If you’re online as often as we are, you have likely witnessed the rise in popularity of Chinese beauty looks that stemmed from Xiaohongshu—a Chinese social media and e-commerce platform that functions like Instagram—and it’s easy to see why. The makeup looks actually suit Asian facial features and skin tones, something that we might not necessarily get from Western makeup gurus.
What is the Xiaohongshu look?
For the uninitiated, Xiaohongshu makeup emphasises the importance of facial harmony with makeup, hence why many looks feature monochromatic shades of pink and brown, rather than one highlighted feature.
Yet, upon a closer look, many subcategories emerge. Enter: ‘First Sight Beauty’, a look designed to captivate at first glance and look natural at the same time, the ‘Bunny’ look, which enhances rounder cheeks and is also popular on TikTok and ‘Ballet Core’ makeup, the latest look Xiaohongshu has to offer.
The key features of this makeup style? “Soft monochromatic eye makeup that is still high impact, doll-like lashes and defined eyes, and pouty lips in blurred mattes or extra glossy textures. Think: earthy, brickish tones of the 90s, or MLBB glosses that dominated the 2000s,” says local makeup artist Kenneth Chia, who has worked on personalities such as South Korean music band Epik High and South Korean model Irene Kim.
The recent rise in the ’90s makeup look seems to be a ubiquitous occurrence, having spread to TikTok as well. “I do believe we are gravitating away from ‘glazed donut skin’ and its birth mother glass skin,” says August, a model and beauty content creator on the platform, “largely thanks to the Kevyn Aucoin renaissance we are going through at the moment, as well as a big preference for matte ’90s skin.”
“[The Xiaohongshu look] is an East Asian spin on what they presume is Western makeup,” explains Larry Yeo, one of Singapore’s top makeup artists, who count Thai songstress Sorn and local musician Jasmine Sokko as his clients, “there are many different shades of browns that were used in the ’90s and ’00s here.” He emphasises the importance of choosing the correct colours and shades that work for you, in order to create an of-the-era look that properly flatters Asian features.
Below, Yeo and Chia share techniques and their favourite products to achieve the look.
According to Yeo, softness is key to nailing this makeup style. “Use neutral brown tones to fade the eye makeup and layer more mascara on the ends of the lashes,” says the makeup artist. He also suggests ramping up the drama factor with half lashes on the outer ends of the eyes, and muted or mid-tone brown shades as eyeliner shades to avoid harsh contrasts.
As for blush and the lips, he recommends a pinky brown shade to sculpt the face and a satin-finish lipstick if you don’t like intense colour.
“There are four brown tones available, so you can choose how dark you want your eye look to be. Draw it on and smudge it with a pencil brush like this one from 13rushes.”
Sephora Collection 12H Colourful Contour Eye Pencil Waterproof Eyeliner, $18.
“Each palette has a good range of shades to lighten or darken your look. I like 001 Warm Neutrals, but darker olive skin can use 004 Rosewood Neutrals.”
Dior Backstage Eye Palette, $86
“The colour payoff is sheerer for beginners who are intimidated by blush.”
MAC Cosmetics Sheertone Blush in Blushbaby, $28
“You can do cheek draping [NB: a makeup technique where you contour with blush, providing your face with both definition and a pop of colour] with this, and this is for all skin tones except very fair.”
Gucci Beauty Blush De Beauté in 06 Warm Berry, $95
On getting monochromatic eye makeup that is still high in impact, Chia suggests to “swap a standard black ink liner for a light brown or ash-toned one to create lots of definition while keeping the overall look balanced. Bonus tip: use the eyeshadow colours that are already on your lid to sculpt, bronze the rest of your face.”
If you want a fast and easy alternative to sticking individual false lashes on everyday, he recommends coating a tweezer with mascara and gently pinching your lashes to form clusters. “The mascara helps them stick together, while ensuring maximum separation.”
And to get plump-looking lips seen often on Xiaohongshu: “Use a concealer over the outer corners of your lower lip for a youthful lift, then blend a deeper lip pencil into the edges of your entire lip. Finish with an extra glossy lip tint of your choice.”
“This is the perfect, budge-proof ash-toned liner to create the illusion of larger eyes.”
Heroine Make Prime Liquid Eyeliner in Mocha Greige, $20.50
“Super nourishing, flattering on Asian skin tones, and has a juicy, high-shine finish.”
YSL Beauty Rouge Volupte Candy Glaze Lipstick, $59
“This has an extensive range of neutrals in creamy, budge-proof formulas.”
Rare Beauty Kind Words Matte Lip Liner, $26
“This one went viral on Xiaohongshu and is one of my favourites for that iconic ‘red bean paste’ lip colour that lasts all night.”
NARS Powermatte Lipstick, $47