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Chinese men turn to cosmetics to increase allure
Updated: 2005-01-19 15:26

With their sculpted bodies, moisturised skin and fitted suits, Chinese men are taking an increasing interest in their looks and in fashion, urged on by their womenfolk.

An attendant gives a male customer a facial at the French cosmetic brand Lancome concept shop in Shanghai. With their sculpted bodies, moisturised skin and fitted suits Chinese men are taking an increasing interest in their looks and in fashion, urged on by their womenfolk. [AFP]

Male models are everywhere in Shanghai, from advertising hoardings in Nankin Road's chic shopping centres to the front covers of newspapers and magazines.

Many of these "metrosexuals" clearly want to be more appealing to women and to their clients and their bosses.

The manufacturers of cosmetics products don't want to miss out -- the shelves of department stores are heavy with moisturising creams, aftershaves and shampoo "for men".

"While the male market is (still) not necessarily very important, it is undeniably progressing," said Joe Zhou, head of public relations for cosmetic giant L'Oreal in Shanghai, without providing any figures.

In 2002 men's products made up 377.5 million dollars of a Chinese cosmetics market worth about 45 billion dollars, according to official figures. This market share has been growing at a record rate each year.

Japan's top cosmetics maker Shiseido has plans to open 5,000 independent stores in China by 2008. The company, which started to sell its products in China in 1981, currently has a presence in 350 department stores.

Mandom, another Japanese company which already manufactures in China, said in December it intends to open offices in Beijing, Shanghai and other parts of eastern China from April 2005 after having successfully tested 16 products from its Gatsby line of male beauty products there.

The Japanese company even wants to double output at its factory in Zhongshan in southern China and to distribute 200 products on the Chinese market by the end of 2007.

But the urban Chinese man's concern about his appearance has not stopped with cosmetics -- more and more of them are turning to plastic surgery.

The most sought after operations are facelifts and ones to reduce the size of bags under the eyes or inflate the size of chest muscles, according to one doctor.

In a sign of men's increasing use of plastic surgery, a surgeon at the Shanghai Ren'ai hospital said he had operated on 10 patients last year to increase their chest muscles, compared to three in 2003, The Shanghai Daily reported.

The doctor, who said he had also refused 30 patients, warned against abuse of such procedures though, suggesting most men who came to him appeared to have psychological disorders.

"To be honest, plastic surgery is not necessary and physical exercise can generate the same effects and is more certain," he said.

Shanghai residents are receptive to this argument, judging by the number of gyms springing up around the city and booming sales of the Chinese edition of monthly British magazine Men's Health.

In 2002 the magazine doubled its readership to 200,000. "Sales continue to grow and we expect an increase of 30 percent per annum in the years to come," said editor Wang Xiaofeng.

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