"Technological progress will have an impact on human behavior," said Cheng Kuo-liang (鄭國良), director of the skin aesthetic surgery center at the Taipei Municipal Wanfang Hospital (台北市立萬芳醫院) and Cheng Kuo-liang Skin and Vein Clinic (鄭國良皮膚科診所). "If we can accept the fact that letters have been superseded by e-mails, why can't we appreciate and take full advantage of the advance of medical cosmetic technology?"
And indeed, it only takes a short walk around the fashionable district located at the intersection of Taipei's Zhongxiao East and Dunhua South Roads to see how eagerly technology has been embraced. Wherever you look there are new medical cosmetic clinics offering a variety of cosmetic laser procedures and dermatological treatments. Whatever the treatment, the sales pitch is a variation on: we'll take years off your appearance in a matter of minutes.
Whether it's hair enhancement or wrinkle reduction, skin resurfacing or rejuvenation, removal of blemishes, whitening, face tightening, contouring or treatments for vascular lesions and acne scars, the skin aesthetic medicine centers at hospitals and numerous clinics all boast that they have solutions tailored to individual needs.
"Twenty- to 30-something women come to us for various moderate skin problems requiring relatively simple treatments. The majority of our clients are women aged over 40 as the signs of aging start to show. … But in recent years, we have begun to see an increase in the number of younger women seeking cosmetic procedures such as the intense pulse light (IPL) treatment and Thermage face lifts, which used to be sought by women in their 40s and 50s," said Cheng, adding that the number of male patients has also start increasing over the years, most of whom are aged over 40.
To professional "aesthetians" like Cheng, cosmetic procedures go deeper than physical improvement as they also contribute to psychological well-being, a holistic sense of aesthetic life; and on a pragmatic note, they also enhance competitiveness in the work place and social realm in general.
"While many people see medical cosmetic practices as a moral issue and denounce the obsession with appearance, I prefer to see it as part of the aesthetic economy born out of a society built on the service industry where human interactions are frequent but short and physical appearance plays an important role in social relations," said Sung Feng-i (宋奉宜), a managing director of the Chinese Society of Cosmetic Surgery and Anti-Aging Medicine (CSCSM, 中華民國美容醫學醫學會) and director of A Plus Beauty Skin and Medical Cosmetic Clinic (極緻皮膚專科暨醫學美容中心).
The takeoff of local cosmetic surgery occurred simultaneously with the technological transition from surgical, invasive treatments that require meticulous after-care and long recovery time, to non-surgical, non-invasive cosmetic procedures that have minimal or no downtime and which allow patients to immediately return to normal activities after treatments.
"In 1995, a few hospitals started to perform the glycolic peeling that marked the beginning of the medical cosmetic trend toward a one-day procedure with minimal interference with everyday life," Sung said.
It is commonly agreed that 2000 witnessed the boom in cosmetic procedures. There are a few different reasons given for this growth. First is the introduction of the non-invasive IPL photo facials and cosmetic filler injections such as botulinum toxin and hyaluronic acid injectables, which remain the most popular among both the young and the elderly.