Meet the women quitting 'beauty duty'.

When I was 15 years old, I saved up my money to buy a bunch of pimple-targeting skincare products at the chemist. I wanted skin that was glowing and clear – the kind of skin I saw in magazines like Dolly and Cosmo

In my early 20s, I paid to have someone rip every morsel of hair from my nether regions with hot wax (despite having full-blown skin reactions after each session), before eventually having it all lasered off by a professional.

More recently, in my early 30s, I paid a cosmetic specialist to stab my face repeatedly with tiny needles and spent more money than I'd like to think about on serums and tools to keep my complexion looking plumper, glowing and younger for longer.

Watch: A model and skateboarder redefines what beauty means to her after dog attack. Post continues below.

Video via ABC News.

I regularly spend over $100 on top-ups of my favourite Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation.

My bathroom, nay – my entire house – is filled with tiny glass pots, jars and tubes. So much so, my bathroom cabinet barely closes. (I leave just enough room to fit my husband's two products: a face cream he doesn't use and some beard oil from 2018).

And there's now a word for it. 

My dedication to a time-consuming and costly beauty routine is all part of what's been dubbed 'beauty duty' – a phrase popularised by Chinese social media influencers, asking: Who are we doing this for?


This train of thought has sparked a new movement in China, encouraging young people to move away from beauty standards and reduce the time and money spent on their appearance. 

At its core is one sentiment: women don't owe anyone beauty. 

And in 2024, the trend is only growing.

Take Mable Yang from Suzhou, for example. The 22-year-old woke up one day and decided to shave her head

Speaking with ABC News, Yang said she was inspired by feminist groups on social media that unsubscribed to the idea of costly and unfair beauty standards.

"Before I got rid of 'beauty duty', I would always wear makeup," Yang told ABC News.

"Although I would say it was because I enjoyed doing so… I hoped people would notice how beautiful I look with makeup on."

"This has actually affected my life to an extent. I cared too much about what other people think about me."

She went on to share her experience of "appearance anxiety", explaining how she used to spend hours in front of the mirror picking apart small imperfections and flaws.

"I used to think my eye size wasn't perfectly symmetrical, my nose wasn't tall enough and my skin wasn't as smooth as the pop stars, doubting myself over and over again."

"[Now] I can feel and explore the world as an individual without having to care about whether or not I meet the standards in other people's eyes."


There's also Legend Zhu.

Like Yang, the former model and college graduate took to Xiaohongshu, a Chinese social media platform (similar to Instagram), to share her new look with followers. 

As per The New York Times, she posted her new buzz cut and makeup-free face to the social media platform, alongside her 'before' photos, writing "From a model to a natural woman."

She added, "It feels so comfortable!"

One comment read, "This is so brave."


Zhu and Yang aren't alone. They're part of the growing number of Chinese women rejecting mainstream standards of attractiveness seen as costly and unfair. 

Just search the hashtag #BeautyDuty and you'll find a plethora of young Chinese women sharing before and after photos of themselves cutting off their long hair, going makeup free, swapping contact lenses for glasses and wearing baggy clothing.

And it's not just a dismissal of hair and makeup. Women leaning into this idea are also rejecting the notions of dangerous diet culture, speaking out against problematic viral 'fitness challenges'. 

Take, for example, the #A4Waist paper challenge – a popular social media trend that involves covering your waist with a vertical sheet of paper. 

To 'pass' the trend, your waist must be entirely hidden by the paper.


While Western culture has been rejecting patriarchal standards for decades, in countries such as China the rejection of traditional gender expectations is often seen as a revolutionary movement. It's a big deal.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Louise Edwards, professor of Chinese history at the University of NSW said while many of these beauty standards are a reflection of the West, gendered expectations are intrinsically ingrained in China. And pushing back on these standards can impact everything from career profession to social acceptance.

"Women are seen as having to carry the burden of decorating people’s lives, offices and homes and there’s a lot of labour that goes into that," said Edwards. 

So where does that leave us? Will the trend only keep growing?

According to Shen Hsiu-hua, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Taiwan's National Tsing Hua University, the trend can be seen as a way to liberate women and help diversify the market.

However, Dr Shen also told ABC News that while feminist discussions and activism may be thriving, the societal forces that restrict women sadly aren't going anywhere. 

What do you think of the rejection of 'beauty duty'? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Feature Image: Getty.

Love watching movies at the cinema or at home? Take our survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher!