Job-seekers join trend for beauty operations

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 February, 2011, 12:00am

Forget writing a resume or scouring the newspaper job adverts - the first task for a growing number of young graduates is putting in a call to a plastic surgeon.

Many are encouraged by the example of celebrities and movie stars, who have boasted of the benefits of their own cosmetic treatments.

Others just see it as a handy way of boosting their self-confidence.

One, a 23-year-old female university graduate, said she had HK$40,000 of plastic surgery to enlarge her eyes before starting to seek work.

The woman - who preferred not to give her full name - revealed that it was the second time she has gone under the plastic surgeon's knife.

She had an operation in Taiwan when she was just 17 to reshape her nose.

'I didn't think I was pretty enough when I was small. In fact, I thought I was rather ugly,' she said.

'My classmates used to tease me about my appearance. So I went for my first plastic surgery operation in Taiwan by saving up pocket money bit by bit.'

She had her second operation last month and admitted she is already struggling to restrain herself from booking a third one.

'I know some people will become addicted to plastic surgery,' she said. 'They find it so easy to look better by spending some money and a simple operation.

'I keep telling myself not to get obsessed.'

According to Dr Daniel Lee Tin-chak, a plastic surgeon in Hong Kong, more young people are being tempted to improve their appearance by cosmetic surgery.

He said one or two decades ago, his customers were mainly those in middle age or older.

Now, many are in their 20s and 30s, and several of them are under age and needed to obtain parental consent.

He said the number of young patients on his books had risen by almost 20 per cent in the past few years.

'They believe cosmetic medicine can help them to feel smarter,' he said.

A new phenomenon was that of parents bringing their children to his surgery for treatment and then taking care of the bills. In one case, a 14-year-old girl had eyelid surgery with her parents' backing.

Lee said some customers opted for surgical and cosmetic procedures because they thought it was a worthwhile 'investment' in their career.

Summer and Christmas holidays have become peak periods.

'Some young people go for the treatment before looking for jobs,' he said. 'So they will grab the school holidays to do it, or have one right after graduation before going for job interviews.' And it is not just females who are joining the trend. Lee said about a third of his clients were now men.

A dermatology specialist, Dr Henry Chan Hin-lee, said more and more young people were seeking laser treatment for skin whitening and acne scar removal, with the cost of treatment ranging from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.

'We see more patients in their 20s for that treatment,' he said. 'The trend is the result of an increasing awareness of such treatment and a better economy.'

He said that promotion of the benefits of cosmetic surgery and treatment by celebrities had helped them become more acceptable.

Demand has also risen because of an increasing number of mainland patients.

The advancement in laser treatment and the use of injectable drugs such as botox and various kinds of tissue-fillers have also made cosmetic treatment more common in the city.

Eye bag removal and eyelid surgery remain the most common procedures, while injectable treatments such as hyaluronic acid fillers and collagen stimulators are popular for rejuvenating the skin and refining the shape of the face.

Lee said: 'Some customers who want gradual changes in their appearance go for injectable treatment, so their friends may not notice any sudden change.'

The graduate said when she had her first operation in Taiwan, such treatment was taboo and she dared not tell anyone, even her parents.

'Now society has changed,' she said. 'More people accept plastic surgery. I have told my parents and my boyfriends about it. They supported me.

'I feel more comfortable during social functions.

'I can see in other people's eyes that they find me quite pretty and I am pleased about it.'

She said that some of her friends were also considering surgery and had sought her advice.

'There is a social pressure on women to have a good appearance. People do like beautiful women,' she said.

Lee said demand for cosmetic treatment in Hong Kong still lagged behind other Asian cities, but the city was catching up.

University of Hong Kong professor in sociology Lui Tai-lok said the doctors themselves had played a key role in legitimising plastic surgery and increasing demand.

'They are the service providers. When they come out and tell patients the procedures are safe, simple and handy, people tend to accept the treatment better.'