5 C-Beauty Hacks I Learned From Xiaohongshu, the "Chinese Instagram"

Testing a C-beauty makeup hack from Xiaohongshu
POPSUGAR Photography | Derek Deng
POPSUGAR Photography | Derek Deng
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My first attempt at a cut crease was laughable. I was 14 and intent on recreating NikkieTutorials's rose gold cut crease look. Five makeup wipes and two hours later, I gave up — my eyelid was a collage of jagged strokes and patchy colors. More than that, it just didn't fit my features.

There is an unspoken truth to makeup: different features require different makeup techniques. As an Asian-American with hooded eyelids, I learned this the hard way. It's difficult to adapt your makeup to your features when the majority of beauty influencers don't look like you. Enter: Xiaohongshu, AKA the "Chinese Instagram."

Xiaohongshu — Chinese for "Little Red Book" — is an entirely different social media plaftorm from Instagram or TikTok or Douyin. Known in China as a women-friendly "lifestyle bible," it has stirred up viral makeup trends like "mánhúa" lashes and beauty hacks like lip oil layering. "Content on Xiaohongshu is high definition and very polished," Jenn Ze, a Chinese-Canadian content creator who recreates Xiaohongshu makeup on her TikTok, tells POPSUGAR. "People are also just more interested in East Asian cultures because of cultural exports like K-Pop, so it makes sense that [Xiaohongshu content] does so well when it's reposted on TikTok."

More often than not, Chinese beauty is rebranded as Korean beauty to be more palatable to the Western mainstream. But they aren't as similar as TikTok trends might make them out to be. On top of being from two distinct countries, they're different in ways that reflect the culture gap and the vastly different beauty standards: whereas K-beauty emphasizes a luminous, youthful base complimented with a gradient popsicle lip, C-beauty is all about a matte base and a full M-shaped lip.

I came to understand these differences the more and more Xiaohongshu content showed up on my For You Page. Before I knew it, my TikTok was bombarded with C-beauty tutorials, and I was immersing myself in a beauty ecosystem that was at once hypnotic and educational and a breath of fresh air. Eventually, I caved and downloaded the app; in the span of a few days, I uncovered beauty tips a world away from anything I had seen on TikTok or in K-beauty. With Ze's guidance, I tried and tested the best of Xiaohongshu's makeup tricks, adapting them the best I could with American beauty products. Check out my favorite Xiaohongshu beauty hacks.

Trend: "Silkworm" Eyes

Testing the silkworm eyes hack from Xiaohongshu.
POPSUGAR Photography | Derek Deng

One aspect that's shared between Chinese and Korean beauty is this appreciation for "undereye puffiness," Ze says. "In Korea, it's called aegyo-sal. In China, it's called 'wò cán,'" or lying silkworm, which refers to the silkworm-shaped bags under the eye. Many people actually inject fat under the eye to augment their wò cán, but don't worry: for those of us who aren't quite ready to commit, there's a Xiaohongshu hack to save the day.

With a cool-toned contour shade, draw a thin line beneath your undereye "silkworm." (Tip: if you can't see your wò cán, smile with your eyes to make them more prominent.) Then, accentuate the center with a highlighter pencil like Wet n Wild's Color Icon Kohl Liner in White ($6). That's it, no surgery needed – and the end result is a youthful, doll-eyed smize.

Trend: "Jelly Skin"

Testing the jelly skin blush hack from Xiaohongshu.
POPSUGAR Photography | Derek Deng

In Western beauty, blush is all about lifting the face. C-beauty, on the other hand, calls for a more generous application, using blush on the nose, under the eyes, and above the apples of your cheeks to achieve plump, youthful "jelly skin."

Instead of applying blush on your cheekbones, switch it up a bit: place one finger under your eye and swirl your blush in a circular motion slightly above the apples of your cheeks. My holy grail for a cutesy glow is the Dior Backstage Rosy Glow Blush ($40), but what matters most is blush placement. This technique helps to shorten your face and give it that puffy youthfulness that screams dollette.

With a smaller brush, subtly apply blush to your undereyes, chin, and around the tip of your nose. Blush as a nose contour might be against everything the YouTube beauty vloggers taught us, but it adds a playful depth and coquette-ish innocence to your face, and helps tie the jelly skin look all together. My mantra in life: there's no such thing as too much blush.

Trend: Flicks of Lower Lashes

Lower lash hack from Xiaohongshu.
POPSUGAR Photography | Derek Deng

I was born with the curse of nonexistent lower lashes. Luckily, mimicking them isn't as hard as it seems. With a liquid eyeliner, lightly flick along your lower lash line to create thin, slightly curved lines. If you're feeling extra, double it up to mimic 3D mánhúa (Chinese for "anime") lashes. Practice makes perfect — once you've got the right eyeliner and technique, it's not too far from the real thing.

For this hack, I find it best to use a light brown liquid eyeliner with a precise tip for that soft, sultry vibe, like the 3CE Liquid Brush Eye Liner in Brown ($17).

Trend: "M" Lips

Testing M lips hack from Xiaohongshu.
POPSUGAR Photography | Derek Deng

Gone are the days of the over-lined Kylie Jenner lip; in C-beauty, creating a fuller effect is all about the M-shaped lip.

To nail the "M" lip look, start by lightly buffing foundation on your lips. After blending, use your favorite lip tint or cream — my favorite is the Em Cosmetics Soft Spoken Lip Creme in Intuition ($24) — to draw a M shape in the center of your lips. Trace the center and the edges of your bottom lip, and add a smidge above your cupid's bow. Blend with a lip brush, top it off with a juicy gloss, and you're left with a lusciously plump, just-sucked-a-lollipop effect.

"Puppy" Eyeliner

Testing the puppy eyeliner hack from Xiaohongshu.
POPSUGAR Photography | Derek Deng

In C-beauty, eye makeup is all about optical illusions. Because the beauty standard in China is enlarged doe eyes, many of the eye makeup techniques on Xiaohongshu involve opening up and elongating the eye for a dainty puppy eye look.

Most beauty influencers on Xiaohongshu prefer to use soft brown eyeshadow or pencil eyeliner for softer, more natural lines. Start from the outer end of your eye, and draw a line slanting downwards, adding a subtle upward curve toward the end. Then, connect the wing to your lower lash line, leaving some space to create the illusion of a larger, rounder puppy eye. Combine this hack with drawn-on lower lashes and "silkworm" eye bags and you're camera-ready for your Xiaohongshu debut.