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2018-03-13 13:30:17

Enterprising entrepreneurs are setting their sights on streaming websites in hopes of persuading China’s fashion-conscious consumers to buy homemade “organic” makeup products at budget prices.

Beijing Youth Daily found that users on several online video platforms were promoting cosmetic products made from questionable ingredients. On short video app Douyin, for example, a vlogger with 14,000 followers made a foundation powder and packaged it in the case of a well-known brand.

A spokeswoman for Jinri Toutiao, Douyin’s parent company, told Sixth Tone that the company had shut down the account in question. Although there’s nothing wrong with do-it-yourself beauty products, she added, selling them without a license, or making counterfeits, is a violation of Douyin’s terms and services. To become a licensed seller, domestic makeup manufacturers must register their business, inform local food and drug offices about the ingredients in their products, and submit testing reports. The spokeswoman said it was “inconvenient” to give her name. 

But the problem is not limited to Douyin. A quick search conducted by Sixth Tone on Kuaishou, Douyin’s top rival, and livestreaming website Douyu returned similar results. In one video showing how to make lipstick, a vlogger melts oil, wax, and an unidentified red powder over an alcohol burner, then pours the mixture into a mold. Once the substance has set, she removes it and inserts it into a lipstick tube.

“This is a problem many platforms face,” Kuaishou told Sixth Tone in an email from an official account. “Kuaishou will severely punish any user who violates national advertising and commerce laws.” Punishments could include suspending the user’s account or reporting the case to the authorities, the company added.

A public relations employee for livestreaming app Douyu, meanwhile, told Sixth Tone that the company will more closely monitor the content shown on its platform. Once it finds that a vlogger is asking fans to add them on messaging apps like WeChat or QQ — where mobile payments can be made — it will shut down their account. This employee also refused to give her name.

Buzz surrounding “natural” cosmetic products has amplified in recent years, but the accompanying high price tags deter many. By marketing their products as “safe for pregnant women” or “preservative-free,” online vendors are able to target such price-sensitive shoppers with items that resemble their expensive, name-brand counterparts but can be had for just a fraction of the price. A tube of lipstick that costs hundreds of yuan, for example, might be advertised on streaming websites for less than 100 yuan ($15).

The dubious goods — sometimes referred to as “three-no” products: no expiration date, no manufacturer information, and no government-issued quality certificate — also made headlines after being featured recently on a popular food documentary. On one episode of “A Bite of China,” a series produced by state broadcaster China Central Television, a Chinese student studying abroad uses ingredients available on Taobao, a popular online marketplace, to make her own lipstick.

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: People make lipstick from scratch at a DIY cosmetics workshop in Tianjin, Dec. 16, 2017. Tong Yu/CNS/VCG)