In a country like China, the cosmetics market is always profitable because the image matters a lot there. Indeed, it became the second biggest market of this sector in the world (right behind the USA), reaching 42.43 billion yuan in 2022. Beauty and makeup products are even the top online-shopped product, before handbags, shoes, and clothes.
The cosmetics sector is thus a good choice for investment in China. It should exceed 50 billion dollars by 2050, according to Mintel’s predictions. But before investing, one should be careful about Asian trends!
As the differences in culture with the West are big, so are their standards of beauty. This is why Chinese women’s makeup style is not the same as ours. Though in the United States, “contouring” is a really popular style of makeup. In China, women tend to like delicate and natural styles better.
Is applying makeup important for Chinese women?
Applying makeup is very important to Chinese women because it helps them feel better about themselves. The look is still very important in China and so are the beauty standards, that, in comparison to the Western ones, are harder to achieve. Therefore, women tend to put on makeup, even simple and natural ones, just to correct some of the imperfections of their faces, like its shape or skin type.
In the West women like to play with makeup more, experimenting with colors, contouring, and ‘changing’ their faces with makeup or, the opposite, putting on the least makeup possible. In China, makeup is meant to look perfect but simple, with every detail just right.
What are the Chinese beauty standards that brands need to know about?
If you think that the beauty standards you are familiar with in your country also apply to other parts of the world, then you will be surprised. In China, many things that we consider beautiful are actually perceived as ugly.
The most important beauty standard in countries like China, Japan, and South Korea is white skin. The more white your skin is, the more desirable it is to other people. Although many beauty standards in China that have been in the culture throughout history are now changing thanks to globalization, white radiant skin is there to stay. This is why most of the skincare sold on the Chinese market have a whitening effect.
When it comes to facial features, women tend to value big eyes and double eyelids. As we said in the introduction that Chinese beauty standards are hard to achieve, and eyes can be one of the examples. Chinese people naturally have single eyelids but they engage in multiple operations to change their eyes into looking more Western. They will also buy a lot of eye makeup products that will help them make their eyes visually bigger.
Although Chinese makeup is rather natural and delicate in comparison to Western trends, Chinese women tend to contour their face shapes into the desired, thin-sized, oval shape with a visible pointy chin. And, to add a bit of character into this delicate form, they like to apply red or dark shades of lipstick and some rouge on the cheeks.
Although young consumers, thanks to the access to Western trends that can be seen on Youku, the Chinese version of Youtube, become more cosmopolitan and start experimenting with their makeup, adapting to trending and popular styles shown on the Internet. But it’s important to understand the beauty standards of the market before entering so that you get an overall idea of what your consumers will look for in your products.
How Chinese women and girls like to do their make-up?
The history of makeup styles in China date to ancient times and the makeup techniques and styles were evolving a lot with time (often described with details in the Chinese literature). Although Chinese women like to keep their makeup simple and classy nowadays, they still get inspired by heavier looks straight from Chinese Opera.
The tradition of using whitening products for the face and adding red lipstick to accent the face comes from ancient times but is still present today. Let’s see how Chinese women like to do their makeup, step-by-step.
Before even starting their makeup, Chinese girls will take care of their skin. The smog and massive use of the AC can be aggressive to the skin and provoke drying and irritations. Most of them thus have a skincare routine that they are doing daily so no flaw will appear on their face: moisturizer, cleanser, etc. For these products, they wouldn’t care to spend a lot of money. Their skin routine looks like art, with many steps that they need to walk through every day.
As the quality of the product is highly important, they will tend to trust a well-known brand more and pay the price. They especially like famous European and American brands tested in laboratories. As well as Korean products have excellent quality for a cheaper price. Chinese products are still struggling in this market.
Most Chinese women have a « combination » or « oily » skin type, their skin thus tends to be shiny. Oil-control products are thus a real success here. For skin hydration, Chinese women tend to like face masks. You can find some everywhere in China, for a very cheap price overall and usually with a “kawaii” design (panda face for example).
When it comes to the skincare market, natural products are becoming the real trend, as Chinese consumers are more and more health aware. They also start using anti-aging creams and serums and dermo-cosmetics, as they have very sensitive and problematic skin.
The complexion of Chinese women can vary (from yellow to olive) according to their provinces of origin but they generally have a naturally very warm complexion. But, they are trying to ‘fake’ they have a completely white complexion, with the use of good whitening products.
Most of the creams and products they use contain whiteners. Since tanning imposes a long sun exposition, tanned skin is associated with the workers and peasants who spend days of hard work outdoors.
The image and opinion of others are very important in China. To look good, it is better to have a pale complexion. It is by extension proof of social success because it suggests that you are working in an office and not in a field. Even if some young girls start enjoying sun exposure and tanning, most of them will wear an umbrella in the summer to protect themselves from UV rays. This trend is slowly weakening, but there is still a lot of social pressure on it.
In addition to white skin, women all dream of having smooth skin. They must therefore apply foundation, then finish with an illuminating powder. It must be harmonious with the color of the skin (golden or yellow shades) because other shades would give them a look like “ghosts” (white and pink are to be banned).
This powder should be lighter and should be applied to the cheekbones, the nose, the center of the forehead, and the chin. This powder is also essential to give a matte surface to their skin. It is therefore very used to erase the shiny areas that occur on their skin throughout the day. They do not use (or very little) contour, blush, tan, etc.
With the complexion, the eyebrows represent a crucial step in the makeup of Chinese women. Since most of them have very little hair, their eyebrows are generally not very provided. However, the eyebrows can change the appearance of the whole face and give depth to the look. Once made up, the difference is glaring.
Therefore, Chinese women place a lot of importance on the makeup of their eyebrows. They are drawn to give them more content, sometimes even tattooed. The makeup kits for eyebrows are therefore a great success. As well as all the materials necessary to draw, carve, make up and fix them.
They have almond-shaped eyes, mostly dark brown. They have very few dark rings under the eyes. Their eyelids are very small but their upper eyelids are broad and bulging. They use very little eyeshadow. But for the ones who use it, purplish, copper-colored, and brown hues look good on them. Eye makeup is rarely too pronounced. But the most coquettish of them use eyeliner to make their eyes look bigger.
Their eyelashes are short, poorly furnished, and tend towards the bottom. Some will use mascara, with the previous use of an eyelash curler. Very few are using “false eyelashes”. However, operations such as eyelash extensions or coloring are often offered in beauty salons. And of course, as we mentioned before, operations of changing the eyelid type are one of the most popular ones in Asia.
Most Chinese women have full and well-drawn mouths. They like luscious and glossy lips. Because they tend to put less make-up on their eyes, they can bet on their lips to create a balance. Regarding the colors, they can wear any type of hue. But the red remains their favorite.
How to reach your audience in China?
When you already get an idea of what products are desirable in the Chinese market, it’s time to start promoting them to your target audience. The best way to do so is online. You need to work on your branding and e-reputation so that Chinese women will notice your brand and decide to give it a try.
Set up a Chinese website and take care of Baidu SEO for better visibility
Having a Chinese website hosted in China is a must if you want to get a result in China. Chinese consumers check all the necessary information online, and the first place they will look for is your official page and topics mentioning your brand in Baidu search results.
Baidu is a whole ecosystem of platforms and websites, and if you work on your search engine optimization by optimizing your website and participating in posts and comments on Baidu forums, you will be easier to find and become popular in China.
Use social media platforms to build e-reputation
Although a Chinese website works as a hallmark of your brand on the Chinese internet, social media is where everything happens. Chinese people are very connected to all kinds of technology and more of them use at least one social media platform.
The most popular one is WeChat, where you can start an official account for people to follow your page and get to know about the latest products and discounts. You can also post different content formats, share information and coupons in private groups or even have your own store in the WeChat mini-program.
Another useful social media platform for cosmetics is definitely Xiaohongshu, which is often compared to our Instagram. It’s based mostly on user-generated content, and the majority of users are women that share their fashion and makeup tips, reviews, and recommendations. There are also many influencers on the platform, which can help you reach a bigger audience with different content formats and live-streaming content.
Do you want to sell your cosmetics in China? Contact us!
If you want to establish your cosmetic brand in China but you do not know how to do it, feel free to contact Gentlemen Marketing Agency. As we are based in Shanghai, our professional agency will give visibility to your brand with tools adapted to the Chinese market.
We have more than 10 years of experience in the industry and we already worked with many cosmetics brands helping them achieve their goals in the Chinese market.
Don’t hesitate to leave us a comment or contact us, we offer a free discovery consultation with our expert, that will learn about your brand and present you solutions for your growth in the cosmetics market.