Health and wellness

Are aggressive sales tactics and shady procedures rampant in Hong Kong’s beauty industry?

The Post visits parlours in the city to experience how some businesses operate

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 December, 2017, 1:03pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 December, 2017, 4:08pm

Without staying alert and careful, a visit to a Hong Kong beauty parlour may result in a bill 10 times more than what was advertised, for procedures promising exaggerated results bordering on the magical.

The Post sent reporters to beauty clinics across the city and while some turned out to be honest and legitimate others had shady practices, such as persuading customers to purchase extra procedures without a proper price list on paper, as well as introducing slimming treatments with guaranteed results in just two sessions.

At one outlet on Hong Kong Island, offering a trial facial peel treatment, the reporter was repeatedly urged by a promoter to spend more on other products. She was recommended a laser treatment costing HK$880 to remove freckles, on top of the HK$350 facial treatment.

The member of staff did not press further after being told “no”, and the one-hour facial peel was uneventful, until it was time to check out, whereupon a HK$3,500 facial treatment package was recommended.

“But this is basic treatment … We sometimes suggest customers do it every 14 days,” the employee said, despite having her offer rejected.

When the reporter told her she would go home and think about taking up the package, the employee said: “You really don’t want to do it regularly? What about a package of five treatments? You can sign up for more after these five if you think it’s good.”

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After a 10-minute back and forth that led nowhere, the promoter finally relented, charging only for the one-off facial treatment that day.

Aggressive and non-transparent sales tactics were not the only bane of customers. A dazzling array of cosmetic procedures promising results without any clear scientific basis is sometimes served up, confusing unsuspecting clients.

At a beauty chain in Mong Kok, one member of staff touted a vagina tightening therapy to a Post reporter, claiming its usefulness for women who have given birth. The employee was unable to explain the science behind the treatment.

On another occasion, at a Causeway Bay beauty chain, a Post reporter came across a shop offering a slimming procedure that could destroy fat cells by freezing them using a special machine. The “dead” cells would then been excreted from the body.

“The machine can freeze fat cells to death … after a 28-day metabolic process, [these fat cells] will be excreted through the urine,” a saleswoman claimed.

Another smaller beauty parlour also offered a high-intensity focused ultrasound (Hifu) treatment that was supposed to be able to slim one’s abdomen area in just two sessions.

All such procedures were done by beauticians instead of doctors.

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Dr Kwan Kin-hung, a plastic surgeon, said some machines used by beauty parlours did have scientific backing, but their functions were exaggerated as part of sales tactics.

“Not everyone can achieve the same result … but beauty parlours just overly promote the functions of these machines,” Kwan said.

He also warned that machines such as Hifu devices should only be handled by doctors.

“Doctors know better how to reduce infections in case the skin is injured during such procedures.”

He advised consumers to visit parlours with a better reputation and get assessed by doctors before receiving any risky beauty procedures.