A woman gets a hyaluronic acid injection at Soyoung, a plastic surgery hospital in Beijing. (Photo: Li Xuanmin/GT)
The domestic cosmetic surgery market is capitalizing on residents' growing demand for looking as good as possible. Industry insiders told the Global Times that the popularity of plastic surgery hospitals and cosmetic filler products is increasing, reaping gross profit as high as 70 percent of the total industry revenues. Nevertheless, the industry is plagued with slim net profit margins, generally lower than 10 percent, largely because of rising expenses on marketing and hiring experienced surgeons. Also, as uncertified cosmetic surgeries emerge, experts are suggesting that Chinese authorities should beef up regulation.
"I just completed two hyaluronic acid (HA) injection surgeries and one rhinoplasty this morning, and in the afternoon, there are three more plastic surgery appointments waiting for me…I need to hurry up," Zhang Zheng, a surgeon at a Beijing-based plastic surgery hospital, told the Global Times as he rushed for a quick lunch with a cup of coffee to refresh himself on Friday.
The schedule of Zhang, who is also the director of the hospital, has been quite tight in recent months, filled with at least five plastic surgery appointments every day.
"The numbers of clients who are willing to make themselves look prettier [via surgery] have skyrocketed in recent years, mainly thanks to the growing social acceptance of cosmetic surgery as well as shrinking operation costs," Zhang said.
Customer demographics are also changing quickly, he added. ''There is no longer the stereotypical thinking that only actresses would come for plastic surgery, [now,] more and more ordinary young women, students and male customers are flocking in."
A 24-year-old fresh college graduate, who had a double-eyelid operation at Zhang's hospital just last week, believes that her cosmetic surgery will tip the scales to her advantage in terms of job searching. "Also, the recovery process is short, only about one to two months," she said, giving only her surname as Wang.
Like Wang's case, the pursuit for physical beauty among Chinese is causing the country's cosmetic treatment market to expand at an unprecedented speed. It is estimated that China will become the world's third largest cosmetic surgery market by 2019, with market size expected to double to 800 billion yuan (4 billion) from the current level, according to industry reports released by pharmaceutical company Allergan.
And by the end of 2017, the number of Chinese who go under the knife will surge 42 percent year-on-year to 14 million, surpassing the global average growth rate of 7 percent, according to an online report cosmetic surgery platform Soyoung sent to the Global Times.
Huge gross profit, slim net profit
Wang, the college graduate who transformed her looks with deep double-eyelids, spent about 10,000 yuan on the surgery.
But what she does not know, is that "the cost of the operation only stood at several hundred yuan," a business insider, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the Global Times.
In fact, "industry players, including hospitals and upstream suppliers, reap on extravagant gross profits," the insider said, taking the example of the inflated gross profits over HA injections, which is one of the most popular types among Chinese consumers.
"Generally, the price of a HA injection ranges from 1,500 yuan to 4,000 yuan a time, depending on the type of HA the consumers choose, yet the cost of the most expensive imported HA injection type averages only at dozens of yuan," he said.