“The phrase is often used in China when people try to explain why a cute pink beauty brand might sell to a woman who may project an image of being edgy, strong, independent and empowered,” Nicole Fall, head of trends at Asian Consumer Intelligence, told Happi. “This juxtaposition comes from a deep-seated cultural phenomenon that stems from the prejudice that all women have a dormant girly side remnant from their younger days.”
While the concept itself sounds outdated in an age when women globally are making strides in equality, it continues to have a significant impact on Chinese consumers. And the concept is not exclusive to China—versions of this attitude can be seen across Northeast Asia. For example, “Kawaii,” the culture of cuteness in Japan, has had a similar influence on J-beauty.
“I think we can state that across Asia there is a penchant among some consumers for very feminine, or what was considered traditionally feminine, products that are usually pink or shades of peach and have whimsical qualities,” Fall told this publication.
Fads, Not Trends
Brands in Japan have leveraged this particular desire for years; later, K-beauty brands such as Etude House followed, developing products to fit this need. Now, in China, experts say that a similar pattern is emerging. But, Fall adds, there is “no one blanket trend in the world’s most populous region.”
She informs Happi that, for every consumer looking for a frilly packaged pink eyeshadow set, there is another searching for a pared back neutral option.
Similarly, the success of J-beauty and C-beauty cannot be attributed solely to kawaii and shao nu xin.
“Kawaii is not a trend and nor is shao nu xin,” said Fall. “In fact, these are consumer preferences. Kawaii has never been in trend and nor has it been out of trend. Same for shao nu xin.”
Both concepts are rather described as tapping into a collective desire among some women to seek out or, in some cases, justify an interest in products that perhaps might be considered a little too young for them or a bit whimsical or overly feminine. But C-beauty is far bigger than one aspect, which shao nu xin comprises in the greater scheme of things.
Gaming Industry Influence
Running alongside the “Young Hearts Run Free”’ meta trend that encompasses the shao nu xin concept, Asian Consumer Intelligence has identified other influencers affecting consumer behavior in China; one of them is gaming.
“Just as the adult entertainment industry was said to have driven rapid development in online technology, referred to as ‘Pornovation,’ the gaming industry has had a similar impact on how beauty is consumed,” Fall informed this publication.
She explained that whether via tutorials, live streaming or the gamification of appearance, consumption behavior from e-sports has more influence on beauty, drawing closer parallels between the categories than luxury or other aspirational lifestyle drivers often associated with image.
And beauty tutorials have evolved beyond online demonstrations to an “experience that incorporates entertainment, purchasing, education and community—EPEC,” where the natural evolution from watching online videos to live streaming enables consumers to feel up close and personal with presenters.
Beyond that, participation in live streaming provides consumers with an immersive experience that allows them to be as interactive or as passive as they choose.
“In the past, one-way broadcasting meant people only ‘consumed’ or watched but following the models of shopping channels, consumers can now choose to play an active role in broadcasts,” Fall explained.
Alongside Young Hearts Run Free and EPEC is the “Realizing Fantasy” meta trend, which Asian Consumer Intelligence defines as achieving a particular look by all means necessary. In China this ranges from digital enhancement and extreme makeovers, all the way through to the use of semi-permanent tattoos and prosthetics.
The latest bridge between fantasy and reality in the Chinese beauty industry is the development of “second skin” products that mimic the look, feel and texture of skin. Fall reports that BB cream is so yesterday. So is foundation and any other cosmetic that can be washed off as semi-permanent makeup steps into the fore.
An example of “second skin” is BB Glow, a semi-permanent makeup treatment that lasts up to six months and involves tattooing the outer surface of the skin with pigment to even out skin tone. Micro-blading for sparse brows is fairly ubiquitous throughout particular countries in Asia and prices for the treatment have fallen by as much as 30-50% due to its popularity.
“While this service is now offered at nail and waxing salons in countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Korea, its lesser known relative, the BB Glow has been slow to emerge. Until now,” said Fall.
The aforementioned procedure begins with laser treatment or micro-dermabrasion, before a hand-held micro-needling device is used to inject BB ampoule pigments under the outermost layer of facial skin.
“The result claims to be a natural layer of coverage over the skin that lasts between 6-12 months. Hence, the concept of a ‘second skin,’” Fall concluded.
Michelle Yeomans is an award winning multimedia journalist. She has been reporting on cosmetics industry movements in EMEA, US and Asia for five years and has won an award for her coverage of the complexities of operating in the Middle East. Michelle’s passion lies in tracking the beauty culture and trends of the Asia Pacific region. Ever the AV enthusiast, she also relishes the opportunity to create engaging video and podcast content for the B2B industry.