Xiaohongshu, one of the world’s largest community e-commerce platforms, has been banned from Google’s Play Store. However, it is still available on Apple’s App store and on the Xiaomi app store.
Nanfang Metropolis Daily found that Xiaohongshu, a social media and e-commerce app, is becoming a distribution center for underground beauty practitioners. The micro-businesses posted public displays of sales of drugs illegal in China such as various face lifting drugs and human placentas.
“Hyaluronic acid injection, only 10 minutes, and you can also have a smooth skin,” is the kind of advertisement that you can expect to see on recommendation platforms such as Xiaohongshu.
In recent years, injection-based non-invasive beauty procedures, have grown in popularity among Chinese young people. On social media, there are many discussions about how to tweak one’s appearance. According to Sina’s “Microplastic Big Data Report 2017”, in 2017, China had over 10 million cosmetic procedures, surpassing Brazil and only second to US as the largest cosmetic surgery market in the world. Non-invasive treatments (i.e. micro-shaping) account for 60 percent of the total income of the cosmetic industry, and the growth rate is as high as 40 percent, which is much higher than for surgical treatments.
These advertisements are very profitable for Xiaohongshu as the demand for cosmetic substances keeps increasing. Many sellers seize the business opportunity and take on selling these illegal substances as a side hustle.
Beauty drugs have many brands and manufacturers, but not all brand products can enter China. Taking the botulinum toxin ,known as “face-lifting substance,” as an example, the current National Medicine Supervisory Bureau only approved two types of botulinum toxin for injection; Botulinum Toxin Type A (commercially known as Hengli) which is domestically produced by Lanzhou Institute of Biological Products and U.S.-imported Botox.