Top Articles


The term ‘saving face’ has  a variety of meanings, most commonly perceived as an act of doing something that saves one’s self-esteem or dignity. But an increasing number of China’s politicians are redefining the age-old Eastern philosophy of “saving face.”

Reports from some of China’s largest cities, such as Beijing, indicate that there is a surge of government officials being treated annually at their Plastic Surgery hospitals. (China has numerous very large hospitals dedicated just to plastic surgery…the largest being over 1,000 beds!) Because officials have to go on television much more than before and to make many public appearances, they want to make sure they have strong and attractive facial features that portray ‘leadership’ and confidence.  The most popular procedures are eyelid lifts, Botox and injectable filler treatments, and facial bone reshaping.

Plastic surgery is now a multibillion-dollar-a-year industry in China and is growing at the rate of 20 percent annually. While this story and those statistics may be interesting, you may ask ‘what does that have to do with the price of Starbucks in America’?

While there may be significant cultural and political differences between these two countries, the unifying theme is that appearance counts…and often is very relevant for job promotion and career advancement. How much does physical appearance determine a person’s prospects of career advancement? Undoubtably the type of job sways how important appearance is. Fashion models are expected to be beautiful. Professional athletes  are expected to be fit. Corporate executives are expected to be well groomed and wear high-priced suits.

But what about common and everyday jobs where physical appearance does not seem to be important to how well the work is performed? The answer is… looks still  matter. Attractive people tend to make more money and move higher up the job ladder compared to unattractive people. Tall businessmen tend to enjoy more career success than short businessmen. People who are very over-weight or under-weight are at a disadvantage. Is this fair? No, but humans are visual animals after all.

In Gordon Patzer’s very insightful book,  Looks: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined (2008),  this bias in favor of physical appearance over competence is called ‘lookism’. He catalogues the evidence about how much influence physical attractiveness and body type have on a person’s prospects of success. Patzer claims that looks influence how well a person is treated at work, at school, at home, and many other spheres of life. Obviously, looks aren’t the only factor that determines success and status. Yet looks are far more important than most people suspect.

The recent and ongoing recession has brought forth a surge of patients interested in maintaining or improving their appearance, and they are often quite forthright about it. They openly admit they fear job competition and displacement from younger, less experienced candidates.   Professionals today want to project an image of good health and success, and good looks are a large part of the package.

The concept of ‘Lookism’ is universal and shared by people around the world. While extremes examples in plastic surgery are routinely, and even fervently, reported on here in the US, these are exactly that… extremes. Most people simply want to look and feel better…not morph into another person or personality. Today’s plastic surgery techniques offer a large range of treatments that really can help one ‘save face’.  From such minimally invasive techniques as Botox and injectable fillers  to limited ‘nips and tucks’ such as the Lifestyle Lift or Smartlipo, one can maintain and improve their appearance with minimal to no downtime.

Dr. Barry Eppley

Indianapolis, Indiana

Top Articles