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    Beauty buzz 2023: The top 6 Chinese slang terms that shaped skincare trends

    Jing Daily looks at the top beauty slang defining the year in China’s dynamic skincare market.
    Jing Daily looks at the top beauty slang defining the year in China’s dynamic skincare market. Image: Energy's Xiaohongshu
      Published   in Beauty

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    The widespread use of social media in China such as Xiaohongshu and Douyin, has accelerated the sharing and popularization of beauty products and skincare routines, in turn propelling the rise of new slang terms.

    Jing Daily presents the top six beauty buzzwords of 2023.

    Morning C, night A (早C晚A)#

    Elizabeth Arden's Morning C Night A beauty set. Image: Elizabeth Arden Xiaohongshu
    Elizabeth Arden's Morning C Night A beauty set. Image: Elizabeth Arden Xiaohongshu

    Perhaps the most potent beauty phrase of 2023 in China, ‘morning C, night A’ took the internet by storm. The approach consists of using vitamin C-containing skincare products for their antioxidant and brightening results in the day, and retinol products at night for their anti-aging effects.

    Why did ‘morning C, night A’ become a buzz phrase? Skin-brightening and anti-aging effects are the two most sought-after results by consumers in Asia. According to The 2022 iResearch Survey, Chinese consumer demand for whitening effects remains strong compared to pre-pandemic times. The sale of whitening products is expected to reach $7.8 billion (56 billion RMB) by 2030, as per market research firm Global Industry Analysts’ findings.

    Many brands, like Skinceuticals, Elizabeth Arden, Olay, and Proya, are riding on the trendy skincare regimen and proposing their own ‘morning C, night A’ sets.

    Morning P, night R (早P晚R)#

    C-derma brands like Winona and Guyu have benefitted from the Morning P Night R trend. Image: Guyu Xiaohongshu
    C-derma brands like Winona and Guyu have benefitted from the Morning P Night R trend. Image: Guyu Xiaohongshu

    However, the ‘morning C, night A’ regimen is not for every skin type. The application of products containing acids can irritate sensitive skin. According to iReasearch’s White Paper on “Chinese Women’s Sensitive Skin” in 2020, 43 percent of Chinese women aged between 18 to 30 years have sensitive skin. Staying up late, stress, and the inappropriate usage of cosmetics are the top three causes of their skin troubles.

    In light of this, a new approach friendly to sensitive skin quickly became popular, ‘morning P, night R,’ which stands for morning protection, night repair. The regimen comprises the use of protective products, such as those that provide UV protection, pollution defense, and antioxidant damage prevention, in the day, and nourishing, repairing, and rejuvenating products at night. Unlike ‘morning C, night A,’ it rejects the use of high-concentration products, which can be too aggressive for sensitive skin.

    C-derma brands like Winona and Guyu have benefitted from the trend, labeling themselves as skincare brands that offer products tailored to sensitive skin.

    Nourishing skin with oil (以油养肤)#

    The 'nourishing skin with oil' regimen encompasses massaging oil serum into skin to maximize absorption and achieve a healthy glow. Image: Xiaohongshu
    The 'nourishing skin with oil' regimen encompasses massaging oil serum into skin to maximize absorption and achieve a healthy glow. Image: Xiaohongshu

    Similar to the TikTok beauty trend dubbed ‘skin flooding,’ which describes intensively hydrating the skin for a plumping effect, China’s ‘nourishing skin with oil’ trend takes this routine to the next level. The regimen encompasses massaging oil serum into skin to maximize absorption and achieve a healthy glow.

    Domestic brands like Lin Qingxuan (林清轩), known as Forest Cabin in English, were quick to pick up on the trend. In November 2022, it ranked first on Tmall’s Singles’ Day Facial Essential Oil List. From October 31 to November 11, its sales reached 76,711 bottles, with an average of one bottle sold every 14 seconds.

    Simplified skincare (精简护肤)#

    Young consumers are reducing unnecessary skincare application steps, and carefully selecting essential beauty products to maximize the effects at the most convenient price point. Image: Pearoot Xiaohongshu
    Young consumers are reducing unnecessary skincare application steps, and carefully selecting essential beauty products to maximize the effects at the most convenient price point. Image: Pearoot Xiaohongshu

    K-drama has promoted the adoption of a complex 10-step skincare routine popular in South Korea. It is composed of cleaning the skin with oil-based cleansers and then water-based cleansers, followed by the application of toners, essences, serums, eye creams, oils, exfoliators, and lastly sheet mask. SPF protection is the last step.

    Younger Chinese consumers have cut down this complicated and time-consuming skincare routine. According to data from Xiaohongshu, searches for ‘simplified skincare’ surged in 2022 and this year.

    Instead of purchasing expensive or trending products, young consumers are analyzing their skin’s needs, reducing unnecessary skincare application steps, and carefully selecting essential beauty products to maximize the effects at the most convenient price point.

    Skin fasting (肌断食)#

    Beauty device label Biolab sharing its skin fasting tips to Xiaohongshu users. Image: Biolab Xiaohongshu
    Beauty device label Biolab sharing its skin fasting tips to Xiaohongshu users. Image: Biolab Xiaohongshu

    Dreamt up by Japanese beauty experts, skin fasting adopts a similar concept to “simplified skincare.” However, it is not an everyday skincare routine. When the skin is in poor condition, applying too many products can exacerbate issues. Ditching these products for a period allows skin to recover.

    On the first day, the regimen requires adherents to stop using thick cream products. On the second day, all functional products, such as those with whitening, oil control, and anti-aging effects, are also eliminated. Only moisturizing lotions are permitted.

    The third day entails gently cleaning the skin, and not applying any skincare products, though a mist spray is allowed for moisturizing. The original skincare routine is gradually reintroduced from day five.

    Technology-led skincare (科技护肤)#

    As we enter the third stage of development, comprising technology-led skincare, consumers are realizing the limits of beauty ingredients and turning to tech devices to maximize the efficacy of their skincare products. Image: Xiaohongshu
    As we enter the third stage of development, comprising technology-led skincare, consumers are realizing the limits of beauty ingredients and turning to tech devices to maximize the efficacy of their skincare products. Image: Xiaohongshu

    Before 2014, skincare knowledge was limited in mainland China. Brand awareness grew and consumers adopted basic skincare routines. Brand awareness and legacy played an important role in purchasing decisions, with Chinese consumers favoring big international names.

    Thanks to the proliferation of online information and the rise of beauty KOLs, consumers became evermore sophisticated. At this point, beauty ingredients aficionados began to appear, marking the second stage of skincare development in China.

    Brands like The Ordinary and HFP were the forerunners of this trend. Between 2020 and 2022, domestic labels gradually carved out market share in this segment.

    As we enter the third stage of development, comprising technology-led skincare, consumers are realizing the limits of beauty ingredients and turning to tech devices to maximize the efficacy of their skincare products. During this year’s 618 shopping festival, sales of beauty devices nearly doubled on Taobao and Tmall year on year.

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