After graduating from high school in June, the first thing on the to-do list of Zheng Yuran (pseudonym) is to have her nose reshaped during the two-month summer vacation.
The 19-year-old has travelled more than 1,000 kilometers alone from her hometown in Central China's Hubei Province to Beijing to find an experienced doctor to help "fix" her nose that she thought was the "worst part of her face."
However, what she did not expect was the huge popularity of the surgery, which means the earliest available date for the surgery by her favorite doctor is four months later. For some popular doctors, the earliest available time is in 2018.
Zheng is among an increasing number of young students, mainly female, who use their summer vacation to improve their looks for a better chance at work or in a relationship, or merely for a better feeling.
Some plastic surgery hospitals in China have even posted special promotions for students on their websites since June, one month before the vacation.
A branch of the Plastic Surgery Hospital (PSH) under the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences located in Beijing's bustling CBD area treated 1,078 customers in July, a 36 percent increase from May, with an obvious rise in patients born in the 1990s, according to hospital records.
A service staffer at the hospital told the Global Times that most popular surgeries among the students are double eyelid operations and nose jobs, which a doctor could perform eight times a day on busy days.
High school graduates and college students are among the largest groups of clients in hospitals in July and August, said Wang Keming, a plastic surgeon from PSH.
The time of surgery and recovery normally takes two weeks to a month, and a nose job at a public hospital will normally cost from 20,000 yuan (,973) to 100,000 yuan, said doctors.
The patients reached by the Global Times have diverse needs. Some want a natural change while some demand the doctor to replicate the look of a celebrity. "Pretty faces are always more popular in the school and dating market, and I just want to have more choice in fierce competition," said a junior student studying in Beijing, who has already spent around 60,000 yuan on her face last summer.
For Zheng, she just wants to please herself. "I just want to be prettier, and my nose is the only blemish on my face," said she, adding that she has been searching online for information on doctors since she finished the gaokao, or the college entrance examination, in early June.
But for Guo, a postgraduate student who only gave her surname, the motivating factor is the requirements of a good career.
Guo studies musical performance at Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music, and to perform on the stage, the girl with a flat nose needs to pile up shadows around her nose, which she has been fed up with and wanted to have her nose lifted up once and for all.
However, Guo's enthusiasm was not shared by her mother, who told the Global Times that she was worried about the surgery, which might endanger her only daughter's health.
Fully aware of the pain and risks, the girls added that "everything has a cost and it's totally worthy when you see the changes on your face."
Risks and concerns
Normally, customers are advised to think carefully about whether they really want the surgery and whether they are psychologically prepared for the risks, said doctors, adding that the risks exist from the anesthesia process to postoperative recovery.
For instance, the surgery might leave a scar on the face, and the nose might deform for various reasons, said You Jianjun, a plastic surgeon focusing on nose work at the PSH.
Patients under 18, though not advised for a surgery, must have their guardian sign a consent document, and university students also need to have their parents' agreement for the surgery, said Wang.
Apart from the risks brought by the surgery itself and the possible dissatisfaction resulting from aesthetic difference, risks also come from the emergence of unqualified hospitals and beauty salons that wanted to benefit from the booming market.
According to the Xinhua News Agency, the plastic surgery market in China is expected to reach 800 million yuan in 2019.