmetic surgery focused social media platform, Gengmei.



There are many popular surgeries in China, with things like double eyelid surgery, face slimming and calf slimming surgeries being some of the most popular. Lack of trust in Chinese hospitals and even private hospitals means that many Chinese consumers travel out of the country to undergo procedures, however the domestic market has seen tremendous growth in recent years.



For more on Chinese medical tourism check out our post on hospital & healthcare marketing below:



How To Get Started With Healthcare and Hospital Marketing in China



It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason that Chinese consumers have become so interested in plastic surgery. Many resources cite social media as the main reason, but it’s likely not the only factor contributing to these market changes.



While shifting beauty standards can be explained by social media, it should also be noted that changes in the perceptions of cosmetic surgery also have an impact on the increase in demand for Chinese plastic surgery.



HSBC analyst Zhijie Zhao has said, “The pursuit of physical beauty had become big business in China”.



Chinese plastic surgery apps

Gengmei is an App in China specifically catering to those interested in or seeking plastic surgery services.



In the next few years, the Chinese plastic surgery market is expected to boom even more than it already is. This is going to increase the intense competition between both international and domestic hospitals and surgeries, who are courting the increasing amount of mainlanders who wish to change their looks.



China Plastic Surgery Trends: K-POP, South Korea, and Hallyu



Hallyu is the term used to describe the Korean Wave, the surge in popularity for Korean culture that has been seen across Asia. A massive reason for the growth in the Chinese plastic surgery market is the increased influence of South Korea, where plastic surgery is a part of everyday life. Nose jobs and double eyelid surgeries are a very common surgery in South Korea which may be given as high-school graduation presents.



This means that younger Chinese consumers who wish to keep up with their idols tend to want plastic surgery. Many want to change their features in order to look like their idols. Thus, plastic surgery has started to become more popular n order to pursue a more South Korean look.



Chinese plastic surgery influences k-pop

The Popularity of K-Pop has been seen as a huge driver of the boom in popularity for Cosmetic Surgery in China



Recent data shows that per 1,000 people the procedures per capita are at 13.2. South Korea comes in second place. In regards to China, the obsession with k-pop and South Korean culture mean that over 60,000 Chinese citizens travel to South Korea every year for different treatments and procedures. Chinese plastic surgery trends are much lower.



Chinese plastic surgery trends are much lower but they are growing. They are only at 0.8% per 1,000 but this is expected to increase as South Korean culture and K-pop continues to sweep across the nation. In 2018 alone, 22 million Chinese citizens went under the knife for a plastic surgery procedure. One amazing figure in relation to China is that those undergoing plastic surgery are primarily under the age of 28, with those under the age of 28 making up 54 percent of all plastic surgery procedures. 



This increase has meant that Chinese tourism companies have started to use this as a marketing trend, specifically towards the younger generation.



China Plastic Surgery Trends: The Rise of Selfie Culture



A second influence in the increase in Chinese plastic surgery is the increasing ‘selfie’ culture as well as pragmatism. Increasingly, jobs include taking photos in the interview process. Many people openly discriminate on job applications based on looks.



Since social media has taken over China, the Chinese selfie culture has become known around the world for most businesses. Live streaming and Short Video apps mean that people can pass judgment quickly and those who wish to break into the world of internet stardom and become a Chinese opinion leader need to look the part.



Chinese plastic surgery the influence of selfie culture



When the trend began, nearly all Chinese undergoing plastic surgery procedures were seeking to obtain a similar look to KOLs and celebrities on social media. However, in recent years there has been greater differentiation in terms of what look customers want. There is now a range of different looks aside from the traditional “internet celebrity” look that had been popular in recent years according to data compiled from Gengmei.



To check out some of the more popular looks check out this image from Sixthtone below.





China Plastic Surgery Trends: Pragmatism, How Plastic Surgery Makes Job-Hunting Easier



While most people think that people who are seeking plastic surgery only do so for cosmetic reasons or vanity, for many Chinese this is simply not the case. For many Chinese men and women, they believe that improving their looks can drastically increase their chances in both the job and dating market. Many people who want to do well turn to cosmetic surgery because they don’t want to be outdone by other candidates. Equally, many candidates want to make themselves stand out.



While this clearly makes sense in the dating market, it’s surprising to see that so many Chinese claim that it can improve one’s career prospects. Given the large population numbers in China, it appears that cosmetic surgery can help candidates stand out from a large pool of candidates.



However, as beneficial as it can be one woman who underwent plastic surgery in China stated in an article by SixthTone “Your appearance might help you stand out among the competitors in a mid-level company, but in top companies, the employer doesn’t care about how pretty you are. They care about your ability.”



Chinese Plastic Surgery Trends: Men Getting In On The Action



In 2018 the Chinese cosmetic surgery market was valued at over 495 billion RMB (USD ~$70 Billion). Of this total market male patients accounted for around 15 percent of the total market in report released by Gengmei.



In the report, doctors stated that the most popular procedures among men included hair transplants, eye bag removal, acne treatments, and orthodontic treatments. As with women, the majority of men undergoing plastic surgery procedures are in their teens and twenties. As a tie into earlier points, many male patients report that they seek plastic surgery treatments to improve their odds in job-hunting and dating.



Two male users on So-Young showing the progress of their Rhinoplasty procedures.

Two male users on So-Young showing the progress of their Rhinoplasty procedures.



While the amount of men undergoing these procedures is still significantly less than women, Chinese society is becoming tolerant of men also seeking out these procedures. Chinese news agency Xinhua news conducted a survey and found that 77% of respondents said it was a personal choice for mend to undergo cosmetic surgery and that their choices should be respected.



In an interview with the China Daily, Zhang Hui, a dermatologist with his own Cosmetic clinic in Beijing stated, “Around 20 percent of my patients are men. Some want to remove acne and look better in wedding pictures, while others who are troubled by baldness hope to look younger through hair transplants.”




The China Plastic Surgery Situation 2019



China Plastic Surgery Trends: The Most Popular Types of Cosmetic Surgeries in China



Social media has increased the presence of different types of beauty to Chinese consumers. The specific types of surgeries that are becoming popular are suggestive of what Chinese consumers value and what they consider to be beautiful.



The double eyelid surgeries are probably the most popular and the most widely known surgery for China.  This procedure involves lifting up the eyelid in order to create the appearance of western eyelids. However, it’s not just double eyelid surgeries, over 50% of cosmetic surgeries in China are focused on the eyes according to Mylike.



Types of Surgeries Done in China (Image Source: Sixthtone)

Types of Surgeries Done in China (Image Source: Sixthtone)



Another trend that is popular, especially amongst young men is calf slimming surgeries. In Asia, the long leg look is incredibly popular and this is why it is a popular surgery.



One Chinese plastic surgery trend is ‘lunch-break cosmetics’. These are non-invasive surgeries such as Botox which can be done very quickly and the results are instant.



Aesthetic medicine is increasingly becoming the most popular form of Chinese plastic surgery. This category includes a variety of different treatments with the most popular being Botox. However, Allergan is the only company that has the exclusive right to distribute & market the product known as Botox, so be careful when marketing non-invasive procedures under the name botox!



A final type of popular surgery is the face slimming surgery. Many women want to emulate western features by slimming the face and creating a sharper chin. This has been popular for years in Asian countries and has finally caught on quite heavily in China as well.



China Plastic Surgery Trends: Age & Demographics



Those who undergo Chinese plastic surgery tend to be on the younger side compared to other countries. HSBC noted in its above-mentioned report that 80% of non-surgical procedures in the United States are done by those over the age of 35, but those younger than 35 make up the biggest portion in China.



As stated in the ChinaDaily, “The younger generation (aged 20-35) are key to the market. Those aged under 28 were reportedly more than half of the 22 million consumers who went in for cosmetic procedures this year.”



Similar to South Korea, many Chinese consumers who can afford it, give cosmetic surgery to friends and family as presents in their younger years. Even graduation presents can sometimes be cosmetic surgery, although they tend to fall into the non-permanent category.



Chinese plastic surgery age dempgraphics

Plastic Surgery clinics are often packed solid during the months leading up to the start of the school year as young Chinese upgrade their looks for the coming school year.



While this may seem extreme in other countries, this is a commonplace occurrence in China. Often members of the older generation frown upon plastic surgery, so it makes sense that it is the younger generation is undergoing surgery.



Social media and increased information about surgical processes are considered to be the primary drivers of this trend. With many younger Chinese feeling that their looks are inadequate compared to the people, they see online it’s no surprise plastic surgery is more popular among these younger generations. The launch of plastic surgery focused apps that we will discuss below have also helped educate users about how plastic surgery is done and the risks associated with it.



China Plastic Surgery Trends: The Rise of Plastic Surgery Focused Apps & Social Media



In most countries around the world, people seeking cosmetic surgery will turn to search engines to find their ideal provider. However, China’s largest search engine Baidu landed itself in hot water for promoting unqualified medical practitioners leading to heavy regulations being instituted by the Chinese government on health-related advertising. This also led to a sense of distrust in Baidu for medical-related services, leaving a vacuum in the market for other companies to take advantage of.


Taking advantage of this opportunity are several platforms created specifically to cater to those interested in plastic surgery. Unlike many other countries, plastic surgery apps are the best way to find information and reviews on different surgeries for Chinese consumers.  The online craze has meant that many companies have turned to these platforms and social media in order to gain exposure and promote their businesses.



So-Young – Tencent Backed App for The Plastic Surgery Community





So-Young international was launched in 2014, with the aim of connecting clinics with potential customers. Since then it has developed into a sort of directory for plastic and cosmetic surgeons to list their services and a community for those interested in the topic. The company was started in Beijing and received investment from Tencent to the tune of USD $50 million.



When Tencent invested in the app it had already been valued at upwards of USD $460 million and claimed to have managed more than 60,000 plastic surgery operations. So far, the app has 10 million downloads and they are attempting to enlist 200 different surgeries and thousands of plastic surgeons. As of 2019, the app featured over 7,000 clinics on the platform spanning over 351 cities, with So-Young’s CEO claiming that this covers over 90% of the China’s licensed service providers.



In May 2019 the app went public on the Nasdaq Stock exchange at a valuation of approximately USD $1.38 billion. With increasing profitability and revenues the company was an attractive target for investors with the IPO raising around USD $180 million!



What is very unique about So-Young and plastic surgery in China is the number of young people undergoing procedures. Over 53 percent of SoYoung’s users were born in and after the 1990s, meaning the platform is dominated by Millenials and Gen-Z. The younger generation – those born after 1995 – is no stranger to the concept of cosmetic surgery,” Jin Xing, 39, founder and CEO of SoYoung, said in an interview. “They can’t afford it now, but when they have a job or qualify for a credit card that allows for installments, they will be unstoppable.”





The app has made it very easy for plastic surgeons to showcase their work, answer customer concerns, and build trust among users. The app has become one of the most effective channels for plastic surgery clinics in China.



In terms of the social aspect, the app allows users to share reviews, ask questions, and post updates on the results of their surgeries or the progress they’ve made afterward. It’s also added services to help users gain greater access to plastic surgery, such as connecting users with lending institutions to fund their surgeries.



Compared to other medical markets plastic surgery is also relatively easy to market online. Visible results, as well as comparable photos, mean that apps for cosmetic do very well in China. While this is likely the most well-known plastic surgery app outside of China due to its recent IPO, there’s a few more worth knowing, like…



GengMei -The Meitu Backed #2 Player in The Plastic Surgery App Space





Gengmei which literally translates to “More Beautiful” is another social media app focused on plastic surgery. The platform started out in 2013 as a place for users to seek advice and asks questions about the plastic surgery industry.



Gengmei completed its series D financing round in June 2018, with the round being led by Meitu, one of China’s most popular photo-editing apps popular among China’s selfie-obsessed Gen-Z and Millenials. Gengmei also received financing support in earlier rounds from top tier VC funds like Sequoia Capital and Fosun!





With So-Young’s recent IPO success Gengmei is purportedly also considering an HK or US-based IPO for Q4 2019, however, details remain unconfirmed. However, the company has denied rumors of its IPO, citing that the company is already profitable and is in no rush to raise further funds.



Like So-Young, Gengmei has also added a range of new features to support those interested in learning more or receiving cosmetic surgery. Gengmei now offers connections to lending institutions, price listings, reviews, user stories, and more. It even added an AI system in 2019 designed to help users decide on what look they would like to achieve through their cosmetic surgeries. The company makes use of technologies such as facial recognition, 3D simulation, and machine learning from the thousands of photos uploaded to its platform. The system allows users to simulate surgeries for more simple procedures like double eyelid surgery.



Although Gengmei is already profitable it’s likely to fall behind So-Young at its current rate so we anticipate they will likely pursue an IPO to raise funds to further develop their platform and compete.



China Plastic Surgery Trends: Conclusions



The Chinese plastic surgery market is growing rapidly. While cosmetics and plastic surgery may seem like a simple market to enter there can actually be very high barriers to entry. This can be a big issue if you are a smaller company looking to move into the China plastic surgery market.



Another issue is the thousands of counterfeit and non-approved medicines which can be sold at a lower price compared to approved drugs. These counterfeits have been plaguing the industry and have had impacts on consumer trust leading to increased regulation. This can be risky for clients and also for you. Make sure that on entering China you get the necessary certifications and licensing for your products, services, and marketing to ensure compliance with Chinese law. For more on Chinese advertising, law check out this blog:



The Fundamentals of Advertising in China



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Tony DeGennaro
Tony DeGennaro

Tony is a passionate marketer with interests in social media and search engine optimization. He specializes in Chinese Social Media and Advertising. After getting his MBA in Marketing at CUHK he became one of the founding partners of Dragon Social in Hong Kong.

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