In recent years, the male beauty industry has experienced a remarkable transformation, evolving from a once-niche China market to a booming sector with substantial growth potential. Male beauty and skincare was one of China’s fastest-growing consumer product segments with 15.6 billion yuan in 2020 and it’s expected to garner over 21.3 billion yuan in 2025.
This dynamic shift is driven by changing cultural norms, increased disposable income, and a rising awareness among Chinese men about personal grooming and self-care. As traditional standards of masculinity give way to a more open and diverse concept of beauty, foreign brands find themselves presented with a unique opportunity to tap into this burgeoning market.
This article delves into the rapidly expanding landscape of China’s male beauty market and highlights why international brands should not overlook the immense potential it holds.
- Male consumers, especially Chinese millennials and Gen-Z, are spending increasing amounts on personal grooming products, and are trading up from basic, traditional men’s grooming categories to less-traditional categories such as men’s skincare, cosmetics, and fragrances.
- Alibaba’s Tmall group calls this the “Male Beauty Era” in China. The total number of Chinese men who are buying personal-care products is growing faster than that of women.
- The total value of the personal-care items that men are purchasing on the Tmall platform is soaring across all categories, even makeup.
Cultural Shift in Beauty Standards
For generations, China’s society has been steeped in traditional notions of masculinity that emphasize traits such as strength, stoicism, and ruggedness. These deeply ingrained norms have dictated not only men’s roles within families and workplaces but also their attitudes toward personal appearance.
Historically, skincare and grooming were considered largely feminine pursuits, often prompting men to shy away from indulging in such practices to avoid straying from the rigid boundaries of traditional masculinity. These social constructs have, until recently, made the male beauty market in China a relatively unexplored territory.
In a remarkable departure from these age-old norms, China is undergoing a cultural metamorphosis that embraces diversity, self-expression, and a more fluid definition of beauty. This transformation is spurred by the younger generation’s exposure to global influences, a growing emphasis on individualism, and the widespread impact of social media platforms.
As barriers to self-expression crumble, young Chinese men are increasingly open to experimenting with their appearance and embracing a broader range of aesthetic choices. The modern Chinese man is now seeking ways to express his personality, beliefs, and identity through his appearance, fostering a newfound sense of confidence and empowerment.
This shift in attitudes towards male beauty is exemplified by a wave of influential figures who are defying traditional norms and redefining beauty standards. Chinese celebrities, actors, and pop stars are taking center stage as advocates for breaking free from stereotypical masculine ideals.
Renowned figures like Kris Wu and Jackson Wang openly discuss their skincare routines, share beauty tips, and collaborate with cosmetic brands. Their unapologetic embrace of grooming practices not only challenges preconceived notions but also encourages their legions of fans to explore their own paths to self-enhancement.
How This Shift Impacts the Male Beauty Market’s Growth Potential
The transformation of China’s cultural landscape and the evolving perceptions of masculinity hold immense implications for the male beauty market’s growth potential. As more men break free from the confines of traditional norms, the demand for male grooming products and cosmetic solutions has surged. This surge is driven not only by an expanding consumer base but also by a heightened willingness to invest in self-care.
With societal pressures easing and self-expression gaining prominence, the male beauty market is undergoing a fundamental shift from a niche market to a mainstream industry in China. This trajectory is not only redefining personal care but also presents an extraordinary opportunity for foreign brands to establish a significant presence in a market that’s hungry for innovative, high-quality products that cater to the evolving needs and aspirations of the modern Chinese man.
Premium beauty brands like Estee Lauder, Lancome, and Nivea took the tips a long time ago and added men’s beauty products to their arsenal.
However, there is still a lot of untapped potential in this market that marketers should take advantage of compared to the female beauty and skincare market. Therefore, product diversification is an important factor for brands in the development of the male product market in China.
Who are the Chinese Male Beauty Consumers?
The market is not producing enough specific products for men to satisfy the demand, therefore brands should not miss this opportunity.
L’Oreal has partnered with Alibaba’s Tmall Innovation Center and they found that there is no “a typical” Chinese male consumer. There were 5 different types of guys buying different products in different cities:
- The “average guy”, doesn’t buy much more than moisturizers and basic body wash.
- “Young professionals”, actively seeking high-quality skincare products made especially for men.
- Men focused on face products such as masks and toners.
- A group that only buys hair products, such as gels and dyes.
- Another Group uses all types of beauty products and wants quality brands, especially with regard to oral hygiene and colonies.
How International Beauty Brands are Managing This Trend?
In recent years, cosmetics that target men have seen remarkable growth in the Chinese beauty market.
Many brands are capitalizing on the growing popularity of men’s grooming and beauty products in China, launching advertising campaigns specifically targeted to Chinese men, particularly targeting urban Chinese millennial men, who have growing disposable incomes and more favorable attitudes toward male beauty categories.
Several foreign brands have begun to rise to the challenge of meeting these new demands. Products including from some male beauty brands: Tom Ford’s concealer for men, Nivea men, L’oréal for men, and Chanel’s Boy de Chanel cosmetics range are selling well on platforms such as Tmall.
The popularity of foreign brands in this space is not surprising. In the pursuit of quality and effectiveness, consumers are not afraid of spending a little more.
The Importance of KOLs in the Male Beauty Market in China
The primary way in which many brands in the beauty industry build awareness in China is through influencer or KOL (key opinion leader) marketing.
In the men’s beauty industry, a new generation of “good-looking young men” (known in Chinese as “small fresh meat” 小 鲜肉) is dominating this space and opening up exciting opportunities for brands to communicate directly with their target audience, whether male or female.
Through KOLs Chinese men can learn about products and techniques. Since the influence that KOLs have on Chinese consumers, many brands are collaborating with KOLs in their marketing campaigns. For example:
- Xiao Zhan is the China brand ambassador for Olay and Estee Lauder Asia Pacific (makeup and fragrances), while Li Xian is the Asia Pacific brand ambassador for Estee Lauder (skincare and makeup).
- Kris Wu, singer, and Chinese actor, is the first Lancome Asia Pacific, brand ambassador.
- Lay Zhang, a singer, is the first Asia Pacific brand ambassador for M.A.C
- Lu Han is the brand ambassador for l’Occitane
- Wang Yuan, from the boy band TFBoys, is the brand ambassador for L’Oreal
- Huang Xuan, the actor, is the Shiseido brand ambassador.
The Hottest Lipstick KOL in China – Li Jiaqi
Li Jiaqi, known as the “King of Lipstick” in China or Austin Li, is an internet celebrity and the number 1 seller of lipstick online.
Li represents the new generation of young Chinese men who care a lot about how they look. He applies base makeup and draws his eyebrows, every time before he goes out. Li said that although most of its viewers are female, he found that since last June, male followers are also growing. He thinks that the demand for male beauty is huge.
Li Jiaqi is a clear example of KOL’s successful digital strategy in China. He is without a doubt the best salesman of cosmetic and beauty products in China:
- He sold 15,000 lipsticks in just five minutes by using Taobao live streaming
- Thanks to living streaming about cosmetic and beauty products on Douyin, currently He has close to 40 million fans.
Major Channels to Know to Reach Male Beauty Consumers in China
Baidu SEO to Make Your Brand Known in the Chinese Market
Before talking about the various promotion and sales channels, we need to focus on the importance of reputation in the beauty sector in China. Therefore, SEO optimization on Baidu is essential to reach Chinese consumers because one of the places where a consumer is looking for a type of product and therefore a brand is Baidu, the Chinese search engine.
Obviously, an SEM campaign can help you to reach them faster.
Social Media to Increase Brand Awareness and Loyalty
Given the widespread use of social media in China, this is the best way to reach Chinese consumers. When they want to buy products, the other thing they do, besides looking at Baidu, is go to social media and look for opinions and reviews on the products.
Obviously having an account on these social networks will help the company become a potential choice.
In addition, good use of the platform Zhihu (the Chinese Quora) can allow your brand to become famous thanks to word of mouth.
As we said before a KOLs collaboration is important to engage followers!
Thanks to the video streaming app and then live streaming, at present, there are many men’s makeup tutorials. Male beauty bloggers and vloggers on WeChat and Weibo are bringing about an acceptable face of change in the beauty industry.
For example, Wang Yuepeng and Zeng Xuening with a million followers on popular social media platforms, post makeup tutorial videos on everyday skincare.
You can also read our full guide on the Top Marketing Strategies to Succeed in the Beauty Market
M-Commerce Platforms to Increase Sales of Male Cosmetics in China
Mobile commerce, abbreviated as M-commerce, has indisputably emerged as the dominant shopping method in China due to the nation’s extensive reliance on mobile devices. Chinese individuals invest a considerable portion of their time, with an average of 6 hours per day, engaged with their smartphones.
Given this trend, the most strategic approach to reach potential customers is through their mobile devices. Not only is this method more cost-effective, but it also capitalizes on their receptiveness to advertisements. M-commerce in China is poised for a promising future, and this trend isn’t limited to women alone, as Chinese men actively participate in these digital marketplaces. If your aim is to introduce and sell male beauty products, establishing a robust online presence within China is imperative.
The three preeminent platforms in this realm are Tmall, JD.com, and Taobao, collectively commanding over 80% of the nation’s e-commerce transactions.
Taobao and Tmall are both under the Alibaba Group umbrella, constituting China’s largest online retail entity. These platforms offer an extensive array of products hailing from both domestic and international brands.
Taobao, serving as a B2C platform, accommodates foreign and local brands and individual sellers, while Tmall operates as a B2B platform housing a myriad of recognized foreign and domestic brands entrenched within the Chinese market.
JD.com, the second-largest e-commerce enterprise in China, offers a product range akin to that of Tmall and Taobao, with a greater emphasis on domestic brands.
By harnessing technology, brands can augment the consumer’s shopping experience within these online channels. An illustrative example is the “Magic Mirror,” an innovative digital screen integrating augmented reality technology. This platform enables users to virtually test various makeup products on an avatar they’ve created and subsequently purchase their chosen products from the Tmall flagship store.
This technological innovation has gained significance, particularly post the Covid-19 pandemic’s prohibition on traditional product testers within physical stores. This transformative tool presents an enticing proposition for those operating in the cosmetics market, emphasizing the importance of embracing technology to cater to ever-evolving consumer needs and preferences.
Are You Considering Entering the Thriving Chinese Male Skincare Market?
The male beauty revolution is gaining momentum in China, as an increasing number of men shatter the stereotypes of the past. The growth prospects for the male skincare and cosmetics sector are truly exceptional, offering a vast expanse of opportunities for foreign brands that hold a solid reputation within the Chinese market. However, triumphing in this highly competitive landscape is no easy feat. This is precisely where our expertise comes into play – we extend our support to facilitate your entry into this distinctive market, ensuring your products reach the right audience.
With nearly a decade of experience in aiding international brands as they venture into and thrive within the Chinese market, we are uniquely poised to offer you tailor-made solutions. Our dedicated team comprises over 70 seasoned professionals, both Chinese and international, who have collaboratively propelled numerous cosmetics brands to success in China.
If you’re ready to seize the vast potential of the Chinese male skincare market, feel free to contact us. Your journey toward success in this dynamic market begins here.