The K-Pop phenomenon has greatly influenced China’s cosmetic trend. South Korean pop stars like Girl’s Generation are making an impression on their music as well as their flawless features. Their big eyes, tapered jaw, and high nose have become highly desirable by the Chinese population, thanks to their cosmetic surgeries and treatments. It is predicted that China will become the 3rd largest cosmetic surgery and treatments in the world worth over $155 billion in 5 years due to South Korea’s cultural influences.

It is common in South Korea for adolescents to undergo nose jobs and double-eyelid procedures as gifts. 

Their obsession to look more “Westernized” had gained the country as the ‘kingdom of plastic surgery. Per capita, the number of cosmetic procedures carried out in South Korea is 13.2 per 1,000 people. This is more than the United States’ 10 per 1,000 and Brazil’s 7.3 per 1,000. Currently, China rates well behind with a per capita rate of only 0.8 per 1,000. However, this may change quickly with the expansion of more clinics locally since approximately 60,000 Chinese head to South Korea yearly for cosmetic surgery and treatments.

Why do Chinese locals fly to South Korea?

According to research by HSBC, many Chinese do their “lunchtime” treatments locally but fly to Korea for surgical procedures. This is because only 20% of the country’s hyaluronic acid injections are approved by regulators and 60% are found either fake or smuggled. The report also shows that there are an estimated 100,000 unqualified technicians at beauty salons performing cosmetic surgery in China. Because of the lack of trust of the Chinese to their local clinics, South Korea is capitalizing on their medical tourism. However, it is still inevitable for some South Korean unlicensed clinics to target Chinese tourists. 

Social media’s role in the cosmetic trends

Social media fueled the cosmetic industry to a great extent. In China, most clients are under the age of 35 while in the US, 80% of the patients are over 35 years old and prefer non-surgical procedures. Both Chinese men and women are embarking on cosmetic procedures with their desires for Western features. The percentage of Chinese men on cosmetic surgery has increased from 11% in 2014 to 20% in 2015.


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