Rising trend of feng shui plastic surgery causes more harm than good

By Hai Hien, Quynh Nguyen   January 20, 2024 | 03:29 pm PT
Rising trend of feng shui plastic surgery causes more harm than good
A doctor performs a nose job surgery for a female patient in Hanoi. Photo by Cao Ngoc Duy
A physiognomist criticized My Tam's facial features, pointing out her drooping eyelids, a hawk-like nose, and thin lips, and ominously predicted that with such features, she would struggle to maintain a marriage.

This grim assessment prompted Tam to undergo plastic surgery. Four months ago, the 35-year-old Hanoi resident invested VND100 million ($4,073) to alter her eyes and nose and also had filler injections in her cheeks and chin.

That day, when Tam came home with a swollen face, her husband panicked, thinking his wife had had an accident. And their son began shrieking and crying and ran away from his mother.

"I thought changing my face would change my luck, but before I could get the stitches removed, I discovered my husband was having an affair," Tam said.

Kieu Ly, 33 years old, in Hai Phong, admitted that she is "a bit idealistic," both in her personal life, and in her work as a businesswoman.

Nearly ten years ago, a fortune teller said her face was "destroying her luck" and that she wouldn’t be able to keep her wealth unless she had "a high nose to bring good fortune and good fortune to sell expensively."

"Back then I spent 30 million VND to lift my nose with ear cartilage," Ly said.

After the surgery, her struggling real estate business suddenly thrived with more customers.

Yet, business halted when Covid-19 broke out.

And even after the pandemic situation improved, her business did not fare well, so in mid-2023, Ly consulted a horoscope master. This time, the master said her "nose should go down, [because] the wings of your nose are thin with a big nostril, making it hard for you to maintain prosperity."

She decided to get a second nose job at a beauty salon in Hanoi for VND60 million. But until now, Ly has still not had any successful business deals, and her current nose has been criticized by many people as crooked and disproportionate.

Dr. Pham Thi Viet Dung, head of the Department of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery at Bach Mai Hospital, Hanoi, said this trend, called "feng shui plastic surgery" – where patients undergo plastic surgery in the hope of better luck in love, work, and family matters, has seen some rapid development in Vietnam over recent years.

"But feng shui masters often do not have medical expertise, so they sometimes give advice that is sometimes impossible to follow," said Dr. Dung. An example is people with thin noses being suggested to make their nose wings high and thick with a rounded nose tip.

According to the Dung, the month before the Lunar New Year Festival (Tet) is the most popular time for people to get plastic surgery to change their fortunes, but most of these cases are non-invasive procedures. The invasive ones are usually scheduled from March to September, so patients have time to recover before Tet.

Most cities and provinces in Vietnam have planned a two-week Tet break this year, with the holiday's peak on Feb. 10.

VnExpress surveyed hundreds of online groups on social media sharing their experience with plastic surgery. The largest group has more than 300,000 members, with an average of 8 posts per day. In the last three months of 2023, the number of posts increased dramatically.

Additionally, every day such communities are subject to more than 30 advertisements for feng shui plastic surgery for eyes, nose, eyebrows, lip augmentation, "Buddha's ears", dimple creation, chin correction, and jawline enhancement to attract prosperity, all boasting a commitment to "medical standards". Many videos promoting "feng shui plastic surgery" on social media attracted nearly 600,000 views. Depending on the service, the price for each service ranges from two million to several tens of million dong (VND1 million = $40.73).

Huu Khang, owner of a plastic surgery clinic in the northern province of Hai Duong, said that the "prime" feng shui operations focus on the nose, ear lobes, and chin to create a "harmonious look" and a round, "kind" face.

According to Khang, a common belief among Vietnamese people is that the chin must be full, with the philtrum running down and converging on the chin to "attract" prosperity. Upturned ears, and thick, drooping earlobes are also sought, and only the tip of the nose must be round. The wings of the nose must be curved and rolled inwards, "for good fortune."

"At the end of the year, there is an increase in customers at my clinic. Most of them want to improve their looks and change their fortunes, so they often choose filler injections first. When they see good changes in their lives, these patients will then decide on more intrusive surgeries" Khang said.

The owner of this clinic believes that feng shui plastic surgery is work that "kills two birds with one stone" – making you more beautiful and calming your mind.

Cultural researcher Pham Dinh Hai, Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations, believes that feng shui plastic surgery is just a baseless trend based on hearsay, not science, and does not belong to any "feng shui school," nor any health or medical movement for that matter.

"Many people flock to plastic surgery hoping to change their fortunes, but the changes are merely superficial. After all, a person's mind and body are reflected on their face. If the mind is good, then their appearance will also be good," Hai said.

As for the reasons why many people, especially women, endorse this trend, Hai pointed out three:

One is not understanding the clear nature of feng shui and theology – trying to fix the "shell" on the outside without cultivating the roots can easily bring disaster, Hai posited.

The second is "greed,": which comes from the mentality of winning or losing, wanting to excel and have a better fate than others, which makes it easier to be seduced by trends.

Finally, many people lack critical thinking and blindly follow simple fads and marketing ploys.

Sharing the same opinion, Dr. Viet Dung said that feng shui plastic surgery can be harmful to your health if performed at unreliable clinics.

According to Dung, cases that treat necrosis and infection due to cosmetic failure at Bach Mai Hospital’s Department of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery account for 10% of the total number of cases each month.

For My Tam, in addition to the pain of discovering her husband was having an affair, her nose is also infected with necrosis. The sharp pain at the top of her head caused her to lose sleep for a month. She also had to take unpaid leave and avoid contact with people because of embarrassment over her recovering face.

Cam Chi, 25 years old, in Ho Chi Minh City, who used to inject fillers into her cheekbones, lips, and fix her ears for prosperity, also got into trouble.

"I was criticized by my lover because my face was stiff and lifeless," Chi said. Even her boyfriend's parents mistakenly thought she was their son’s new lover because of her strange face.

Unlike Tam and Cam Chi, Kieu Ly does not regret her decision, and still believes that "your nose determines your fortune." She plans to consult a few other physiognomists to find a suitable nose shape before going for a third correction.

But cultural researcher Pham Dinh Hai believes that Kieu Ly will only waste her money.

"Adjusting one’s body parts cannot change fate," they said. "No feng shui master can help you achieve a better life, other than yourself."

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