Plastic surgery in China has growing pains

January 3, 2011

Plastic surgery in China has growing pains
Plastic surgery in China has growing pains

Fashion-conscious women add inches to the frame by wearing high heels. Ask any board-certified plastic surgeon in the States to make you taller and he will present choices ranging from Payless Shoes to Manolo Blahnik. You’d be hard pressed to find a plastic surgeon who would agree to increase your height. A search for height augmentation on the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery website yields zero results. Ditto for heel lift. Not so in China. On December 22nd, 2010, the Washington Post reports that 28-year-old Wang Baobao had implants inserted into her heels. The promise of a few extra inches led 5-foot tall Wang to spend $7,500. The result was six months on crutches, scarred feet and no change in height.

How times have changed. Before China’s economic revolution in the 80s, plastic surgery was used solely for physical defects, such as a harelip. Cosmetic surgery for beauty’s sake was condemned as bourgeois. But in 2009, according to the Washington Post, about 3 million people in China underwent plastic surgery, and China ranks third in the world behind the United States and Brazil for the number of plastic surgeries performed. Most surgeries are performed on women in their 20s and the most popular procedures are double eyelid surgery, followed by rhinoplasty and tummy tuck.

But, unfortunately, the popularity of cosmetic surgery has led to consumer exploitation at the hands of unscrupulous practitioners operating out of improvised facilities. In addition to government-run hospitals that follow strict standards and use experienced doctors, there are many “black hospitals.” The Washington Post spoke with Li Qingfeng, plastic surgeon and deputy secretary of the Chinese Association of Plastics and Aesthetics. According to Li, "Most of the people don't have surgery at officially regulated hospitals...many patients go to beauty salons or other unregulated facilities—and the number is huge."

Hopefully, as the plastic surgery industry matures in China, consumers will develop the sophistication to turn to a professional society, such as the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, to seek board-certified plastic surgeons practicing evidence-based medicine with patient safety at the forefront.  

The mission of the Aesthetic Society includes medical education, public education and patient advocacy. Plastic Surgery News Briefs are summaries of current stories found through various news and magazine outlets that relate to or mention plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures. The views expressed in these news articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Aesthetic Society, but are merely published as an educational service to our members and the general public. For additional information on these subjects and other plastic surgery related topics, please go to

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