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.
"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 cozy makeshift studio in Beijing trying on the latest balms and blush for hundreds of live viewers, who can simultaneously buy the products he reviews.
"This color is not that outrageous that men can't wear it safely even in a conservative environment," he explains to his fans. 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. And cosmetics brands pay big money for online celebrities, almost always female, to review their new products. But now the market and gender norms are changing, with cosmetics no longer seen as exclusively for women and male celebrities showing that it is okay for men to dab on a bit of blush. Jiang says a firm that manages bloggers pays him around 5,000 yuan ($730) per month to feature products from cosmetics companies. 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. 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. 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. 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 says.
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