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Is China Breeding a New Generation of Geisha Girls?

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Is China Breeding a New Generation of Geisha Girls?

Is China Breeding a New Generation of Geisha Girls?
October 24
17:21 2019

Chinese Millennials have caught the anti-aging “bug.”  Enamored of the West’s cult of youth and beauty, young men and women have become obsessed with techniques for resetting their biological clock.

It’s starting earlier and earlier.  According to the Chinese news magazine Jing Daily,  Chinese women as young as 18 are investing in a “holistic” program that includes collagen drinks, skin-whitening pills, anti-oxidant grape seed extracts, and metabolism-boosting powders to stay skinny.

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Other media reports indicate that female residents of Beijing regularly spend 20-40 percent of their salary on anti-aging products, especially those designed to keep their skin as smooth and shiny as possible.

In 2019, women under 30 spent nearly three times more than they did the previous year on eye gels and creams, according to a joint report by two Chinese web marketing sites, Kantar and Tmall.

Women in their 20s have become the biggest consumers of cosmetics and skincare, spending more than older women with higher disposable incomes, the report noted.

On social media sites, the slogan “So white that it glows” has become a Millennial rallying cry.

The trend has Chinese researchers and health experts worried.

A study released in 2017 found that anti-oxidant supplements sold in China contained a hidden danger:  rather than reversing the aging process, they were likely accelerating it.

Researchers discovered the relationship by studying how oxidants affected worms and human cells at various stages of development.  Oxidants, it turned out, had no measurable impact on aging.

But introducing antioxidants disturbed the mechanism in cells that resists aging and as a result, the cells began aging more rapidly — “unnaturally fast,” said Chen Chang, the lead scientist on the project at the Institute of Biophysics, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

Chang has called upon Chinese authorities to curtail the sale of anti-oxidants and other anti-aging products, pending further research.

So far, her call has fallen on deaf ears.  Sales of supplements and other anti-aging products are booming, with no end in sight.

The Chinese consumer market, fueled by the growth of an urban middle class and a new generation of high-tech millionaires, is especially attractive to Western cosmetics companies like Estee Lauder that are seeking to reverse their sagging global sales.

Last year, Estee Lauder’s sales in China increased by 40%, compared to 9% growth elsewhere.

The company – through its subsidiary La Mer – has found innovative ways to reach Millennial women in second and third-tier cities that might never visit their limited retail stores in Beijing or Shanghai.

The Tmall web site allows Western companies and their Chinese counterparts to establish interactive dialogues with youth to convince them to buy online.

Companies are also hiring Chinese youth celebrities to help promote their products across multiple media platforms.

One example is the use by SK-II of the post-90s singer Dou Jingtong as their brand ambassador.  Jingtong – whose personal style includes a bob and facial tattoo — is promoting the company’s facial treatment “Essence,” a product that claims to enhance the skin’s “natural” rejuvenation process.

Chinese researchers have taken note of the seeming paradox of Chinese women embracing more modern gender roles but remaining fixated on their physical appearance to the point of self-destructive obsession.

Some critics have even drawn parallels between today’s youthful obsession with “Whiteness” with the infamous historical figure of the Geisha, whose alabaster skin and subservience to Western beauty standards defined Japanese – as well as Chinese — femininity for generations.

In May 2018, the Chinese Lixin Zhao actor caused a stir by criticizing China’s “age-shaming” culture and its impact on the nation’s film industry.

“Actresses like Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, Juliette Binoche, and Frances McDormand would find their careers doomed in China, his post read: “Our screens are only occupied with the ‘young and pretty’ faces that don’t care about artistic depth or other values.”

Most Chinese Millennials appear oblivious to such criticism.

“The earlier you start taking care of your skin, the less worried you will be when you grow old,” one young skincare enthusiast told Jing Daily. “I’m in this for the long haul.”

About Author

Stewart L

Stewart L

Stewart Lawrence is a trained sociologist and political scientist and a regular columnist for the Washington Times and the Federalist. He is also a former feature contributor to Inside Philanthropy, Counterpunch and the Huffington Post. In 2012 and 2016, he covered the US presidential election campaign for the conservative news magazine Daily Caller. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor and Washington Post. He is currently working on a book about the politics of US immigration policy.

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