douyin makeup, china trends, tiktok china

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

The beauty trend, which was born on Chinese social media, has spread to the West by way of TikTok

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Beatrice Tamagno Headshot
11:36 AM HKT, Tue November 8, 2022 1 mins read

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.

douyin makeup

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 fads spread for many reasons, beauty and fashion trends arguably travel easier than music, cinema, and literature due to their visual nature, transcending language barriers.

Furthermore, as a YouTuber pointed out in a video essay on China’s soft power, many forms of culture (from novels to TV series and even song lyrics) are subject to some degree of censorship in China. The downside of this is that the original message or plot of the content is transformed or lost and, therefore, unappealing or indigestible to foreign audiences.

However, on Chinese video and image-oriented platforms, such as Douyin and Xiaohongshu, beauty and fashion creators have found a venue for playful self-expression, which has birthed a unique and inspiring ecosystem for young netizens the world over.

Cover image designed by Zhouhan Shao

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