In this undated photo, visitors check out the booth of a Japanese aesthetic medicine provider at an international medical and tourism fair in Beijing. (A JING / FOR CHINA DAILY)
Underpinned by people's increasing acceptance, the domestic market outlook for minimally invasive aesthetic medicine－like dermal fillers, laser therapy and other nonsurgical procedures－is expanding quickly despite the impact from the pandemic on the overall aesthetic medicine market.
However, the public should have a better understanding of the risks of minimally invasive procedures, and choose certified institutions to minimize such risks, said industry insiders.
Nonsurgical procedures booked on SoYoung, China's leading online platform for aesthetic medicine, surged 15.6 percent during the second half of 2020 on a yearly basis, while surgical procedures dropped 10 percent year-on-year, the company said.
Gengmei, an online platform for aesthetic medicine, said its most popular 10 procedures in 2020 were almost all minimally invasive, such as hyaluronic acid injection, photon rejuvenation and chemical peels.
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Minimally invasive aesthetic medicine procedures are relatively inexpensive, usually need short treatment times and allow a fast recovery, with results seen in a few days, and thus are very popular among customers.
Liu Di, CEO and founder of Gengmei
Among them, orders for thermage treatments rose 2.81 times, topping all procedures in terms of growth, followed by teeth scaling, hair implants, photon rejuvenation and hair removal.
"Compared with surgical procedures, minimally invasive aesthetic medicine procedures are relatively inexpensive, usually need short treatment times and allow a fast recovery, with results seen in a few days, and thus are very popular among customers," said Liu Di, CEO and founder of Gengmei.
Jin Xing, CEO and founder of SoYoung, said the minimally invasive treatment market will further expand as people become more aware of such options thanks to customer education by industry players over the past few years.
Jin expects a large number of small practices focusing on nonsurgical procedures to spring up over the next few years to meet growing demand.
Aesthetic medicine institutions used to view minimally invasive treatments as a means to attract and retain consumers for more expensive surgical procedures, but such business models cannot continue in the future when customers become better informed, he added.
Liu said young consumers are now the main customers of aesthetic medicine, and as they came of age in a wired world, they are better informed and have their own tastes in beauty.
Yet both executives said treatment safety remains a concern for consumers, and this somewhat impairs a more healthy growth of the industry.
Liu said consumers should closely inspect certificates of service providers to avoid getting services from illegal service providers, as there is a universal shortage of qualified doctors due to surging aesthetic medicine market demand.
Jin said there is still a long way to go before the domestic minimally invasive aesthetic medicine procedure market becomes mature, well-regulated and standardized in terms of both supply and demand.
Many customers are not aware of the differences between minimally invasive aesthetic medicine procedures and cosmetic treatments in general－the former is a medical treatment that requires doctors with certificates to perform in a medical setting, Jin said.
"The procedures are minimally invasive, but not risk-free. Every year a lot of customers become victims from treatment services provided illegally, but people are not alert to such problems. Customers have to bear in mind that skillful doctors and quality drugs are preconditions for a desirable treatment result," he added.
Song Jianxing, deputy head of the Chinese Society of Aesthetic and Plastic Doctor under the Chinese Medical Doctor Association, said the concept of "minimally invasive aesthetic medicine treatment" is often referred as qingyimei in Chinese, which literally means "slight aesthetic medicine "and is very misleading.
"It's called slight aesthetic medicine, but the risk is not slight," Song said.
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