To China’s millennial beauty junkies, optimizing your sleep for skincare is the new thing. The plain old 10-step beauty routine or anti-aging diet no longer cuts it. Our bedtime, once considered a time for total body and mind restoration, is now activated as a beauty sanctuary to improve the skin. Hours can past before an average Chinese beauty junkie finally finishes her nighttime routine, and that routine doesn’t stop with sleep. Overnight beauty hacks, such as sleeping facial masks, overnight powders, and LED facial devices, have seen soaring consumer interests in China recently. The ultimate goal? To have glowing skin like a “freshly peeled hard-boiled egg,” which is a commonly shared beauty ideal in the Chinese pop language.
If you are new to Chinese millennials’ skincare addiction, you might start by following these basic steps: 1) apply the 10-step skincare routine every night with premium products, to begin with; 2) massage your face with a 24-karat gold bar or a black-tech device for face lifting; 3) order collagen drinks from Japan or Australia to glow inside and out; 4) make appointments with your South-Korea-trained skin manager for regular check-in; and, finally, post your skincare routine to one of the many beauty hubs on Chinese social media for peer reviews.
Since September, a video clip of the actress Zhang Tian’ai practicing her 2-hour nighttime routine has been trending across the Chinese online beauty hubs, raising the bar of skincare for everyone. The video, shot for the reality show “Wow That Great Body” in September of this year, shows a step-by-step breakdown of Zhang’s everyday beauty regimen.
First, she removed her facial makeup while doing squats to sculpt her lower body. Second, she applied a gel-like facial mask for deep cleansing before heading to the yoga mat for leg exercise; she then washed off the gel mask and used another sheet facial mask for further moisturization. And finally, once in bed, she turned on an LED device, covered her eyes with an eye mask, and fell asleep with the light shining on her face. As Zhang explained in the show, that LED treatment helps “soften the skin and remove fine lines” during her sleep. On Weibo, her intense before-bed beauty routine has earned netizens’ admiration under the trending hashtag #ZhangTianai2hourskincare.
Actress Zhang Tian’ai finished her 2-hour beauty routine with an LED treatment while she fell asleep. Photo: Wow That Great Body official Weibo.
In the Chinese celebrity world, showing one’s unwavering commitment to skincare is very much expected by the public. Besides Zhang Tian’ai, actress Sun Yi also spoke passionately about the benefits of an overnight LED skin treatment during an interview with beauty influencer @ Late Night Ms Xu. Mega-star Fan Bingbing, known for her “2 sheet masks a day, 700 sheet masks a year” beauty method, was photographed wearing a sheet mask when signing autographs. These celebrity examples have deepened the popular belief that skincare is all about hard work and self-discipline, values that the Chinese culture has long treasured. The virtuous striving of intensive skincare has been a doctrine hard-wired and internalized among Chinese women, and soon, Chinese millennial men.
Jessica Ma, a 28-year-old beauty enthusiast in Guangzhou, told Jing Daily, “I take my nighttime routine very seriously because it is a strategic time for skincare.” Every night, after completing the basic 10-step beauty routine, she would apply a sheet mask on her face while using a sonic infusion device to help absorb the nutrient liquid. Other overnight beauty products she uses include lip mask, feet mask, and hair repairing oil. “I have learned about the LED treatment from Zhang Tian’ai’s reality show video, and I really look up to her!” said Ma. She is currently researching in different forums to figure out which LED is best for her.
The increasing popularity of overnight skincare regimens was born out of the inherent awe for hard work in the Chinese culture while being heightened by social media. For example, Daini Wang, a senior consultant of the Shenzhen-based consumer data science company, Yimian Data, told Jing Daily that social media had played the role of “anxiety amplifier” in this collective beauty obsession. “In the past, a person would voice her anxiety about aging in her own social circle. But now this voice is heard all over WeChat, Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu), and other channels. So rather say that this generation is particularly anxious about aging, I’d say that specific anxiety is amplified,” Wang said.
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Around 2015, “goodnight powder” started to gain popularity among Chinese beauty enthusiasts. The powder claimed to refine skin pores and make women look as pretty at sleep as during the day, making it the perfect product for staying at your boyfriend’s place. By 2018, the ampoule and black-tech device trend went mainstream, as Chinese beauty consumers continued to demand pro-ingredient and tech-backed products in their before-bed routine.
In 2019, the concept of “sleep” has flourished across China’s beauty brands marketing, promptly responding to urban millennial dwellers increasing desire to control and optimize their sleep for better skin. For example,
L’Oréal’s Revitalift Filler Renew Anti-Ageing & Replumping Night Cream is marketed as a “zero o’clock cream (零点霜)” today in China. Guerlain’s Midnight Secret Serum, on the other hand, is marketed as a “Stay-up-late cream (熬夜霜).” Both nicknames, strategically adopted by the brand’s local marketing, target the Chinese millennials who are seeking control of their skin in their increasingly sleep-deprived lifestyle.
L’Oréal marketed its Revitalift Filler as a “zero o’clock cream (零点霜)” in China. Photo: L’Oréal official Weibo.
In recent years, skincare has been a buzzword among millennials around the world. However, while the Western millennials are mostly framing skincare as an act of self-love, the Chinese millennials are approaching it as a 24/7, 365days per year commitment. The “2019 Beauty Industry report” authored by Jing Data has identified the “around-the-clock regimen” as one the top 3 trends leading China’s beauty industry, alongside the more “banal” need for anti-aging and organic products. Besides overnight skincare, putting sunscreen during the winter and wearing sunscreen to work in an office are all common practice among Chinese beauty consumers. To them, skincare is a strict discipline inside and out, at all hours. International brands who want to penetrate this already-tricky beauty market will find themselves in front of an ever-more advanced audience.