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Young, Accomplished, but Balding, They Walk into Surgery Roo

html模版Young, Accomplished, but Balding, They Walk into Surgery Rooms for Hair Transplants | Online Gallery

“With my physical appearance, what else do I still have to lose? I had wondered until I started to lose hair.” In ROCK & ROAST, a Chinese talk show contest, the Gen Z stand-up comedian Xu Zhisheng wrote his experience of hair loss into a hilarious punchline.

Statistics from the National Health Commission of China show that in 2020, 250 million Chinese, or one in six, experienced hair loss. Among them, 65% started balding before the age of 30, two decades earlier than the previous generation.

As a result of appearance anxiety arising from hair loss, more are opting for hair transplant surgeries. The first hair transplant service provider to go public was Yonghe Hair Transplant. Its prospectus to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange showed that the company's revenues exceeded 1 billion yuan from January to June 2021, up by 75.1% year-on-year. The major contributor was hair transplant services and nearly 60% of its hair transplant customers were born after 1990. 

In the 116th Online Gallery, TMTPost interviewed three young professionals with different concerns over hair loss. One of them, despite earning over a million yuan per year, is worried about not looking good enough to find a girlfriend. Another is the boss of a company who is afraid young colleagues would mistake him for someone much older and “cold-shoulder” him. The third is deeply upset about his “big forehead" just because his friends casually joked about it. All three of them ended up in the surgery room for hair transplant, aiming to wield a restored hairline against their anxiety.

He came back to China in pursuit of a fulfilling career, but hair loss started the next year

Operating with a ruler and a brow pencil on Xiao Min’s forehead, the doctor kept measuring and marking for a satisfactory design of the new hairline

Hairlines affect the first impression one’s face may leave: a round hairline makes the person look soft and a square one strong and masculine. After considering for 30 minutes, Xiao Min decided to go for a “somewhat square” hairline——2,700 hair follicles will be transplanted to cover an area of 41 square centimeters on his forehead. This way, he will not look bald anymore.

Hair transplant, however, does not increase the total number of hairs. Rather, it robs Peter to pay Paul: by removing follicles from the posterior occipital area  (the lower-back of one’s head) to where hair is lost, it creates the illusion of full hair.

Hair transplant can be divided into two types depending on whether shaving is involved. A single hair follicle for hair transplant procedures with shaving costs 10-20 yuan, whereas for a surgery without shaving, one costs 20-40 yuan. From each follicle can grow 1-4 hairs.

Xiao chose to have the surgery without shaving his hair. The market price of the entire hair transplant procedure was almost 100,000 yuan prior to a discount.

In the consulting room, Xiao told the doctor about his history of hair loss. “My hair had been good in college. It started falling off during my second year working in the advertising industry."

Rather than “996" (working from 9 am to 9 pm for 6 days a week), the advertising industry works ”007”, meaning there is no time for rest. In order to reduce the cost and rush the delivery of commercials, Xiao often needed to work “throughout the day plus pulling two all-nighters”.

With an irregular sleeping schedule and lasting stress from work over a long period, Xiao saw “more and more hairs in the basin.”

In 2015, the 28-year-old professional set up his own advertising agency. During the busiest days, Xiao would work until 2 or 3 am, and start proposal meetings at 9 am the following day. Sometimes he may need to travel to one different city every day to make proposals, and he still kept the same routine.

In 2018, the company started to take off. It expanded to have 20 people and an annual revenue of nearly 20 million yuan. Some of its campaigns became a hit, such as "As long as there is sand in your mind, everywhere is the Maldives", which made the agency famous in the industry.

In 2019, things suddenly went south. Several clients went bankrupt and failed to settle the receivable, and many major accounts started to cut back on their budgets.

In early 2020, COVID broke out, and in 2021, the state regulated the education industry. Important customers such as New Oriental and TAL Education “tightened the belt", which left Xiao's company in a more difficult situation.

He was most anxious about layoffs. “After all, these are my brothers who have worked hard to build the company with me.” Still, the crisis was real. Without layoffs, the company couldn’t even stay afloat.

The company had more than 30 people at its peak, but only five were kept. After the layoffs, Xiao felt his hair loss aggravated. "I suddenly saw myself in the mirror and felt I gained more than a decade of age."

Now 35 years old, Xiao has been in the advertising industry for nearly a decade, and his hair loss has reached Level 3.

Hair loss can be divided into seven levels. At Level 3, hairline recession becomes visible. At the most severe Level 7, the head is almost completely bald.

Yang Dalin (a pseudonym), 33, is also troubled by hair loss.

Before moving to Beijing in 2017,Yang Dalin had worked in Hong Kong and Toronto for five years in the financial industry.

In Toronto, he would leave work at five o'clock. After work, his boss always advised him to have fun, go to dinner, drink and avoid working overtime. "No one discusses work outside of working hours,” he told TMTPost.

Once when he worked overtime, he was reported by a colleague, and the next day his boss warned him: "Don't come to work when you are in vacation.” “It was like boiling a frog in warm water," said Yang, who started to fear losing his competitiveness and chose to return to China.

During his second year back in China, Yang started to lose hair. When he noticed his hair loss, he was preparing to change his job and was attending one after another interview. "The longest written test lasted six hours, filled with intellectually challenging and mathematical questions. Some companies even had seven interviewers take turns to talk with me within a day. In one extreme case, I got off work at five o'clock, took the train from Shanghai to Hangzhou, and did an interview from 7 pm until 1 am."

Yang was convinced that the job hunting experience triggered hair loss, as every time he took a shower during that time, he could see “nothing but hairs" in his hand.

“It would be okay if it were just a day or two, but for an entire month, I could grab a handful of fallen hairs each day. Anxiety took over me, but the more stress, the more hair loss. It was a vicious circle.

Company owner gets hair transplant to look young enough to fit in with coworkers

After years of frequent dyeing and curling, Yang’s hair seems naturally curly. But under his fringe, the hairline is receding bit by bit.

The normal density of hair is above 80 follicular units (FU) per square centimeter. Scalp inspection, however, showed that Yang’s hairline was only 35 FU/cm2. From one follicular unit usually grows 1-4 hairs, but in Yang’s case grows only one.

“As early as three years ago, I was told that I showed signs of balding, but I never believed that,” Yang told Online Gallery. “I didn’t feel it when I looked into the mirror.”

However, such confidence disappeared when he went out with friends on one windy day. A picture was taken when high winds tossed up hair on everyone’s forehead. In the picture, Yang saw how he looked without the fringe, “I was like a middle-aged bald guy from the commercials.”

His friends started to joke about his hair. Someone sent the picture with his hair blown up into their group chat and suggested that he find a girlfriend as soon as possible, “as it will be much harder when you become bald.”

Yang doesn’t think of himself as attractive in either height or appearance, so he has been rather unconfident about finding a girlfriend. The “balding crisis” has only worsened his anxiety.

Yang has “sailed smoothly” since his school days. After high school, he was admitted into a top university in Beijing based on just recommendations, without having to go through the highly competitive National College Entrance Examination. Then he pursued postgraduate degrees in Hong Kong and Canada and joined the finance industry. Starting as an analyst, Yang worked his way up to fund manager, earning a 7-figure salary. He even issued his own private equity products.

Yang was frank about his high standards for a girlfriend, who he believed would, in turn, wants her boyfriend to at least look okay. “The bottom line is, I cannot be bald.” he said, “If I lose my attractiveness much faster than I advance my career, I will end up further and further away from the girl I would want.”

Xiao Min checking out the final hairline design

Though Xiao, who got married and had kids a few years ago, doesn’t share the pressure from courtship, as leader of a company, he still frets over hair loss when working and socializing.

In the media and marketing industry, especially in advertisement agencies, most employees are Gen Zs. Xiao told Online Gallery that hair loss made him look ten years older than his actual age.

When things went wrong with hiring or management, Xiao would sometimes blame himself. “My employees are aloof to me at work or off work, and I wonder if it’s because they don’t want to mingle with someone who look much older than them.”

Xiao also faced biases from outside of his company. At proposal meetings, some of his clients see age as the measurement of creativity. “When they noticed that I looked a bit old, they would assume I didn’t have great ideas to offer.”

9 hours of hair transplant to create a “perfect face”

Statistics from the National Health Commission in 2020 showed that among the 250 million people who suffered from hair loss in China, 65.6% were male. “The gender ratio of our clients is 1:1. Not all of them suffer hair loss problems, many simply want to look better,” A doctor at Bi Liansheng Hair Transplant Center in Beijing told TMTPost. “Women are more likely to choose ‘aesthetic hair transplant’, which targets the hairline, eyebrows, upper lip hair, etc. It’s more like medical aesthetics.”

Wang Yue and her doctor were discussing the plan for her hair transplant.

Wang Yue, 26, is one of those women. She runs an exhibition service studio in Beijing.

Wang likes to take pretty pictures of herself, and she often posts them on social media. Once a good friend jokingly said that Wang had a big forehead, though she didn’t mean it, Wang has been haunted by her “big forehead” ever since.

From then on, no matter it was a group photo or a solo selfie, she would always doctor her forehead first. After last Chinese Spring Festival, she started to wear hats every time she went out.

Wang wasn’t losing her hair, but she was upset about her forehead. Her doctor planned to make minor adjustments to her hairline so that Wang’s face would fit the Chinese Golden Ratio for the perfect female face.

Under the “Three Five Golden Ratio” principle, the face is divided into 3 parts: the upper, middle, and lower parts. The upper part starts from the hairline to the brow bone, the middle from the brow bone to the nasal tip and the lower the nasal tip to the chin. Each part should be of the same length.

The middle and lower parts of Wang’s face were measured to be both 6.5cm long, and the upper part, or the forehead was 8cm. The doctor thought that the length of Wang’s forehead should not exceed 6cm, or it would ruin the perfect ratio. Yet after seeing the 6cm line for hairline restoration, Wang was still not satisfied and requested to dial down the length even more. The final length was set at 5.8 cm.

Wang wanted a “hair-framed face”. This trending “beauty standard” has it that the distance between one’s cheekbones should be smaller than the width of the skull. Many most popular female stars in China have such a face.

The face shape is congenitally determined by bones and is thus difficult to change. Nevertheless, it is possible to achieve a visually similar result by lowering the hairline. To do this, the doctor had to remove 3050 hair follicles from the back of Wang's head and transplant them to her forehead. The surgery took up to 9 hours.

For Wang, her appearance anxiety seemed endless. Other than being unhappy about her forehead, she also thought that her jaw was too wide and planned on “getting hyaluronic acid injection after hair transplant.”

35-year-old crisis: colleagues from Tsinghua, Peking University, Harvard and Stanford

Image of Xiao Min after hair and eyebrow transplants

With his business shrinking for two years due to the pandemic, Xiao craved for a positive change, or a breakthrough.

“You can't change the industry, so you can only change yourself,” Xiao thought to himself. He found two options, either to overcome long-standing appearance anxiety with a hair transplant or to improve himself by doing an MBA.

He opted for a hair transplant because “it is less time-consuming, simpler and cheaper”.

After the hair transplant surgery, Xiao looked in the mirror and felt like a “different person”. “I looked as if I were in my 50s before, but now around 30, which is closer to my actual age,” he said.

He also had an eyebrow transplant to fill in the missing eyebrow tails. Xiao explained that in addition to appearance concerns, eyebrow transplant was also relevant to “Feng Shui” or luck. “The advertising industry still believes in Feng Shui, namely, one's luck is associated with their eyebrows,” he said.

“What's more serious than appearance anxiety is financial anxiety. I will keep going all out for another 5 years to earn enough money,” Xiao told Online Gallery. In 5 years he will be 40 years old, his parents will be nearly 70 and his child will be in junior high school, which will be the most stressful time for him.

“Hair transplant is not a permanent solution. If your lifestyle does not improve and the stress of your work and life is not relieved, transplanted hair will end up falling off,” the hair transplant surgeon told Xiao Min.

“If my hair falls out again, I will seek another transplant.” A hairline that doesn't recede in the next five years is crucial for Xiao.

Yang Dalin at work

“A hair transplant can at least make me less anxious about my hair. But my age anxiety lingers on.” In the eyes of those around him, Yang Dalin is already a “successful man” with seven-digit annual income,龙long8, but he is also facing a “35-year-old crisis” at the age of 33.

Yang scheduled his hair transplant surgery on a weekday evening. A week of bed rest was needed after the surgery, but Yang went back to work on the next day.

“I am still hardworking and motivated, and the workhorse of the company in many cases, but this may not be the case a few years later,” Yang said to Online Gallery. People aged 30 to 35 are more experienced than those in their 20s, but brainpower and stamina would go downhill after 35. “Compared to employees in their 20s, they become increasingly uneconomical for companies and face the risk of getting sacked,” he said.

Yang has a sterling resume and educational background, but he “only meets the minimum threshold” of his circuit.

Yang faces pressure from the younger generation. 80-90% of his group members graduated from Tsinghua University or Peking University, and many in the company hold a degree from world-renowned institutions such as MIT, Harvard and Stanford.

Some fresh graduates received the same amount of bonuses as Yang in their first year because of their exceptional performance.

In the second half of last year, Yang launched his first private equity product, but the results did not meet expectations due to poor market performance, which added to his anxiety. With all sorts of pressure, Yang was once diagnosed with severe depression.

He hoped to transition to a management position before 35, which he thought would make it “easier” for him.

“And, of course, to start a happy family,” Yang told Online Gallery. If this doesn’t come true, he would go for a “small goal” first, which was “to legally earn 100 million yuan as a means to combat other anxieties.”

(Video Directed, Shot, Edited and Written by Wei Liukun, Edited by Chen Zheng)

(The article is translated and edited with authorization from the author @韦嘎, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce. The original article can be found here.)

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