The Secrets of Traditional Asian Beauty

We take a look at ancient natural beauty remedies that Asian women have been using for centuries.


The Chinese were one of the first to redden their lips, using a lip balm made with the pigment vermilion. Derived from naturally occurring mercuric sulfide ores, vermilion was also used in art and lacquerware, so much so that it became known as ‘Chinese Red’. In fact, the Chinese are believed to have been the first to make synthetic vermilion as early as 5000 BC.

Instead of covering the entire lip surface as is done in modern times, Chinese during the Han period only painted a portion of the lower lip and a pointed section of the upper lip, covering the rest of their faces with white powder. The ideal lip shape evolved over time, with different conventions in the Tang, Song, Ming and Qing dynasties.

Today, however, vermilion has fallen out of favor due to its toxic properties and has largely been replaced by cadmium red.

Photo: Shutterstock.
Photo: Shutterstock.

Rebecca did her PhD at the National University of Singapore where she studied how macrophages integrate multiple signals from the toll-like receptor system. She was formerly the editor-in-chief of Asian Scientist Magazine.

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