BEIJING - These days, students in China take on loans for not only their studies, but also, increasingly, cosmetic surgery.
About one in six of some 300 students who went under the knife at one of Guangzhou's largest cosmetic surgery providers over the summer had borrowed money to do so, China Daily reported.
At Guangzhou Huamei Aesthetic Hospital, such student cosmetic surgery loans tend to range from 10,000 yuan (S$2,058) to 30,000 yuan, Mr Peng Weihong, assistant to the hospital's general manager, told the paper.
Several lenders have eyed this nascent market since mid-2015. Ant Financial Services Group, the online finance firm backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba, also began offering loans for cosmetic surgery this March, Ms Ke Sufang of consulting agency Qianzhan Industry Research Institute told China Daily.
Ms Ke said the boom in such loans reflects the swelling demand for cosmetic surgery, a market valued at 796.3 billion yuan in China last year, that is growing about 20 per cent a year. The fact that procedures are not cheap also accounts for why students are taking loans, she said.
The Guangzhou Mylike Aesthetic Medicine clinic has seen a 40 per cent growth in clients aged 18 to 24 in July over the same month last year, with greater social acceptance of cosmetic surgery, said public relations manager Du Xiuming.
Some students even go for such surgery accompanied by their parents, reflecting a more open attitude on the matter, said China Daily.
Procedures popular with students are minor ones for creating double-folded eyelids, removing acne and body hair, treating teeth as well as dermal fillers.
Students made up 12 per cent of those opting for cosmetic surgery last year, behind only white-collar workers and people in the fashion industry, Ms Ke said.
A postgraduate student in Beijing by the surname of Guo said he had a dermal filler and a Botox injection in June, which he paid for with a 10,000 yuan loan from Alipay.
The 23-year-old said he decided to enhance his looks after seeing his classmates do it. He paid off the loan in six months, "with a few hundred yuan in interest", he said.
A college student from northern Shanxi province, 22, who declined to give her name, said she knew of many students who had borrowed money to get plastic surgery.
She got her eyelids and nose done, with her first loan - 7,000 yuan - from an online lending platform shortly after Chinese New Year. Representatives of a beauty institute visited her school and told students instalment payments are accepted.
"I had no savings to pay for the surgery, and my family still has traditional opinions, so it was hard to get their approval or financial support," she told China Daily.
Mr Peng believes the number of students seeking plastic surgery would continue to increase, with the influence of celebrities and more believing that looks play a part in whether someone is successful.
However, Ms Ke said loans for cosmetic surgery may become harder to come by, with the tightening of rules for on-campus loans.
Mr Peng Peng, from the South Nongovernmental Think-Tank based in Guangdong province, warned against loan sharks and "naked loans", in which lenders demand nude photos of borrowers which they threaten to release if payment is not made.
Cosmetic surgery does not necessarily lead to a good job, he added.