8 Beauty Lessons I Learned During My Trip To China

This summer, I had the pleasure of heading off to Chengyang, China to see my boyfriend and experience Chinese culture for the first time. Besides being stoked about traveling halfway across the world, I was also excited to learn about Chinese beauty lessons. Having spent almost my whole life in the western world, I knew that I lacked a ton of knowledge on how they viewed beauty. I wanted to, not only learn about their routines (in a respectful manner), but also see how it differed from my personal life. So, I traveled to China with an open mind ready to engage in a new society.

Of course, being there during the hottest time of the year completely changed my normal beauty routine, but that didn’t stop me from learning a bunch of important lessons. While I spent most of my time in Chengyang making friends, I was able to travel to Qingdao City and Beijing before heading off to Bangkok for a final hoo-rah of the summer. I was obviously aware of the stereotypical ideas we (in the western world) expect from Asian cultures including that lovely and bright skin that never seems to age. However, my time in China opened me up to understanding more of how that belief came to be, as well as other beauty routines they follow as a part of their culture.

Happily, my friends and others shared what they believe and follow as significant beauty and anti-aging tips for a Chinese woman’s lifestyle in order to keep skin healthy, youthful, and beautiful. They explained that these tips are generally (keyword) followed and represent the standard of beauty in China.

1. Avoid The Sun

It’s well known that the sun’s rays (UVA and UVB) damage the skin and can cause wrinkles. Unfortunately, that lovely tan you got this summer is actually your skin damaged from basking in those glorious, warm rays. One of the most important tips that many Chinese women follow is avoiding the sun. This helps keep their skin from developing wrinkles and staying pale. Yes, that’s right. For Chinese women, having pale skin is beautiful and something that is desired (kind of like summer tans are desired in western culture). So, in order to achieve this, they try to protect themselves as much as they can on sunny days.

If you ever go to China, you will see a lot of women carrying around umbrellas and wearing very thin jackets to make sure they aren’t exposed to the sun’s rays as much as possible. They also wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and summer hats that pair nicely with their maxi dresses.

2. Use Sheet Masks & Moisturizers Every Day

A key component to healthy skin is keeping it hydrated. Chinese women make sure they hydrate their skin everyday to ensure minimal wrinkles and maintain dewey skin. A big trend nowadays is using sheet masks. When I was there, I remember seeing sheet masks for sale everywhere for not that much money at all. A popular brand I noticed was Bovey facemasks, which I tried and loved. However, many people I spoke with actually use foreign brands like MUJI from Japan or Tony Moly from Korea. Korean beauty products are actually extremely popular in China, as they are in the U.S., so many women look for these brands over others.

MUJI Japan Face Lotion Sheet, $6, Amazon; Tony Moly Mask Sheets, $3, Urban Outfitters

3. Keep It Natural With Herbal Medicines & Teas

Many Chinese women (and men) choose to use herbal medicines and teas for their remedies to problems that western people would normally solve with, well, western medicine. Herbal medicine is a huge part of their lifestyle to stay healthy and increase their immunity; likewise, tea is also a major aspect of their routines. They drink many kinds, including the beneficial green tea (绿茶) which has antioxidant properties and stimulates one’s metabolism. Additionally, a treatment that many Chinese people use is acupuncture. Depending on where the acupuncturist focuses on, it can unblock the skin and clear acne and/or help fight obesity.

4. Eat More Fruits & Vegetables (& Less Meat)

A diet consisting of mostly fresh fruits and vegetables is a huge part of a Chinese woman’s life. Most women eat fresh vegetables cooked with little to no oil or fats, and fruits that are in season as desserts (when I was there, it was peaches and watermelon). They prefer to eat minimal amounts of spicy foods, as they believe the heat can cause pimples, and sugary foods to avoid gaining weight. Pictured above is a Taiwanese dessert called yuyuan (芋圆) made of sweet potato, beans, herbal jelly, sesame, and milk.

The choice to eat less meat is more complex than simply keeping a figure. Meat is expensive in China, so many view it as a luxury than an everyday food. On top of that, a friend of mine shared a Chinese saying with me regarding the reason she (and probably others) try to abstain from eating meats. The saying explains that when animals are about to be killed, their body generates something very toxic due to the sorrow and anger, and that this will cause people to have terrible skin or get sick. For many, this is a good enough reason to hold back on indulging in meats.

5. Consume Less Dairy

Unlike to western culture, Chinese women (and men) eat significantly less amounts of dairy. While they do drink yogurt (in Beijing, a popular drink called suannai 酸奶 shown above) and consume milk and soy milk, it is definitely less than a typical American diet. I remember trying to buy some milk for cereal and sadly could only find tiny juice-box sized cartons of long-lasting milk. And cheese was very expensive, so I knew my grilled cheese’s would have to wait until I got home. As Kirby Koo explains quite graphically on, “milk was made to turn a 100-pound calf into a full-blow 1,000-pound adult cow,” which definitely makes me think twice about how much dairy I eat.

6. Exercise Is Gentle, But Important

This may be an obvious healthy beauty tip, but for Chinese women, it is very important to keep active. They don't, however, stay active in the rigorous ways that we do by lifting weights and intense cardio. Instead, they walk after meals to help digestion and stay fit or get massages (see point number 7). Personally, I appreciated their square dances. No, I am not referring to a type of dance, but where people dance.

In China, you will find groups of women of all ages heading into public squares to have dance sessions together. This brings people together as a community, which is always a good way to keep motivated.

7. Enjoy Spas, Massages & Hot Springs

Everyone seems to get massages in China. People go together as platonic dates, with friends, or even alone. Getting massages is not seen as a luxury, but as a way to stay healthy and young. They believe that routine massages will ensure proper blood flow and keep them sturdy and fit. They also partake in spas and hot springs to flush out toxins from their bodies, so that their skin is clean and hydrated. Enjoying a massage, spa, or hot spring can also lower one’s stress level, which can be a reason people may have bad health or troubled skin.

8. Start Young

While traveling around in Chengyang, Beijing, or Qingdao city, I noticed that many of the techniques women were using to avoid the sun were also being done by their children. Unlike in western culture, where we begin to think about our skin and beauty once we are older, Chinese begin to protect their children while they are young. This ensures that they will grow with healthy, undamaged skin instead of trying to fix it when they are older. Although it may be because western culture does not go to the lengths that Chinese culture does to avoid the sun, it never hurts to double think how a child might benefit for these tips.

A disclaimer about all of this: Although I am totally for learning from other cultures and societies (Korean beauty is amazing), I do have to mention that every culture has their own beauty standards that differ from the western world. I think that we can definitely learn from other cultures and incorporate their ideas into our lives, but must remember where they come from and be understanding and respectful of their way of thinking. The beauty and anti-aging tips I learned from being in China are very true to their lives, and I hope that by sharing them, you may also learn about their beauty lifestyles some more.

Images: Vanesa Pacheco; hsing, indi, keithroper, veggiemee/Flickr; Vee O, Jeff Seldon/Unsplash; Amanda Chen