fake belly button tattoos

Fake Belly Buttons are the Newest Gen-Z Fashion Accessory

To make their legs look longer and waists slimmer, young Chinese women are donning temporary belly button tattoos

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6:56 PM HKT, Fri August 4, 2023 1 mins read

Forget Meitu and FaceTune — Chinese women have discovered a real-life illusion to lengthen the body’s proportions: fake belly buttons.

Available for 5-10 RMB (0.70 to 1.40 USD), these easily-accessible temporary tattoos are catching on for their ability to make women’s legs look longer, and to make stomachs look slimmer.

a girl showing her real belly button and a fake one

A woman showing off her fake belly button

The tag for the trend on Xiaohongshu, a popular Instagram-like app, has over 35 million views. Not only does it include guides to using the temporary tattoos, but also a range of video tutorials that show viewers how to draw on belly buttons with eyeshadow.

“The result is pretty natural, and I think it looks better than my own belly button,” said one influencer testing out the tattoo stickers. “It gave me long legs, just like that.”

a video tutorial for using fake belly buttons

“It really looks authentic,” writes one influencer in her review of the tattoos

The benefits of fake belly buttons go beyond a slimmer appearance, though -—according to traditional Chinese medicine, the lower abdomen must be kept warm to preserve the overall health of the body; the fake belly button makes it so that women can wear high-waisted pants that cover much of the stomach, while still maintaining the crop-top aesthetic.

But not everyone is a fan of fake belly buttons, and what they represent.

a mirror selfie showing a girl wearing a fake belly button

The fake belly buttons make the torso appear shorter and the legs longer

“Do we really need to be so perfect?” a WeChat blogger asked in a post exploring the fad. “Open Xiaohongshu, and new ‘beauty artifacts’ [变美神器] will appear on the homepage every day. Fake breasts, fake hips, fake shoulders, fake collarbones, fake nose bridges…the whole body can be faked.”

“Among all the reasons [for using a fake belly button], the one that surprised me the most was that some people think their original belly button is not good-looking,” continued the blogger. “They categorize navels. Those that are round, fat, or protruding outwards are not pretty enough. If they are a little more slender they make people look more delicate.”

Those who are pushing back against the fake belly button trend consider belly buttons the latest body part to fall victim to rigid East Asian beauty standards, which prioritize extreme thinness.

a woman balances lipstick on her collarbone

A woman balances lipstick on her collarbone in a trend that many saw as promoting unrealistic beauty standards

For example, a few years ago, a trend in which women balanced lipstick on their collarbones swept social media; there is also a recurring viral challenge where women prove their waists are thinner than a sheet of A4 paper.

Women have been fighting these beauty standards, though. ‘Midsize’ influencers are growing in popularity on Xiaohongshu, thanks to their unapologetic acceptance of their bodies.

However, with the rise of fake belly buttons and other body-modification fads — no matter how temporary — consumers are still waiting for some of China’s more problematic beauty standards to be retired for good.

All images via Xiaohongshu

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