5 Chinese beauty products and trends to incorporate into your routine

Photography by Peter Stigter
Photography by Peter Stigter

If you ever go shopping in China, be weary of employees pulling you into their store and handing you every item you touch. These sales tactics took me by surprise, especially while I was browsing through beauty shops at the Shangxiajiu Shopping Street in Ghangzhou.

Despite the aggressiveness of store employees, China has an extensive selection of beauty items that caught my attention. I learned how to keep nails shiny, why slathering bean sprouts all over your face is a good idea, and was introduced to an anti-pollution cleanser currently #trending throughout the country. Here is my round up of Chinese trends and beauty products you need to know about.

Anti-pollution solution
Smog. In. Beijing. It’s a serious environmental concern, affecting the overall health of those who populate the city, or any city for that matter. If there is smog in the air, it’s likely hitting your face causing (among other health issues) skin to age faster. The Chinese cosmetics industry jumped on the opportunity to develop anti-pollution products that includes the fight against PM 2.5, particle matter smaller than 2.5 microns in size that can penetrate into your skin. Anti PM 2.5 is now an ingredient currently being added into skincare products such as Pond’s Whitening Refreshing Cleanser ($6, pchome.com). What’s the secret ingredient? Activated carbon, which dissolves pollution on your skin and does some serious deep cleaning of pores.

Nail essence
While swiftly dodging the storeowners in Shenzhen who wanted to pull me into their shops, a woman outside a salon mentioned if I wanted a mani/pedi for $10CDN. Yes, yes I do. I sat in a big red comfy chair, limbs ready to be pampered. Everything was fine until the woman taking off my nail polish nearly screeched when she saw the discolouration on my natural nails. I wear an obscene amount of nail polish so my natural nails are (cue: shudder) a tinge of stil de grain yellow (someone get me a base coat for Christmas?). The nail technician immediately reached for Snazii Herbal Fungal Nail Treatment Essence ($20, aliexpress.com) and started brushing the oil onto my nails and cuticles. There was an immediate difference. My nails were shining like crystal! The oil contains rhubarb, kudzu root and “other herbs made secret.” If it eliminates fungus and promotes nail repair, I won’t question the secret herbs.

Tiger Balm
The distinct smell of Tiger Balm reminds me of my dad. He would slather it all over himself after work or doing something strenuous and the smell of the balm would hit like a brick wall. Tiger Balm Pain Relieving Ointment ($6, walmart.ca) is an herbal treatment for aching muscles. It’s a distinct scent that I found a majority of men wore in China. I first noticed the smell in a cab and noticed the driver had the balm in his cup holder, then smelt again as I walked down various streets in Ghangzhou. If you work out or sit in an office chair for a majority of the day, Tiger Balm is your solution to relive shoulder and neck pain. It seems like a lot of Chinese folk wear Tiger Balm so, it has to be good stuff.

Bean sprouts
Used for centuries in Chinese medicine, bean sprouts can help nurture the body and calm the skin. Wei Mung Bean Sprout Stress-Reliving Soothing Mask ($80, weibeauty.com) is made from the secretion of the bean sprout right before it blooms so it’s at its most concentrated. The price point is a little high for a 6-pack of sheet masks that you leave your face for 10 minutes, but am still intrigued with bean sprouts as a beauty ingredient. Who knew you can use it for more than just your stir-fry?

Oolong tea
In China, tea is the answer for everything. You have a headache? Tea. You feel stressed? Tea. You have bad skin? Tea. I drank oolong tea every single day while I was in China and upon my research: Oolong tea can brighten your skin, clear age spots and improve eczema. Drinking 3 cups of brewed oolong tea per day relives itching, redness and scarring causing eczema and is the perfect winter skin solution for those who get it the worst this time of year. If you’re looking for a good one, try the Teavana ($13, at Teavana stores) Jasmine Oolong Tea.

More Beauty & Grooming