When Jiang Cheng first tried a bit of concealer during his first year of university in China it gave him self-confidence and he was instantly hooked. Now he is among hundreds of Chinese men sharing beauty tips online and cashing in on the booming male cosmetics industry. "I found that putting on make-up is actually quite easy," the 24-year-old said as he gently brushed his face with some foundation.
Men beauty vloggers
"Women may not fully grasp the concept of male make-up. If a girl puts on my make-up, they may not be able to achieve the effect that I really want," Jiang said. Every weekend, Jiang spends a couple of hours in front of his iPhone at his cosy makeshift studio in Beijing trying on the latest balms and blush for hundreds of live viewers, who can simultaneously buy the products he reviews.
Online beauty stars form an enormous industry in China, with internet celebrities known as "wang hong", or online stars, blurring the line between entertainment and e-commerce. Companies like Alibaba and JD.com have launched live-streaming platforms that allow viewers to purchase on the go while watching videos.
The male beauty market is expected to grow 15.2 percent in the next five years in China compared to an 11 percent global increase over the same period, according to research firm Euromonitor.
“Little fresh meat”
Increasingly, foreign firms like La Mer and Aesop work with video bloggers such as Lan Haoyi, known as Lan Pu Lan online, to promote their products to his nearly 1.4 million followers.
The 27-year-old spends up to 10,000 yuan ($1,460) a month on beauty products and says China’s "Little Fresh Meat" - a term referring to young good-looking men - is spearheading this trend. "We’re seeing more men in the media wearing make-up. This will naturally become the norm," Lan said. Beauty and masculinity criteria have thus been transformed among young Chinese men.
Despite what appears to be social progress in many of the country’s cosmopolitan cities, the video blogger says he still receives hate messages and criticism for appearing in smoky red eyeshadow. "’Why would a man look like that? Why does a man need to wear make-up?’ These are some of messages I get," Lan says.
But Mo Fei, the executive director for Chetti Rouge, a Chinese cosmetics company targeting men exclusively, says that will change over time. "There will be more and more men who take more care in how they look and the demands will increase. Men in the East are more accepting," Mo told AFP.
He opened Chetti Rouge in 2005 with few products. Now the beauty company sells a wide variety of cosmetics ranging from foundation to lipstick solely for men and has moved the entire business online. Furthermore, the company expanded to Thailand three years ago.
"We saw potential in the market very early on," Mo added. "It might be that men have accepted make-up. For men to browse products in shopping malls, may be for some men a little intimidating, hence the best way for them to buy is online, which is why our sales strategy is mainly on the internet."