An employee from a false eyelash company tries on its products in Pingdu, Shandong province. [PHOTO by WANG XUEGUANG/FOR CHINA DAILY]
Pingdu, already a giant in production of false eyelashes, aims to upgrade its industry
It may come as a surprise that 70 percent of the world's false eyelashes are produced in Pingdu, Shandong province.
Pingdu, a county-level city of more than 1.3 million residents administered by Qingdao, has more than 2,000 enterprises involved in the production of false eyelashes. They produce 120 million pairs of eyelashes annually, worth 7 billion yuan ($1.01 billion), local officials said.
The township of Dazeshan is one of the major manufacturers in the area, with over 1,000 households involved in the business.
Mao Pixia runs a workshop for the production of false eyelashes and employs around 30 women in the village of Dongxinwang.
The work requires a sense of craftsmanship and is divided into several steps, including shaping, cutting, rolling, installing and packaging, she said.
"The more you work, the more skilled you become," said Mao, previously a farmer who started with some steps of the production process as an odd job more than 10 years ago.
Over time, she became a skilled worker and found that she could make it a full-time job. Seven years ago, she started her own business, which provides jobs for more women in the village.
More than 50,000 residents work in the industry — one out of every 27 people — each earning an approximate average income of 150,000 yuan a year, officials said.
The false eyelash industry in Pingdu can be traced to the 1970s. Some villagers mastered the needed skills, and with favorable policies that came with reform and opening-up in the late 1970s, more and more people were able to start their own businesses.
Yu Jinghui was among the first of the villagers to start a false eyelash business. In the beginning, women made eyelashes at home and their husbands were responsible for selling them at the market.
As the business grew, the industry in Pingdu became highly specialized. A complete supply chain was formed in the 1990s, including raw materials, production, packaging and logistics.
A worker is busy on a production line of false eyelashes in Pingdu, Shandong province. [PHOTO by WANG XUEGUANG/FOR CHINA DAILY]
The rapid development of the Pingdu industry in recent years has been attributed to advanced technology and machinery that enable the efficient production of a wide variety of false eyelashes.
Zhang Ruijie's company, which produces the raw materials, worked with Zhejiang University Robotics Institute to develop a machine to produce eyelash filament. The company started using it in February 2022.
Zhang said he was happy to have a made-in-China machine for the work. He said it saved him half the cost of an imported model and yields higher-quality products.
Since the 2010s, demand for false eyelashes from overseas markets has been booming.
Qingdao Tengdu Eyelash Co Ltd produces over 3,000 styles of false eyelashes and churns out tens of thousands of pairs every day. Most of the products are tailored to the specifications of renowned domestic and foreign brands and shipped worldwide, according to the company's chairman Dai Fuyou.
Different styles cater to different market demands. Those made from synthetic fiber have a fluffy and prominent appearance, which is popular in the African market, Dai said. European and US customers prefer mink hair false eyelashes that can be used with more makeup.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the global cosmetics market, resulting in a decline in overall sales, industry officials said. However, the growth of false eyelashes sales has been boosted with people spending more time at home and ordering online. The eyes are also one of the few parts of the face visible when wearing a mask, which has also aided sales.
The industry's online sales have grown at an average annual rate of 70 percent recently, while internet searches have grown by 120 percent, according to market surveys.
Even though the false eyelash industry in Pingdu is thriving, local government officials say they think it has reached a bottleneck. First, most workshops in the industry are in small, scattered offices. Second, trading companies in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, and Yiwu, Zhejiang province, dominate the secondary wholesale and export business with higher prices. These factors have led to a low profile for Pingdu's false eyelash industry and limited market access.
In June, the local government announced new policies and measures through December 2025 to provide new impetus to help industry players grow. These measures range from taxation to e-commerce, delivery, talent, brand, research and development and exhibition financing.
Zhao Xin, director of the E-commerce Center of Pingdu Commerce Bureau, said that these are the most favorable policies yet for a single industry in the city.
One of the policies is to incentivize cross-border business development by providing subsidies based on export volume, with a maximum payout of 100,000 yuan per year per company. Newly established or introduced industrial funds aimed at bolstering the false eyelash business are also eligible to receive a grant of up to 500,000 yuan.
Apart from these policies, Pingdu is building a large-scale industrial park dedicated to false eyelashes. The park will cover around 20 hectares, and the first phase of construction is set to be completed in March 2024.
Yang Yanyong, manager in charge of the park's operation, said it is expected to attract around 200 manufacturing enterprises and 200 e-commerce enterprises and incubate another 300 enterprises.
"We envision the industrial park as a new center that integrates industry, trade, livelihood, human resources and education," said Yang.
Once becoming operational, the industrial park will be the largest sales and exhibition center for the false eyelash industry worldwide, Yang added.