by Bui Quynh Hoa
People harbour varied beliefs and opinions when it comes to undergoing cosmetic or plastic surgery.
Some people think it is unnecessary and that those who are born with unwanted physical characteristics should not change themselves but cope with their existing physical appearance. Others believe that if someone wants to alter their physical attributes, they should do it because it is their body and money at stake.
Whether the motivation for choosing cosmetic surgery is because someone does not approve of the way their face or breasts look or are opting for the surgery to fix some physical deviation in their body and the purpose is not cosmetic, such procedures are becoming increasingly common.
Regardless of whether their intention is aesthetic or driven by the urge to heal an injury or correct a genetic mutation, many Vietnamese are jumping under the knife and spending considerable sums of money on such surgeries.
Should we shun such people or applaud them for making such a significant decision that will impact their lives?
First of all, it is important to understand the difference between plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery.
According to renowned surgeon Bach Minh Tien, who holds a Master's degree in plastic surgery and is the Vice Head of the Viet Nam-Cuba Hospital's Plastic Surgery and Maxilo-Facial Department, cosmetic surgery aims to improve the aesthetic appearance of a person, while plastic surgery may include this or may just stick with reconstruction. Reconstructive plastic surgery aims to improve function. However, it may also involve trying to approximate a normal physical appearance, but that is not its primary function.
Tien separates cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery by terming cosmetic surgery as a "non-essential" surgery - the kind which patients choose to have – while plastic surgery involves surgical procedures to reconstruct facial and body defects due to birth disorders, injuries or illness.
"There is nothing wrong with wanting to make myself beautiful or wanting to have good self-esteem," said Ngan Giang from Ha Noi.
"In a society where image is a very important factor, feeling and looking good is crucial."
A colleague of mine also supports the advantages offered by cosmetic surgery.
"I think I am a good-looking and well-educated girl. I have a stable job, but I still don't have a boyfriend. I think cosmetic surgery is a good way to help me find my ‘dream prince'. It also opens up opportunities for me and others," she says with a smile.
Many Vietnamese teenagers are opting for cosmetic surgery in order to look "hot" or to mimic the appearance of their idols in movies and magazines.
Ngoc Lan, 16, from Ha Noi National University, tried to persuade her parents to give her money for eyelid surgery aimed at making her look more beautiful and ‘westernised'.
"This is a society where you have to be pretty to get ahead," Lan said. "I think it will help me look better than I currently do."
Lan is not alone in her desire, said surgeon Tien, pointing out that Ha Noi currently has 33 authorised aesthetic surgery centres.
"Since 2000, the practice of plastic surgery in Viet Nam has boomed rapidly, thanks to an increasing demand from locals who wish to improve their appearance," Tien noted.
"I think artificial beauty is better than natural ugliness. This is reflected in the number of clients wanting to get surgeries having risen by 10 per cent each year. At my plastic surgery and maxilo-facial department, we get about 250,000 patients per year, of which 40 per cent prefer rhinoplasty, and 40 per cent for eyelid lift," he added.
Cosmetic surgery can improve appearance and self-esteem for sure, but does it also mean big bucks must be spent? Some people have spent their entire life savings on cosmetic surgeries, so this is something that others should consider seriously before getting any surgery done.
Furthermore, there are many risks to one's physical appearance and chances of becoming depressed when one undergoes plastic surgery. No surgeon can assure 100 per cent success during surgery. So one should consider the options even more carefully with this in mind.
It is estimated that the country has hundreds of beauty salons, with not many holding cosmetic surgery licences. The remainder are authorised for skin care and consultation only. Clients visiting unauthorised beauty salons usually only get an opportunity to talk with the beauty staff but not with surgeons. That is why many serious and regrettable cases relating to cosmetic surgery have arisen.
"Everyone has the right to do as they wish with their body, but in my opinion, natural characteristics should be respected," said a manager at the Red Sun Investment Trade International Company.
"A small change is okay, but a completely different look, where a person becomes unrecognisable, is unacceptable," he added.
Another worker from the ATC Steel Viet Nam Company also strongly opposed beauty surgeries. He divorced his wife a year ago because, according to him, she had married him under false pretences.
He said when his wife gave birth to their baby, it resembled neither of them. The father said the baby was "incredibly ugly", which prompted him to try to uncover the identity of the baby's real father. This pushed his wife to admit that she had undergone several cosmetic surgeries before they started dating and that the baby's unattractive appearance could be attributed to her.
Hoang Chien Thang, director of the ATC Steel Viet Nam Company, agreed with his employee.
"In my personal opinion, a good character is much better than a good physical appearance. The value of beauty lies in a human being's dignity and spirit, not their outer appearance," Thang said.
Undergoing cosmetic surgery is a good thing, but it can also lead to bad results. No matter what your beliefs might be, there are a multitude of surgeries conducted each year in the country, and they are available as long as you can afford them. We should not shun cosmetic surgery or advocate for it blindly but should understand all the risks involved before making any decisions. — VNS