Plastic and cosmetic surgery in China is booming, thanks greatly to the K-Pop phenomenon.

South Korean pop stars like Girl’s Generation, known for their smash hits, dance ability and on trend fashion, are certainly making an impression and not just for their music. Their flawless faces and features which are not inherently Korean, such as their big eyes, tapered jaw and high nose have become highly desirable.

The number of Chinese undergoing cosmetic surgery grows substantially

South Korea’s cultural influences are believed to be a big reason HSBC predicts China’s cosmetic surgery industry will double in size between 2014 and 2019. In the five years, China will become the third-largest cosmetic surgery industry in the world worth over $155 billion.

In South Korea, nose jobs and double-eyelid procedures are increasingly more common as the desire to look more Western gains momentum. It’s not uncommon for adolescents to be given the gift of cosmetic surgery as at their graduation in the reputed ‘kingdom of plastic surgery’. Per capita, the number of cosmetic procedures carried out in South Korea is 13.2 per 1,000 people. This exceeds the United States 10 per 1,000 and Brazils 7.3 per 1,000; two of the most popular destinations for a nip and tuck.

Currently China rates well behind with a per capita rate of only 0.8 per 1,000, but this is predicted to change quickly with the expansion of more clinics locally. It’s estimated over 60,000 Chinese head to South Korea annually to undergo cosmetic surgery treatments.

Distrust drives Chinese locals to South Korea

This trend is partly attributed to the K-Pop phenomenon, but also due to an overall distrust in the safety of the local plastic and cosmetic surgery clinics. The research by HSBC suggests many Chinese frequent clinics in their lunch breaks for non-invasive procedures such as Volume Enhancement Treatments, but travel to South Korea for more invasive treatments. The lack of trust with local clinics and cosmetic practitioners has even seen an increasing number of clinics fly in South Korean doctors to carry out procedures in China.

Based on the HSBC report, the wariness of the Chinese for local cosmetic surgery may be warranted with just 20 percent of the country’s hyaluronic acid injections approved by regulators. Furthermore, 60 percent of these injections have been found to be made of either fake or smuggled ingredients.

It’s estimated there’s up to 100,000 unqualified technicians at beauty salons performing cosmetic surgery in China. South Korea are capitalising on this distrust with an increase in the number of medical tourism companies targeting the Chinese market. However, South Korea is also revealing a dark side of the industry as unlicensed clinics targeting Chinese cosmetic surgery tourists have left many people disfigured.

An increase in social media is fuelling the cosmetic surgery trend

While an increase in wealth has influenced the rise in cosmetic surgery, social media and the selfie culture has greatly fuelled the industry. This trend is evident by the average age of Chinese seeking cosmetic surgery. Unlike the US, where 80 percent of the non-surgical procedures are performed on patients over 35 years old, China’s main cosmetic surgery clients are under 35. And it’s not just women who are opting to undergo cosmetic surgery. The number of Chinese men embarking on cosmetic surgery has increased from just 11 percent in 2014 to 20 percent in 2015.

Social media, K-Pop and wealth combined with the desire for Western features has seen more young Chinese men and women to seek cosmetic surgery. And it appears this trend is showing no signs of slowing down.