As the third-largest market in the world in terms of skincare products, China is characterized by the shift in consumption of its population, looking for high-quality products. As a matter of fact, following China’s economic growth, Chinese consumers’ purchasing power has increased in the last few years, accounting for 16.35 billion dollars as of 2022. With a population that is ready to spend more on skincare products, many brands were able to successfully establish themselves in China.
Therefore, as this industry is one of the most lucrative in China, it is normal for brands to seek an opportunity of expanding their activities in the world’s most populous country. However, it is important to take into account that the Chinese market is way different from western countries, and the market is evolving at a faster pace. In order to help you understand the skincare industry in China and take advantage of it, in this article we will give you some tips and advice to enter the Chinese market.
The Skincare Market in China
Since 2010, the skincare market has registered steady growth, following the rising use of e-commerce platforms and Chinese consumers’ increasing purchasing power. According to Mintel, the skincare industry is expected to exceed 60 billion dollars by 2050. Therefore, this is why the Chinese market represents a very good opportunity for skincare brands looking to expand their activities overseas.
The Evolution of China’s Skincare Market
This surprising growth of the skincare market in China in comparison to Western countries stems from the fact that China’s growth didn’t happen in the same way and at the same time. Indeed, during its revolution years, the beauty products market was considered non-existent. Then, following its economic growth and opening to the world thanks to digitalization, Chinese consumers have developed a strong interest in beauty and skincare products over the last few years.
For example, by 2025, the skincare market in China is expected to reach 393.63 billion yuan ($61,249 billion), with annual market growth of 8.78% (CAGR 2021-2025). At the moment China is the third-largest market after the US and Japan, which accounted for (respectively) US$19,420 million and US$18,770 million in 2022. China skincare market takes the third spot with US$16,340 million.
What Can Explain the Craze for Skincare products in China?
At first, the emergence of the Chinese middle class was one of the key factors for this success. With increasing revenues, their habits also changed toward qualitative products, even though they were more expensive. Over the years, beauty products are now part of their daily routines, and taking care of themselves is much more important than twenty years ago for example.
In China, the skincare segment is the biggest and fastest-growing market segment within the Beauty & Personal Care market. With other segments such as haircare, fragrances, and color cosmetics, the skincare segment has experienced double-digit growth. Even though foreign brands tend to be more popular than domestic ones, this success benefits both Chinese and foreign companies.
What drives the Chinese skincare market?
Skincare involves a range of beauty regimes for maintaining healthy and nourished skin along with relieving numerous dermatological ailments. Various skin care products include creams, lotions, masks, body oil, cleansers, serum, moisturizers, etc. These products are widely adopted in numerous skincare practices for removing acne, skin cleansing, skin hydration, minimizing skin aging effects, exfoliating, protecting against UV exposure, etc.
In China, the market for skincare products is primarily driven by the increasing beauty consciousness, particularly among the millennial and urbanized population.
Why is China a good market for foreign skincare brands?
As a result of urbanization and modernization, growing disposable income, and social media, the beauty, and skincare market is facing a burgeoning demand for higher quality and premium products. Chinese consumers are more than ever paying attention to their appearance and skin.
Moreover, the perception of beauty products has also evolved over the years. For example, even though cosmetics and skincare products were at first mainly used by female consumers, male consumers are now more inclined to use skin care products as part of their daily routine.
Another important fact that can explain why foreign brands are popular in China is because Chinese consumers tend to be extremely cautious when buying skincare and beauty-related products. In fact, following several scandals from domestic brands, foreign brands are considered of higher quality, and the majority of the population thinks that foreign skincare products are more reliable than local ones.
According to this graphic, we can see that the two leading countries in terms of skin care products in China are Japan and Korea. It is estimated that 48% of Chinese consumers have Japanese skincare products, 44% have Korean products and 32% have European products.
Are Chinese Beauty brands ready to dominate the skincare market?
Even though foreign brands are leading the Chinese skincare market, domestic brands will not stay inactive. In recent, several Chinese brands have known incredible market growth in terms of sales, and consumers are involved in political tensions between a few countries, they prefer nationalism and are more and more tempted to shift to local brands that are both qualitative and cheaper.
On top of that, following the Covid-19 pandemic, many Chinese consumers have shifted from foreign brands to local brands. Their habits have changed along with the marketing strategies that were used during the pandemic.
When looking at Chinese brands, we can see that they have a few advantages compared to foreign brands:
- They are already in China, which is easier for them to apply for e-commerce platforms, social media accounts, physical stores, advertising, communication, etc.
- They are eager to lead the skincare market
- In general, Chinese employees are ready to work overtime and are dedicated to their company
- They are putting their eggs in much more baskets compared to foreign brands (in terms of sales distribution both offline and online and in terms of social media)
- They know how to master Chinese social media and e-commerce platforms
- Advantages in terms of localization and innovation
Foreign brands are paving the way
Among all of the most popular brands in China in terms of skincare products, L’Oréal remains the market leader with its well-known brands such as La Roche-Posay and Lancôme. The brand offers consumers a wide range of products that meet their diverse needs and follow the trends. Indeed, the brand offers high-quality products and premium products. By diversifying its range and its product offering, L’Oréal was able to attract different kinds of consumers compared to its competitors.
What are the market insights and trends in the Chinese skincare industry?
As mentioned earlier, Chinese consumers’ habits are extremely different from Westerners. Beauty criteria are also the opposite. Therefore, you have to know the market trends in order to adapt your products to Chinese consumers.
Whitening, skincare, and anti-aging products
While we tend to prefer tanned-looking skin, having ‘white’ skin is a synonym for “purity” for Chinese consumers that consider it a major criterion of beauty. Thus, skincare brands have to adapt to this characteristic of the Chinese market, by selling skin whitening cosmetic products for example.
The Korean and Japanese Phenomenon
Thanks to its attractivity and popularity among Chinese people, South Korea’s skincare and cosmetics industry is by far among its most lucrative ones in China. Although Chinese people don’t like Japan, they gladly use Japanese products as well, as they take almost 48% of the overall market shares in China’s skincare market. Of course, you have to take into account that brands also have brick-and-mortar stores all across China.
Natural Skincare products en vogue in China
Chinese consumers are more than ever conscious of their environmental footprint and that’s why they would rather prefer buying eco-responsible and natural products. China’s skincare market is becoming increasingly complementary to that of health. Indeed, the trend towards “healthy” is increasingly present in our environment is affected many sectors including skincare one.
This trend makes the consumer more aware of his consumer environment, his behavior, and his expectations. Although the natural cosmetics market is still rather small in China, it’s growing fast and it’s predicted to be one of the main trends in the upcoming years, as we can observe in the West.
These behavioral changes allow brands to see several opportunities in the market:
Verification of Ingredients and Components:
- Preference for natural products and organic products
- Increasing interest in brands of dermo-cosmetics
- Products containing sulfates and paraben are considered to be harmful
Awareness of pollution and UV rays:
- Purchase of products related to the protection of the skin
- Interest in whitening products
Constant prevention research:
- Anti-aging products for young consumers
- Acne treatments
Considerations for all cosmetic brands wishing to develop their activities in the Middle Kingdom. Some companies have already jumped on the trend of skincare to gain market share in the sector.
Particularities of the Chinese Beauty & Skin Care market
For their skincare routine, Chinese consumers are using several products to exfoliate, wash and take care of their skin. In fact, Chinese consumers have some particularities that are beneficial and lucrative for cosmetic brands:
Their skin type
While in Western countries you will be able to find numerous products according to different types of skin, you will find products for the same type of skin in China, as the majority of the population has the same one. Thus, they tend to buy products that fit their “greasy” skin with large pores and a shiny appearance (especially in the “T” zone). Their skin is also very sensitive to external aggression (pollution, wind, dust …)
As mentioned earlier, Chinese society describes the ideal woman as Bái fù mei 白富美 (white, rich, and beautiful). This is why all the celebrities and KOLs you will on TV and ad have extremely white skin. Synonym of social success, having white skin is deeply linked with personal investment in cosmetics, in extension with wealth but also modernity and cleanliness. So, Chinese consumers prefer whitening products to tanning creams.
Rising purchasing power
Many people living in China’s big cities have benefited from increasing purchasing power over the years which has resulted in a rise in the consumption of foreign products (particularly luxury products). In addition, younger people tend to focus more on their appearance in terms of fashion and brands than the older generation. They are also more open to Western influences and prefer to invest in quality products.
What type of skincare products you should sell in China?
According to the specificities and particularities mentioned earlier, you can focus on the following products: cleanser, lotion, toner, mask, etc. Thus, you can adapt your products to the Chinese market in the following areas:
Products against excess sebum
In order to regulate the oil production of their skin (which is one of their priority), you can put ingredients that will reduce the production of oil as well as hydrate the skin. It should be soft and soap-free in order not to irritate and attack sensitive skin. Mattifying moisturizers are also perfect for them, as well as masks and scrubs.
As mentioned before, white skin is still synonymous with beauty in China, as well as in most Asian countries In China, most facial products have whitening agents included. In order to please Chinese consumers, you can adapt your products according to these criteria.
Chinese consumers are increasingly sensitive to environmental issues. Due to their culture and the several scandals related to hygiene in China, these kinds of natural products are gaining more and more attention. If you are selling organic products, China can be a tremendous opportunity for you to increase your sales.
The mix of “cosmetics” and “pharmaceuticals” is becoming more popular in China because it meets dermatological needs in addition to purely aesthetic needs.
How to promote and sell cosmetics in China?
The rapid growth of online shopping and accelerated penetration of mobile devices has enabled social media to become an important marketing tool for brands to promote their products and interact with their customers. China is one of the most important markets for the sale and distribution of beauty products online. This channel of distribution has become a lever facilitating purchases for individuals.
What is important before entering online marketplaces is to build brand reputation and presence, so that Chinese people, especially younger generation of shoppers will learn about your brand, and know who you are and what values you represent. There are many ways to do it, but one of the most effective is to promote your brand on Chinese social media platforms.
Use social media for branding and e-reputation
China has embraced the arrival of online commerce and has become a juggernaut in the distribution and development of sales and social commerce platforms. An institutional website (in Chinese, hosted in Mainland China for good Baidu SEO) and social media are important elements to increase brand awareness.
Introduced in 2011 by Tencent, WeChat is one of China’s top tech companies. With 1.26 billion monthly active users, it is the most popular messaging app in China but it also has a large ecosystem of services.
Thanks to WeChat, you will be able to create H5 Brochures, promote your products through Wechat moments, create your Wechat Official Account where you can send something like our newsletters, or even create your own WeChat Store.
Launched in 2009 by the Chinese technology company Sina Corporation (新浪), Weibo (微博) is one of the biggest social media platforms in China. Weibo is great for reaching out to new audiences, as it’s a more open platform than Wechat. You can create communities, discussions, you can work with influencers to promote your brand there and many more.
Launched in 2016 and developed by the Chinese tech firm Beijing Bytedance, Douyin quickly became one of the fastest-growing short video apps in China. This sharing video platform allows users to watch and create short videos with music in the background, stickers, and animations thanks to easy-to-use video creation tools.
Douyin has greatly contributed to the development of the Chinese market in terms of innovations, new technologies, and means of communication. It has changed the way of advertising, with the rising popularity of sales agents on Douyin, but mostly to the emergence of KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). Douyin was able to break ground in terms of marketing strategies and communication between brands and consumers.
Use Baidu ecosystem to increase visibility of your brand
Considered as the “Chinese Google”, Baidu is the most popular Chinese Search Engine in China and stands as the 5th most consulted website in the world. You can also advertise on Baidu with pay-per-click ads for example.
Baidu is a whole ecosystem of platforms, that is very helpful for building brand awareness and good e-reputation. You can start topics and discussions around Chinese beauty market or international brands on forums like Baidu Zhidao or Baidu Tieba. This way, apart from letting customers know about your brand, you will also get some insights and advice for improvement.
Selling products on e-commerce platforms in China
There are generally four online selling platforms for skincare in China:
- Self-operated online platforms
- Online stores on third-party integrated e-commerce platforms such as Tmall, JD.com, and Amazon
- Third-party online cosmetic platforms such as Watsons or Sephora
- Cross-border e-commerce platforms such as Tmall Global, JD Worldwide
The most popular platforms to sell your skincare products in China
Tmall is the most popular e-commerce website in China. Launched in 2008 by the giant Alibaba, Tmall is mainly focused on big companies. The process is long and fastidious, and the fees can be considered too expensive for smaller companies. Tmall requires its merchant to have high-quality products, as well as an online reputation in China before applying.
JD.com is Tmall’s main competitor, being another popular e-commerce website in China. JD.com has a wonderful catalog of products, from fresh grocery foods to high-tech and new technologies-related products. However, the process is kind of the same as Tmall, and it will be difficult for smaller companies to be allowed to sell on JD.com
Launched in 2003 by the giant Alibaba, Taobao shares some similarities with its brother Tmall. However, while Tmall is specifically for the biggest international companies, Taobao is more focused on smaller domestic companies. The fees are indeed much less expensive than on Tmall, and the price is also very cheap.
Founded in 2013 by Charlwin Mao and Miranda Qu, Xiaohongshu (小红书) also known as ‘The Little Red Book’ and ‘RED’, is a social media and one of the world’s largest community e-commerce platforms. Over the years, it has grown to become China’s foremost shopping platform in terms of beauty, fashion, particularly luxury products.
In 2018, was listed on Forbes’ “Top 50 Most Innovative Companies in China 2018” list. As of 2022, Xiaohongshu is boasting over 300 million registered users and 85 million monthly active users.
L’Oréal China Case Study: A Winning Strategy
The brand is already very present on the Asian continent, which represents 19% of its total sales. The company is positioned as a leader in several product categories, luxury, makeup, dermo-cosmetics and skincare.
With a portfolio of more than 20 brands, and a desire to understand the Chinese market, the brand has successfully developed an adaptive strategy, placing it as a leader in many areas.
With the help of a research and research laboratory located in Pudong and the acquisition of local brands, the company aimed to get closer and understand its consumers. The growth of the market allows it to offer individuals innovative products and meet their expectations and make a name in the industry. (other new about L’Oreal)
Development of its reputation and reputation via social networks
China is a country where digital has become an important part of the daily lives of its people. With more than 900 million Internet users connected to various social platforms, developing its presence and brand image digitally is compulsory for brands wishing to develop in the country. The group has very well understood this notion of digital and integrates it perfectly in its various communication strategies since digital represents 8% of the communication techniques of the group in China.
To get closer to its consumers, the company launched last year a beauty application called Makeup Genius that automatically detects a face and thus offers a palette of the makeup of the brand. The user has the possibility to try several products of the mark during the editing of his photo. The application has more than 14 million consumers.
Online reputation is an important factor in the development of your activities on Chinese territory. In this section, we will see how interesting it is for you to position yourself on these online sales platforms.
Gentlemen Marketing Agency
With China being the world’s biggest market in terms of skincare products, many brands are trying to enter the Chinese market in order to conquer a wide audience. However, as demonstrated in this article, you will have to understand all of its subtleties in order to successfully manage to attract customers and stay in the long term.
Collaborating with an agency specialized in the Chinese market is the best way to achieve your goal and increase your Return On Investment. As all companies are different, the marketing and advertising strategy must be tailored according to their needs and within their financial means.
Proud of the success of more than 600 companies from different industries we have helped over 10 years, we know exactly what a certain cosmetics company needs. We offer many different services, starting from market research, through web-design, finding distributors, working on social media strategy, to branding, help with stores opening and many more.
Don’t hesitate to leave us a comment or contact us to discuss your future in China! We offer a free consultation to get to know your brand and think of the best strategy to enter the Chinese skincare market.