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How Small Brands Can Compete in the Chinese Beauty Market?

krave korean sustainaible cosmetic

Chinese consumers always valued their beauty and took care of their appearance, especially their skin, investing a lot in cosmetics. The cosmetics industry in China is a billion-dollar industry and the second cosmetics market in the world. As the Chinese middle class grows, China market is on the rise and so is the beauty consumption in the cosmetics sector.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the beauty and personal care market, just like on almost all the other sectors of the economy, cosmetics are on the rise again! The market is predicted to grow 9.6% year-on-year, reaching $87.64 billion by 2025. In this blog post, we will examine the trends and consumer insights in the Chinese beauty market and see the opportunities for small and niche brands on the market.

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Overview of the Cosmetics Industry in China

China’s beauty market is booming, presenting amazing opportunities for domestic and foreign brands in the industry. According to Globenewswire, the total market will reach 564.4 billion yuan by 2025 ($87.64 billion), from 318.1 billion yuan ten years earlier, with a annual growth rate of 9.6% during the forecasted period.

Beauty market in China

What are the biggest beauty trends on the Chinese market?

When looking at the segmentation of the beauty market and cosmetics, it becomes clear what are the trends of the market. As Chinese cosmetics market is one of the most dynamic ones, it’s important to be ahead of the trends, especially for small foreign brands that want to attract Chinese beauty consumers. Let’s take a look at what’s trending in the Chinese beauty:

Natural cosmetics are becoming increasingly popular

Today, the biggest drivers of the beauty industry in China are Millennials and Gen Z. Those two younger generations are different than their parents and grandparents; they have higher incomes, they like to spend money on themselves and they don’t mind spending more on the best quality. They are also increasingly aware of the health and environmental benefits of using natural products, especially natural beauty and personal care products.

In China people are concerned especially about skin aging and pollution. The natural cosmetics market is still considered a niche, which is a perfect opportunity for small brands, as this sector is expected to see rapid growth in the next years. Chinese young consumers are becoming more healthy, taking care of their diet, psychical activity and cosmetics they use.

Anti-aging cosmetics for young Chinese consumers

One of the very interesting trends in China is the popularity of anti-aging products among Chinese consumers. Millennials are turning 30 years old, and they start looking into anti-aging cosmetics products, panicking about changes on their skin. What is interesting is the fact that this trend does not apply only to women, as men are equally stressed about the condition of their skins!

Millennials are the first generation that would put so much importance on self-care, spending millions on skincare and so on. As Gen Z is even more focused on spoiling themselves, those trends will only grow, as China demand follows the growth on the Chinese economy. The anti-aging market is growing at a fast pace, recording year-on-year growth of 12% in 2022.

Chinese male beauty industry on the rise!

Chinese men’s skincare market is a whole worldwide revolution, as Chinese men are setting the trends for the whole globe, showing men that it’s no shame to take care of themselves, investing in good quality skincare products and other cosmetics, just like women do. Nowadays, men that take care of themselves, using beauty products are considered sexy, and the demand will only grow (just like in South Korean market).

More than half of men in China declare to perfom a skincare routine daily, using as many as ten different cosmetic products. According to Euromonitor, the sales of beauty products for men have reached 50 billion dollars and are expected to rise by 16% within the next two years. Just like in South Korea, male consumers are driving the demand for male or gender neutral beauty product choices.

Li Jiaqi on social media

What might be interesting for you is that the most popular lipstick influencer in China is a man! Austin Li Jiaqi, called “The Lipstick King” shows himself on live-streams wearing different shades of lipstick, attracting particular attention of male and female user base on social media.

Cosmeceuticals and medical cosmetics

Many Chinese people, especially young females and their male counterparts have problems with their skin, due to pollution. They look for specific treatments such as skin spot treatments, skin brightening, acne treatment, anti-pollution, etc. This is why cosmeceuticals, which are cosmetics with pharmaceutical benefits, are becoming extremely popular in China’s beauty market.

All the foreign and domestic brands introducing multifunctional products with pharmaceutical benefits on the market will have a chance of becoming top beauty brands, as the importance of ‘effect’ is considered the most important motivation for purchase by more than 60% of Chinese consumers.

How small beauty brands should promote their products in China

As the Chinese beauty market is changing fast, small and niche brands have a chance to win some of the market share, introducing the products that respond to the demands of Chinese consumers. As they usually trust international brands more than domestic brands (due to many scandals in the industry), foreign brands have a high chance of succeeding, if they work on a proper marketing strategy for their products and brand building.

The large international groups are largely held back by China’s increasingly rigid laws. Yes, China’s trade policy is complex and it is something we need to be familiar with. Seasoned knowledge of the economic and legal context is therefore essential in order to penetrate this complex and fruitful market. Several marketing strategies need to be put in place.

Focus on branding and good e-reputation first

Any Chinese consumer wanting to buy cosmetics, won’t purchase anything that he/she never heard of. What is more, all the most popular e-commerce platforms accept only brands with an established presence in China. And even if they accepted, you wouldn’t generate any retail sales on online channels without good branding and e-reputation.

Drivers for increasingskincare spending

The e-reputation is about the brand image that the company reflects thanks to its presence on the networks. In other words, what does your target audience think about you?

In 2017, 75% of Chinese people said they spent more on their beauty products in order to have access to higher quality. Or so they believe. There are tons of beauty products out there that are a lot cheaper than Laneige our Kiehls and are as good as them. Yet, these expensive products are a lot more popular. Why?

  • They are branded as luxury products and perfect to show off a certain wealth.
  • Great marketing work on branding and making people believe that expensive means better. (Well, to say the truth it also helps that Chinese peoples generally agree on the fact that cheap means not good)

Work on your Chinese website and Baidu SEO for visibility

In order to get yourself out there, you need to start from creating a Chinese website hosted in Mainland China. Any person interested in your brand, will look you up in Baidu, the biggest search engine in China and an equivalent to our Google.

Baidu favors websites in Mandarin Chinese, hosted in China (or Hong Kong). Also, Chinese people will get more interested if you adapt your website to them, in terms of language, content, web design, customer service etc.

Apart from website, in order to get more leads, you need to spend some time on online reputation management. Apart from websites, Baidu has a whole ecosystem of platforms and sites, perfect for SEO results.

Try to start communities and topics on forums like Baidu Tieba, Zhihu, Baidu Zhidao etc. You will be able to check the demands of your audience, see the opinion of your products and arrouse attention, also gaining a better score in Baidu search results.


Premium beauty, cosmetic and environmental consciousness

Our society is becoming more and more concerned about the environment and its issues. That is also true in China. With the rise of the middle class, the awareness of environmental change and the impact of consumption habits on our planet is rising. This results in a demand for greener products.

A company that brand itself has having eco-friendly practices (glass bottles, non-polluting ingredients… etc) and great quality natural innovative products will be extremely popular with Millennials and Gen Z consumers.

South Korean Market
Krave Beauty skincare, for instance, gives 2% of its benefits for the protection of the coral reef and use non-polluting ingredients, yet innovative.

What is more, apart from focusing on natural ingredients and eco-friendly cosmetics, it’s still and always important to position yourself as a premium luxury brand. Chinese consumers choose foreign brands over Chinese beauty brands because they believe they have a better quality and are more premium. Therefore, it’s advisable to present yourself online accordingly.

Promote and sell your products on Chinese social media platforms

The best way to attract the attention of Chinese consumers, especially Millennials and Gen Z today is through social media platforms. They spend hours scrolling through WeChat, Weibo, RED or Douyin daily, looking at the content of their friends or influencers they follow, or checking some funny short-videos and live-streams promoting products they are interested in.

The most platform for any brand in China is WeChat. A company without a WeChat official account looks ‘fishy’ to Chinese people, and no wonder, as WeChat has more than 1.26 billion active montly users, and more than 95% companies opened stores in the platform.

WeChat is a great opportunity for smaller brands to test the market without a need of big investments. Apart from official accounts, WeChat created a possibility to open a store inside the platform, allowing companies to sell their products directly in the app, with WeChat Pay option. This is a way cheaper choice than entering big e-commerce platforms like Tmall or JD, perfect for small and niche brands on the market.

Apart from WeChat, it’s advisable to have accounts on Weibo, RED and Douyin. WeChat is a rather closed ecosystem, that is perfect for keeping your existing customer base up to date and engaged. But it’s not that good when it comes to reaching out to new audiences.

Therefore, it’s good to publish content on platforms like Weibo, and especially Little Red Book (also called Xiaohongshu or RED), a platform known for its fashion and beauty content.

Collaborate with Chinese influencers

There’s nothing like a well-targeted KOL to boost your e-reputation. KOL stands for “Key Opinion Leader” or in other words “influencer”. You can promote your products in the best possible way, although, people have to trust your product and your brand!

Moreover, in the Chinese market, where we know how distrustful consumers are and their need to reassure themselves. This is where KOL is rapidly playing catch up. These influencers are people who are followed by a very large number of people, who are offered products to try them and face the promotion to their community. This principle is effective and offers consequent visibility.

Key Opinion Leaders on Little Red Book

Every platform has Kols, however, some platforms are better to promote beauty products than others. Xiaohongshu is the king of cosmetic and beauty trends influencers. Why? because the app niche target is young women that love foreign high-end cosmetic beauty products.

Hell, even Kim K uses RED, but don’t worry there are tons of micro-influencers a lot cheaper that would work very well for your brand too. They will wear makeup done with your cosmetics, generationg online sales through live-streaming and more, depending what you need!

In short, small beauty brands can make it in China if they are smart

The cosmetics market in China is a market where there are many opportunities to be seized. Today I’ve mentioned just a few platforms but there is an overwhelming number of apps and platforms that can be used to market your beauty brand. The choice of platforms will depend on your budgets and goals but the one constant idea is to work on your brand awareness and e-reputation.

After achieving this goal, you will be able to get into physical stores and department stores in Chinese cities, as well as sell your premium products on big online e-commerce marketplaces like Tmall, Taobao, JD or Vipshop.

Contact us to sell your products on the Chinese beauty market

As you can see, the road to become a well-known brand in China is not short and requires a lot of experinence and know-how of the industry and trends shapping the market.

gma marketing agency china

We are a China marketing agency based in Shanghai, with more than 10 years of experience with cosmetics and other brands. Our team of Chinese and foreign professionals helped reach and exceed the goals of more than 600 brands from various industries and countries.

We offer many different services, such as:

Feel free to contact us to get more information on the topic, we will be happy to spend some time letting you know about the Chinese beauty market as well as our solutions. Our Agency has solutions for every budget and start-ups are most welcome.

Here are some of our cosmetics case studies:

Don’t hesitate to contact us or leave us a comment to discuss your project in China!

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  1. Hi
    We are a Chinese distributors of cosmetics, we mainly deal with Chinese local brands, and we are searching now to distribute good foreign brands, can you send me your product information please

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