Cosmetic surgery booms in Taiwan before Chinese New Year holiday
Amber Wang, The China Post
January 19, 2004, 12:00 am TWN
Serena Chiu has always kept her hair long and straight to cover her meaty square-shaped face. To fulfill her long-time dream of sporting a thinner face, she is scheduled for cosmetic surgery prior to the Spring Festival.
The Chinese New Year falls on Jan. 22 this year and the month ahead is the peak season for cosmetic surgery. Those who seek nips and tucks to start afresh in the coming year like to take advantage of the long holiday to make a quick recovery.
The year-end bonus also comes in handy at this time, for the cost of cosmetic operations range from NT$15,000 for double eye-lids to over NT$120,000 for the more complicated facial bone contouring. Liposuction costs between NT$20,000 and NT$40,000 per site.
The number of patients typically doubles for the month of Spring Festival at Dr. Wang Du-shin's New Life Cosmetic Surgery Center in Taipei.
"The day before the Chinese New Year's Eve is fully booked months ago, since most patients want to undergo the operations right before the holiday," Dr. Wang said. "When they return to work six days later, they won't attract too much unwanted attention as the swelling is greatly reduced."
Armed with an annual bonus of NT$100,000, Chiu, a stylist, is ready for a major makeover to move onto the New Year. "I adore Korean actresses and it is common knowledge that many opt for cosmetic surgery to get their perfect looks," she said.
Cosmetic surgeons acknowledge that the soaring popularity of Korean TV dramas has stimulated the desire for plastic surgery, as regular folks believe that they too can have star-like looks with some help.
A recent survey showed that Taiwan women fancy Korean TV actress Chae Lim's nose and Korean movie star Jun Ji Hyun's lips. Chae led Nicole Kidman in the poll by 10 percentage points, while Jun surpassed Julia Roberts by nearly 30 percentage points.
More importantly, the public's altered perspective on cosmetic surgery has largely lessened the stigma associated with it.
"When I first started some 20 years ago, those who came to my door were mostly bar hostesses, some entertainers and models," said Dr. Wang. "Nowadays appearance-conscious young people use makeovers to boost their self confidence. They think beauty is something to be proud of and an asset."
The surgeon recently performed breast surgery on a bride-to-be, with the bill paid by her college pals as a wedding gift. He added that some young couples are turning to cosmetic surgery to spice up their relationships.
Meanwhile, the risk for cosmetic surgery drops with continuous developments of new noninvasive techniques that have wider appeal, noted cosmetic surgeon Kenny Liu.
Nose jobs, double eye-lids and blepharoplasty (removing bags under the eyes) have remained the most popular cosmetic operations. In recent years, various methods used to modify the face shape are in demand for people like Chiu, whose "Kuo Zi Lien," the term for square face in Taiwan, made them look fat and stiff.
The most effective but extremely painful procedure is said to be facial bone contouring, which literally sculpts and trims the zygomatic bone to create a thinner face.
A new no-scalpel alternative is "Botox" or Botulinum Toxin injection. It takes four shots at each side of the face for Botox, a popular wrinkle-buster, to temporarily paralyzes facial muscles and thus reduces the face shape. The effect lasts about three to six months with a price tag of about NT$30,000.
Chiu conceded that she had been contemplating surgery for over a year until several of her friends tried cosmetic surgery with satisfying results. Now she will not only have her face, nose and lips fixed, but get her boyfriend to come along for a nose job, double eye-lids and eye wrinkles reduction.
Noticing a two-fold surge of male clients this year, Dr. Liu said nearly 20 percent of operations at his Chungli-based Annabelle Aesthetics Clinic were done on men.
Unlike most women who merely want to become beautiful and attractive, Dr. Liu noted, the majority of men revise their face features in accordance with Chinese visage-reading to boost career prospects.
Besides, doctors found that parents in Taiwan seem more receptive to cosmetic surgery, following the suit of Korean parents who offer "pre-college makeovers" for their daughters to increase her odds of making boyfriends, or "graduation gift" to prepare their children for the competitive job market.
Yang Sung-yeu, a cosmetic surgeon at Shin Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital, cautioned that youngsters who are still developing are unsuitable for certain procedures.
"We've turned down some parents who request breast augmentation for their teenage daughters and told them to wait after the girls attend college."
For 35-year-old Chiu, it is time to reshape her face and other body parts to hold on to her prime. "I think it is worthwhile to endure the pain in order to look beautiful in the long run," she asserted. "I can't wait to experiment with all kinds of hairdos with a slimmer face."