A doctor prepares a patient for breast-enhancement surgery at a hospital in Hefei, Anhui province, in July. (Photo/China Daily)
China's cosmetic surgery industry will be valued at 400 billion yuan ($62.6 billion) by the end of this year and is expected to double in size to 800 billion yuan by 2019.
If growth continues as expected, China will be the world's third largest market after the United States and Brazil by 2019, according to the latest industry trend report.
The report, issued by the China Association of Plastics and Aesthetics on Monday, found that more than seven million Chinese people, mostly women, went under the knife in the name of beauty last year. Roughly 60,000 of them chose to go to South Korea.
Ten percent more foreigners have come to China for plastic surgery year-on-year for the past five years, although a great number of Chinese also traveled abroad, mostly to South Korea, the report found.
"Cosmetic procedures have grown incredibly in China as an increasing number of women go under the knife to get ahead," said Chen Yuzhe, a CAPA member, at the launch.
"With deeper pockets and enhanced awareness, there will be more room for the industry to grow here."
In the past decade, the industry has increased in China by 30 percent each year on average, said the report. The most popular procedures include those on the eyes and nose, such as double eyelid surgery and nasal bridge augmentation, breast enhancements and liposuction.
Worldwide, breast enlargement is the most popular procedure, but not in China.
For instance, the US records 300,000 breast enhancements each year while in China 50,000 to 100,000 are performed, according to Du Xiaoyan, vice-secretary general of the association.
"Chinese women are more reluctant than Westerners to go for breast enhancements," Du said.
Chen pointed out that the China figure could be an underestimate as "some go to unqualified clinics so they are not on our radar".
China now has more than 10,000 plastic surgery clinics and the number is increasing by 30 percent each year, said the report.
However, due to a lack of regulations or strict management controls, unqualified practitioners also operate, leading to medical disputes and dangers to customers' health and safety, Du said.
She cautioned "beauty chasers", people going to South Korea for plastic surgery, since fewer than 3,000 of the more than 10,000 physicians performing plastic surgery in South Korea are authorized.
To help improve safety and quality control, CAPA plans to launch a data platform to collect and assess data from different institutions and track surgeries performed within the country, Du said.