China’s male youth is challenging traditional male beauty standards, changing views of what is typically considered ‘handsome’. They distance themselves more and more from the ‘Western’ concept of masculine attractiveness and instead turn towards a less rugged version of beauty culture. They prefer delicate and slim features which could even be described as ‘feminine-looking’. In addition to that using makeup to cover skin blemishes or to highlight facial features has become an accepted and even expected norm for men. Alibaba, China’s version of Amazon even has a name for this new trend ‘the male beauty era’ because men want to be beautiful too.
Skincare and makeup purchases are soaring across all categories for men in China. It is believed that 75% of men spend on grooming habits and skincare-product making China the biggest skincare market worldwide (3 times bigger than the U.S market). Tiktok and other social media platform have also caught up and teach men how to apply beauty products or how to develop the ‘best skincare routine’.
Male celebrities and pop idols are fuelling the trend by pulling off full facial makeup including red lipstick, earrings and other types of jewellery. It is important to note that they are not transsexual or androgynous. On the contrary, their female fans love and admire them for their soft and delicate features, their white skin and ‘cute’ wibes. This is sometimes difficult to grasp for foreigners who are surprised or even shocked when coming in contact with the new Chinese beauty culture.
Beauty in ancient China
Interestingly, some scholars argue that that this is not a new trend but that China is merely rediscovering its roots. They argue that male beauty was always expressed in an extravagant way in ancient China and that it is coming to live once again because China has finally found the economic strengths and pride to express itself fully. According to some records it is indeed true that men of high social status used skin foundations or balm-based to make their lips shinier. However according to Confucian philosophy nobility and honor had a much higher value than outward appearance. What do you think? Would teen-celebrities have had a chance to raise to fame in ancient China because of their extraordinary appearance?
Whether you feel surprised, shocked, amazed or puzzled, we can surly agree that learning about other cultures is always fascinating!