Top 10 weirdest Chinese beauty tips to spruce up your New Year: The SinoFile

A few lessons on grooming from the 1.3 billion people-strong charm school that is the People's Republic.

The Western exception, Audrey Hepburn (Roman Holiday trailer).

Audrey Hepburn – or Aodaili Heben (奥黛丽赫本)as she is known in the sinocization of her name – is still big in China. Two decades after her death, she's everywhere: in print ads, commercial reanimations (creepy) and pinned up in a close guy friend's bedroom – as though she were Ke$ha.

Hepburn got it right – she seems to embody a perfect intersection of Western and Chinese ideals of beauty: She's slim and lithe, big eyes, dark hair, porcelain skin, small and pouty lips.

Beauties like Sarah Jessica Parker, on the other hand, are entirely lost on a Chinese audience – frizzy, big dirty blond hair and strong noses = not terribly attractive by the country's beauty standards.

Some women considered by and large to be photogenic enough for the silver screen in Hollywood don't seem to make the cut in China. It can be daunting for people traveling to the People's Republic for the first time, to enter the borders and be hit with a – rather blunt – ugly stick. 

China taught me a lot of useful beauty tips. I don't pretend I'm a beautiful man, but I'm significantly better-looking than I was before I'd lived in Beijing – ironically enough, since the weather made me break out terribly at first.

Here are some of the strangest beauty tips I learned – some just strange, some wildly useful.

1. Sleeping from 11 p.m.-2 a.m. on a regular basis prevents wrinkles and poor skin – and colon cancer.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, this is the time of night when the liver releases toxins. When these toxins sit in the body, they allegedly result in wrinkles, acne and cancer.

Nearly every Chinese friend I've had knows this one. Some have said 3 a.m. instead of 2 a.m.The takeaway of this tip: a regular sleep cycle can act as an internal antioxidant.

Acai berries aren't big in China yet.

2. Eat more tofu for better skin... and less body hair/ weight

I started eating several blocks of tofu a day -- just cold, sliced and seasoned when I returned to the US from my first year in China, based solely on the Chinese medicinal principle that tofu can 败火 (bai huo -- puts out fires).

Yes folks, I was trying to put out a fire inside myself.  

In Chinese medicine, too much fire energy in the system causes a variety of health complications -- one of which is acne. 

My skin got a little better, but I noticed that my body hair (TMI, apologies) got lighter and stopped growing as quickly. Not a plus for all of us, but worth knowing nonetheless. Tofu is a source of estrogen.

There was also noticeable weight loss -- simply because tofu is a much less fat-intensive way of consuming protein. Also, repeating the same meals every day made me find food a lot less exciting in general. So I was eating less (see tip #7).

Eating tofu every day for months did get old though. Fast. But I felt pretty darn beautiful at the time.

3. Drinking tea helps with acne and weight loss

Sitting down to a greasy Chinese dinner -- particularly with the oily, often glazed Cantonese food one finds in Western Chinatowns, some of you may worry about your skin. 

I know, personally, I feel the oil on my face after a greasy meal -- particularly when I eat meat. 

Chinese traditional medicine says that the properties in tea leaves soak up the grease you consume and help you pee it all out. 

A fancy test: The book Chinese Natural Cures by Henry C. Lu says that if you put some grease from meat in the palm of your hand, and you put a green tea leaf in the middle, you'll see how the tea leaf appears to eat away the grease. Try it out. 

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