Young people increasingly look to the knife for beauty

By Pham Nga   June 6, 2022 | 05:16 pm PT
Bui Diem My got the nose job she'd been wanting at a plastic surgery clinic in HCMC right when she turned 18 years old.

My, who had just turned 18, says she belongs to a family in which everyone's nose is small and bulbous, and she was constantly self-conscious about her own nose.

Every time she took a photo, she would carefully select the angle.

"My parents promised me that when I turned 18, they would give me a rhinoplasty," the 22-year-old, who works in Hanoi now, says.

Unfortunately, her family's fortunes declined and she had to drop out of school at the age of 16 to work.

Firmly believing that good looks lead to more career opportunities, after working in a variety of jobs she applied to work as a cashier at a clinic at the age of 17 and got accepted.

"Since I did not have a proportionate and good-looking face, my boss did not let me work in the front office, and so my income was lower than other people’s."

Diem My before and after getting plastic surgery. Photo courtesy of My

Diem My before and after getting plastic surgery. Photo courtesy of My

When she turned 18 she got a rhinoplasty done to reshape her nose and a blepharoplasty to add creases to her eyelids to get the "perfect" face.

But since she did not have enough money for the procedures, she paid half and asked her clinic to let her pay the rest in monthly installments.

The number of people aged 18-20 who undergo cosmetic procedures such as My is growing.

At a 2019 plastic surgery seminar, delegates said 250,000 people in HCMC alone wanted to have some sort of "cosmetic intervention," including 100,000 people aged 25-35.

The average age of plastic surgery patients is 18-19.

In the U.S., according to a 2021 report by the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons (ASPS), the number of patients under the age of 20 has grown by nearly 20 percent a year since 2005.

Despite the fact that many socio-economic activities came to a halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the plastic surgery industry grew, with over 230,000 cosmetic surgeries and nearly 140,000 non-invasive cosmetic procedures performed.

The most common procedures among people aged 13 to 19 were rhinoplasty (50 percent) and auricular reconstruction (10 percent).

Dr Manish Shah, a board-certified plastic surgeon and a member of ASPS, says there is an increase in the number of cosmetic procedures associated with the 'selfie era' and the problem of online bullying.

He adds that even minor flaws on the face make young people feel insecure when taking photos or interacting on social media.

Dr Pham Thi Viet Dung, head of the department of plastic reconstructive and aesthetic surgery at Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi, acknowledges the increase in the number of plastic surgery patients aged 18-20 in Vietnam.

She says they understand their bodies have developed fully and it is also an age at which they have the authority to make decisions about cosmetic surgery intervention.

"The body's recovering ability is better between the ages of 18 and 20."

Like My, Phuong Uyen of HCMC too was self-conscious about her low bridge and bulbous tip, and her parents gave her VND20 million ($862.57) as a high school graduation gift for a rhinoplasty.

Now a sophomore, she believes having the surgery at 18 was a wise decision.

"I had a long summer break to recover after the surgery, and I could become beautiful instantly."

She and her mother researched about the safest clinics and procedures before the surgery.

After 10 days of pain and abstinence following surgery, Uyen got the desired high and aquiline nose.

"I used to avoid making eye contact with people and rarely went out with friends."

As for My, she no longer needs to find "the right" angle to take pictures after she fixed her nose and got "double" eyelids.

She says her new face and professional skills and knowledge have helped her get a slew of jobs in Hanoi and HCMC.

"I used to earn a salary of VND4-5 million a month and never imagined I will [one day] be able to earn over VND10 million.

"However, because of my ability and appearance, I am now able to earn that amount."

Hong Hanh, 20, of HCMC, would always be annoyed when her friends made fun of her for having '"two backs."

She tried various exercises and diets to grow her breasts, but nothing helped.

Her mother, Hong Ha, suggested that she should research breast enlargement surgery.

She herself had had breast augmentation surgery at a reputable clinic in Hanoi after doing extensive research.

"I believe my advice will be beneficial," Ha says. After Hanh agreed, she paid VND70 million to buy her "confidence."

Hanh's limbs were stretched out and tied together with a rope for eight hours during the procedure.

After the surgery, her breasts are rounder and fuller and the doctor discharged her from the hospital after one day.

Her mother had to be by her side 24/7 during her recovery because she could not get up and walk on her own.

"I could not stand up straight, eat, lie on my back, or take a bath until the sutures were removed," Hanh says.

Within a month however fluids began to accumulate in her breasts, and she had to be hospitalized. She was unable to eat or drink for several days due to the fear of health complications, and she lost more than five kilograms.

"At the time I cried and wished I hadn't had the surgery."

Ha was worried about her daughter's health but also her mental state.

Fortunately, Hanh was treated by a doctor who specializes in treating complications after cosmetic surgery, and after a month her condition got better.

Plastic surgery entails risks whatever a patient’s age. Some people like Hanh are fortunate enough to recover even after things go wrong, but there are also many cases of people with disfigured noses and chest deformities and even death following surgery.

A 22-year-old girl died in the southern Long An Province in March after undergoing rhinoplasty at an unlicensed facility. At the same time a 33-year-old woman died after undergoing breast augmentation surgery at a hospital in HCMC's Tan Binh District.

According to Dung, patients thinking of getting plastic surgery must ask themselves fundamental questions such as "Are the surgery and clinic safe?" and "Is it worth it?"

After her nose and eyelid surgeries, Diem My has not undergone any more procedures.

"This change gives me more than enough confidence," she says. Hanh has also gained more confidence and friends have stopped calling her "two backs."

But when the weather changes, her chest aches and tightens. She has the last word: "If I had to do it all over again, I would not undergo plastic surgery."

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