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. 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. “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.

The phenomenon 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 doctor has also refused 30 patients. — AFP