Popular aesthetics have changed a lot in the past four decades. Make-up styles, hairstyles and beauty ideals have all come in and out of fashion depending on historical and social context. Many past stars’ signature looks are now part of the world’s collective memory. Looking back, certain classics never die while some of the weirder styles are now comical. Let’s travel through time and discover some of the changes in Chinese beauty style from 1980 to 2020!

  1. 1 The '80s

    Before the 1980s, “fashion” was not important to ordinary Chinese women. Thanks to the Reform and Opening-Up in the late 1970s, the Chinese economy improved. People then had more leverage to explore fashion. The fashionable woman in the 80s was more feminine than the tough female worker portrayed in the earlier two decades. The foreign influences China invited also played a role in shaping the beauty ideal. The American TV series Man from Atlantis and Japanese dramas such as Oshin and Akai giwaku were a part of this. They not only opened people’s eyes to foreign culture but also to the popular styles abroad. 

    In this decade, many famous actresses had oval faces. Their light make-up made them look graceful and gentle. They usually had natural, arched eyebrows and fuller cheeks. The beauty icons in this era included Shen Danping 沈丹萍, Zhu Lin 朱琳, Hong Xuemin 洪学敏, Siqin Gaowa 斯琴高娃, Chen Chong 陈冲 and Jiang Lili 姜黎黎.

  2. 2 The '90s

    Hong Kong movies gained popularity in the mainland in the mid-1980s and their influences were even stronger by the 1990s. This made the modern and stylish Hong Kong movie actresses into beauty benchmarks. These actresses included Chingmy Yau 邱淑贞, Michelle Reis 李嘉欣, and Joey Wong 王祖贤 and Rosamund Kwan 关之琳.

    Their make-up styles are easy to recognize: soft eyebrows, red lips, basic eyeliner and shadows that make the face more dimensional. Their hair was usually thick. In recent years, the “Hong Kong Style” has had a grand resurgence. Now there are many make-up tutorial videos available online. If you are also interested in this style, feel free to try it yourself!

  3. 3 The '00s

    In this decade, the beauty style looked quite different from previous ones. In contrast to the famous red lips by the Hong Kong actresses, women on screen adopted a lighter lip color. The bold hairstyle is the most notable. Some of the popular hair colors were brown, blonde and wine colored. Bangs and small curves were two popular features.

    At this time, Taiwanese idol dramas brought actresses such as Chen Chiao-en 陈乔恩 and Ariel Lin 林依晨 to fame. Along with these idol dramas, the Taiwanese variety show 我爱黑涩会 (wǒ ài hēi sè huì) and the music reality show Super Girl 超级女声 (chāo jí nǚ shēng) also created buzz among young people. The aesthetic nurtured by the TV industry influenced the whole decade.

  4. 4 The '10s-Now

    The mainland Chinese TV industry boomed in the 2010s. This was thanks to government policies, growing local investment and new technologies. The market potential was finally able to prove itself. Under such a background, a new generation of young actresses emerged. Names like Yang Mi 杨幂, Zhao Liying 赵丽颖, Guan Xiaotong 关晓彤 and Yang Zi 杨紫 have now become the new indicators of fashion trends.

    Famous actresses today tend to have small, skinny and melon seed-shaped faces. The structure of their faces is less obvious after Photoshop, compared to pictures from the 80s. The hairstyles are more natural compared to the ones from the 00s. A tight lipped smile has also been very popular.

    Have you ever paid attention to the local fashion when you visited China? How much of it coincides with the trends mentioned above? If you have noticed any other Chinese beauty trend we haven’t mentioned, please share in the comments!

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Mingsi Ma

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