Beauty class: how to look subtly festive for Chinese New Year

By Karen E. Chin

THE FIRST major festivity of the year has come! According to the lunar calendar, 2014 marks the year of the Horse (the Wood Horse, specifically) this time round. No matter what race we are, we all bask in its activities (visiting, eating, jolly-making) because Malaysians generally roll that way.


Here are some of my tips on how to be subtly festive for this particular celebration without looking out of place (and yet still spot on with the theme).


Swishy as a pony’s tail


According to, “the horse symbolizes strength, energy and an out-going nature.”


Wear your hair in a ponytail to give yourself a young, energetic look. It also helps keep hair out of your face and from sticking all over your neck on hot visiting days and humid socialising nights. The look is very versatile; it can be worn casually or for more formal, glitzier events. You can also style it up with headbands to suit the occasion.




For thin hair:
1. Gather your hair from above your ears and tie into a ponytail (half-up, half-down)
2. Smooth the front part of your hair if needed, and tame fly-aways with some product if needed.
3. Gather the rest of your hair and tie into a second ponytail directly under the first and then combine both with another rubber band.
4. Arrange and make it look good. You can also apply some serum for a sleeker ponytail.


For curly or unruly hair:
1. Tie your hair up into a ponytail, apply some serum down the length of the ponytail
2. Tie rubber bands in one-inch intervals down the length of your hair, with the last one being very close to the end to avoid a frayed appearance.
3. Slick the front of your hair with some gel, especially on baby hair to achieve a neat look.
For extra style:
1. After completing a ponytail, pull some hair above the ponytail loose at the top of your head to create a ‘hump’ or ‘faux-hawk’; remember to do this slowly and gently so not to ruin the entire hairdo and have to start from scratch again.
2. Spritz on some hairspray for hold.


Orange like a juicy tangerine


According to, “displaying and eating tangerines and oranges is said to bring wealth and luck” which is why oranges are seen everywhere during Chinese New Year. Another popular reason for this is the similarity of the sound of the names of the fruits to “good luck” and “gold” in Chinese.


Let’s forget about the classic red lip – I feel that it looks too old, too garish – and talk about an orange lip-colour instead. The colour is warm and generally suited to yellowish skin tones (Yay for Asians). However, the colour can look too light on its own and can wash out complexions and make them look dull. Here are some tips for a fresh, juicy, orange lip look.



1. Apply orange lipstick in cream or matte formula.
2. Blot with tissue to create a stain with no excess of product.
3. Apply a thin coat of sheer red lip gloss over it.

This will give it a juicy look that is a hybrid of orange and red.


Red like a packet full of money, brown like a wood horse 🙂


Angpows – red packets or small envelopes that contain money – are given out to those who are still eligible to receive them (typically, unmarried people or children) during Chinese New Year. I’m usually quite thrilled about receiving some extra cash during the season. While those who are obligated to give out angpows might find their wallets a little lighter, the significance in the giving holds a greater reward in good luck during the coming year.


Red nails are very common among Chinese ladies during Chinese New Year. Sometimes (thanks to friendly, low-scale gambling that turned obsessive with silly jokes to wear red underwear or hold an orange while betting) I take things up a notch and paint them in colours according to Chinese horoscope (ie blue for the year of the Water Dragon), which is why I will be adding on something brown to my manicure this year in tune with the Wood Horse theme.


1. Paint all your nails red, except for the ring fingers on both hands. Paint them gold instead.


2. Right with the wood horse theme of the year, try a brown nail colour with gold glitter as a topcoat as these two colours really complement each other.


Baby, you’re a firework


Every year on the eve of Chinese New Year, Malaysians will expect massively loud noises at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks have a significant meaning to Chinese traditions and according to, they “are meant to scare away the evil spirits and misfortunes right at the start of the year.” I have heard that the louder and scarier it is, the better for scaring away evil with.


I love big toenails as they provide a spacey canvas for nail art. Experiment with tiny nail gems; you can get them in an assortment of colours from beauty shops like Cindy for about five ringgit. The best part is, really is easy to do It yourself as long as you have a reasonable amount of fine motor skills.




1. Paint your toenails (red for the season).
2. Put a thick layer of topcoat on your big toe.
3. Before it dries, take a slightly-damp toothpick (it may be disgusting but I just use a tiny lick) and press it on desired gem and press it onto nail (or you can use a pair of tweezers to pick it up and drop it onto nail too).
4. Do this as quickly as possible before the topcoat dries (it is advisable to have a game plan beforehand; pick your colours and decide how you want them to be arranged).
5. After it is done, apply another layer of topcoat to seal and leave it to dry completely. VOILA!


Go for gold


The colour gold is also commonly seen during Chinese New Year, especially in decorations. It is believed to symbolize wealth and prosperity. Besides nails, another appropriate place for gold would be the eyes. It is easy to take it a bit too far with gold eye-shadow, therefore a light hand is the key to this look. The aim is to brighten up the eye area and the face, not to blind people.


1. Use your fingertips to pick up some colour from the eye-shadow palette.
2. Dab the colour from the inner corners of the eye, very close to the eyelashes.
3. Blend outwards and upwards to create a sheer wash of gold.
4. Add on more colour to suit.
5. You may also do the same under the eyes, but stay even closer to the lash line.
6. You can opt to line your eyes for more definition; either with a brown pencil (smudge with a cotton bud all around) or a liquid black eyeliner for a sharper look.
7. Finish off with black mascara on both top and bottom eyelashes to avoid looking washed-out.


I would like to wish all of you a very happy Chinese New Year and good luck with these tips!



About Karen:


Karen is a born-and-bred Kuching singer/songwriter who made her debut with her single ‘Cold’ in 2011. She is a trained occupational therapist, experienced makeup artist and has been a writer her whole life. She writes on a variety of topics and the tried-and-tested lifestyle as she sees it; direct, witty and down-to-earth.

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