This article was written by Hui Zhi and was originally published in Jing Daily

While a Hermès handbag or a pair of Christian Louboutin heels might require some serious saving, a Chanel lipstick lets a woman experience luxury without the expense. Luxury cosmetic lines are lucrative themselves, even without taking into account their power in establishing a relationship with younger consumers.

According to DBNDate, the post-95 generation is becoming the main buying force for cosmetics in China, and premium cosmetic brands are becoming more important to the China market.

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What were the big hits in the world of high-end beauty in 2017? We rank the different approaches among the leading players, with European luxury brands still selling conventional anti-ageing products in glamorous packaging, while Asian brands have shifted their focus to younger demographics with a lighter luxury style of natural beauty products.

1. Chanel

The French brand is known for iconic red lipsticks, and at Christmas, Chanel launched a feast of red. The Numeros Rouges collection (225 yuan/HK$270) is highlighted by four limited edition red lipsticks, each placed in a “rare red-lacquered click case”. The all-red theme successfully catered to Chinese customers’ tastes, earning the nickname of “China red” on Chinese social media. In July, 2017, actress Liu Shishi was enlisted to promote Chanel’s make-up lines.

2. Dior

If red is classic Chanel, classic Dior is gold – another colour favoured in China. For its 2017 holiday collection, Dior added five limited edition shades to the Diorific lipstick line (350 yuan), each packaged in what Dior calls a “jewel-like gold case”, which resembles two conjoined light bulbs. In addition to the novel-looking case, the lipstick is an unconventional crayon shape. The Diorific Khol holiday edition features a long-lasting formula, which is marketed as a “powder lipstick.” This year, actress Wang Luodan joined the campaign with adverts set in the south of France.

3. Guerlain

Guerlain released two new shades at Christmas. The 2017 limited edition Rouge G (480 yuan) follows the conventional design of Rouge G de Guerlain, the most luxurious lipstick collection from Guerlain, but with a gold and black case instead of the original silver. Guerlain paid big money in 2017 to have Yang Yang, Wang Ziwen and Fan Bingbing, who have reputations as great beauties and coveted brand ambassadors, represent the brand.

4. LANCÔME

Three new shades, nude red, orange red and mauve red, were put into LANCÔME’s L’absolu Rouge collection (270 yuan, including a mini lotion and perfume) with a case designed for the 2017 holiday season. Based on the original L’absolu collection’s sleek black and gold case, the holiday edition has sparkling, golden-flake shading from the top down. Actress Liu Tao joined LANCÔME’s Spring Festival campaign at the beginning of 2017 to promote the brand.

5. Estée Lauder

In 2017, Estée Lauder launched Re-Nutriv, the skin care collection that contains black diamond truffle extract, which is believed to have anti-ageing and skin sculpting properties. A 25ml Re-Nutriv essence costs a whopping 3,800 yuan. The collection is packaged in gold embellished with silver and black. Besides the company’s primary brand ambassador Mi Yang, Estée Lauder engaged celebrities from various fields, such as Olympic diving gold medallist Guo Jingjing.

6. Helena Rubinstein

Unlike other premium cosmetic lines, Helena Rubinstein did not rush to launch a limited edition line in China. Instead, its Christmas set includes a full size 50ml Re-Plasty day and night cream (3,480 yuan). The Re-Plasty line features anti-ageing and self-repairing cosmetics. The pure black or white coloured bottles convey a more understated sense of luxury. Jia Jingwen is the brand’s ambassador in China, though they also cooperate with a wide range of beauty bloggers.

7. Shiseido

In 2017, inspired by the philosophy of Japanese traditional cuisine, Shiseido launched a new line of skin care products called Waso. The name is derived from Wasoku, a traditional Japanese cuisine, that advocates the selection of fresh ingredients and minimal use of seasoning to enhance the flavour of the food. The packaging of the Waso line is simple, standing out from flashier brands. As an “entry-level line”, Waso shows dedication to attracting younger consumers. In 2017, Shiseido had two Chinese ambassadors: Huang Xuan and Tang Yan. Gao Yunxuang also joined the brand to endorse their sunblock cream.

8. Clé De Peau

Inspired by “Chinoiserie,” Clé De Peau launched “Clé de Peau Beauté Rouge Allegro n” lipsticks (480 yuan) in 14 rich and creamy shades. The packaging employs the classic CDP mazarine and gold angular design. Wang Luodan and Wang Lihong joined the 2017 campaign for the high-end Japanese brand.

9. Sulwhasoo

Skin “brightening” is a constant pursuit for Korean cosmetic products. Snowise EX Whitening Serum (1,340 yuan for 50ml) is the most expensive item in Sulwhasoo’s new collection. The packaging uses an iridescent pearl-like texture on the bottom in combination with a white silver top. A sense of the pure and natural is conveyed. The ingredients in this line are marketed as natural and rare traditional herbal medicines. Sulwhasoo has worked with successful females such as writer Zhang Xiaoxian, Olympic medallist Wu Minxia and singer An Yixuan.

10. HERA

Signia ampoule (1,800 yuan for 50ml), the anti-ageing cream with narcissus essence, is even pricier than Sulwhasoo’s new essence. While both brands tout the benefits of plant extracts, Signia ampoule attempts to communicate a more hi-tech product, packaged in a tall, long bottle in dark gold with two different textures. Model He Sui and actress Wang Ou endorsed the product.