A growing number of men in Shanghai are taking an interest in their looks and are having cosmetic surgery or walking into beauty salons, official figures have shown.
Sociologists said behind the boom in male cosmetic surgery are pressures from marriage and careers in today's highly competitive Chinese cities.
The common sight of young men featuring delicate looks and moisturized skin in the mass media has also prompted men, especially those older than 40, to seek professional help to look younger, they said.
But with the desire to look youthful and dynamic to enhance their competitiveness in the business world comes the fear of being branded a sissy or even called "gay-looking."
According to the local branch of the China Hairdressing and Beauty Association, about 30 percent of the more than 2 billion yuan (US$250 million) in annual income in the industry is earned from male customers. The male beauty market is growing at the steady rate of 20 percent every year.
"Many men in Shanghai are in favour of cosmetic surgery," said Zhang Xiaoling, secretary-general of the Shanghai hairdressing and beauty association.
One-third of customers who remove lower eyelid bags and scars and have nose and chin surgery are male, the latest figures from the national association indicated.
Gu Caixia, a surgeon at the Shanghai Ren'ai hospital, said men account for 20 percent of plastic surgery patients at her hospital and that percentage is climbing. In contrast, less than 5 per cent of customers were male three years ago.
"Men aim to enhance their competitiveness via cosmetic means," said Tian Hong, a researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
"The boom in male beauty treatment is a phenomenon of the consumption culture, which reflects an alteration in the traditional values of men," she said.
But not all males are enthusiastic about the trend; some worry that their masculine image might be eroded.
Li Xiaojie, a customer representative for a wedding company in Shanghai, said he was afraid to get too in touch with his feminine side.
"I ask a make-up professional to trim my eyebrows regularly, " said Li, in his 30s. "But I need more courage to try plastic surgery."
(China Daily September 27, 2006)