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‘Douyin Makeup’ Might Be One of China’s Biggest Cultural Exports

‘Douyin Makeup’ Might Be One of China’s Biggest Cultural Exports

For those of you too busy to check in on the RADII website every day, we’ve got you every Tuesday with a summary of all we got on China’s youth culture from the last week. In this edition:

  • The beauty trend, which was born on Chinese social media, has spread to the West by way of TikTok.
  • A wave of 2000s nostalgia in China is fueling an unexpected demand for the old tech — cameras, phones, and the Nintendo 3DS — among hip Chinese youth.
  • In a twist of irony, McDonald’s new green restaurant in Beijing is located on the site of an old steel mill — one of the city’s leading sources of pollution 20 years ago.
  • Out of love for Japanese artist PonkichiM’s iconic ‘Cabbage Dog,’ Chinese netizens are dyeing their dogs’ fur with — wait for it — cabbage juice!

Intrigued? Keep scrolling, my friend.

How ‘Douyin Makeup’ Became One of China’s Biggest Cultural Exports

When you think of Chinese art culture, Beijing opera, blue and white Jingdezhen ceramics, and ink calligraphy might be some things that come to mind. However, these art forms belong to the country’s imperial past.

And while Japanese anime and Korean music and dramas have infiltrated global youth culture, China doesn’t seem to have one specific cultural trend that has hooked international Millennials and Gen Zers in recent decades. At least until the rise of ‘Douyin makeup.’

Named after Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, the makeup trend started spreading on the short video app’s international counterpart in mid-2022. A related TikTok hashtag now counts over 636 million views.

Thumbnails from some ‘Douyin makeup’ videos on TikTok. Screengrab via TikTok

Although born on Chinese social media platforms like Douyin and Xiaohongshu (which has been likened to Pinterest and Instagram), the style trend combines elements of C-beauty and K-beauty. Looks popularized by Korean and Chinese celebrities and content creators also serve as sources of inspiration.

Some of the distinctive features of ‘Douyin makeup’ include long, sparse lashes, a lot of pink blush, light lip-gloss, and round eyes (also known as the ‘doe eye’ look). To achieve the last of these, one should highlight the aegyo sal or under-eye fat. The goal is to look doll-like and youthful — a reflection of East Asian beauty standards, which uphold innocent and feminine features.

The Douyin beauty trend, which revolves around Asian features, has primarily been embraced by Asian and Asian diaspora TikTok creators, such as Singaporean @keyiuiu and overseas Chinese content creator @grannyfawn.

Beauty aficionados of other ethnicities who are also fond of the look have adapted it to suit their own skin tone and features.

‘Douyin makeup’ aside, other fashion and beauty content from Xiaohongshu has been reshared by international users on TikTok; think tutorials on how to take the perfect mirror selfie and how to pose in different settings, such as the library or an art gallery.

While some Chinese youth are turning waste into art, others have gained a new appreciation for old electronics in recent months. In fact, some of these gadgets and gizmos, which are no longer in production, have become so popular that they now cost more than newer devices on the market.

The hype surrounding old technology is part of a more significant 2000s nostalgia trend: Gen Z is obsessed with Y2K fashion, and many people view digital devices from the noughties and early 2010s as the new ‘it’ accessories.

These are some items you might want to sell on the Chinese internet if they’re lying around the house.

  • Known for its golden arches against a bright red backdrop, McDonald’s is now adding a splash of green to its branding in China.
  • A new hair dye trend has taken Chinese social media by storm: Pet owners in China are dyeing their dogs’ fur wacky colors using — with safety and health in mind — natural food coloring, more specifically, with juice from Chinese cabbage or napa cabbage.
  • Instead of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, creative Chinese foodies are slathering their bread with matcha sauce.
  • At this year’s League of Legends World Championship finals, Chinese megastar Jackson Wang hit the stage with his new song specially created for the video game.
  • KFC China has brought back its braised duck sandwiches and wraps in collaboration with popular Wuhan-headquartered brand Zhou Hei Ya.

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