Clean Beauty in China: A Growing Trend Driven by Millenials

China Clean Beauty overview

Figures of the clean beauty market

China is the second-largest market in the world of cosmetics, reaching total sales of 25 billion euros annually. Even with the Covid-19 crisis, the cosmetics sector in China is resisting and increased compared to 2019. Reinforced by the adoption of sanitary measures, the already high consumption of beauty products has even increased.

Today, 80% of Chinese consumers are willing to be more health-conscious about their purchase after the Covid-19 crisis. Clean beauty is benefiting from this trend. Especially for cosmetics, 90% of Chinese expressed the importance to purchase clean or healthy beauty products, by far the highest in the world.

On Weibo, the hashtag about mask face sensitivity #口罩脸抗敏接力 hit over 240 million views and mentioned in 445K discussions. All the discussions on Chinese social media are more and more about beauty tips to save your face mask, a funny expression to say you can save your face and save your skin at the same time.

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Importance of Effects & Ingredients in beauty products

For a long time, the purchasing habits of Chinese consumers were influenced by the brand image. While being more conscious and more educated about their actual purchase, the Chinese are now more concerned about the effects and ingredients rather than the brand to buy a product.

The recent success of healthy and natural cosmetics is measured through the explosion of clean beauty brand sales. Operating a blend of Chinese culture and French quality, the LVMH brand Cha Ling is claiming powerful anti-aging and skin-healing benefits from its skincare products made of tea (“cha” in Mandarin).

On the Chinese web search engine called Baidu, the equivalent of Google, the natural and organic ingredients search volumes are rising. Even Chinese consumers who used to be blinded by the quality of their skincare products are looking for niche natural ingredients such as Manuka honey from New Zealand or Edelweiss from Switzerland.

Who buy clean beauty products in China?

  • Millenials
  • Generation Z Men

The Millenials are driving the clean beauty market with their purschasing power and their open-mindedness to international beauty standards. Their careful attention is also transmitted to the Gen Z: 54% of Generation Z consumers assessed they value plant-based skincare above any other skincare concept.

If you are willing to enter China market with an organic beauty brand, never forget that Chinese consumers are stuck by the cosmetics plague of counterfeiting and are cautious about their purchase. Some cosmetics were poisoned by mercury, animal feces, rat droppings, cyanide and lead. Avoiding counterfeit skincare products is one of the main concern of the Chinese consumer. It is now aiming at paying its cosmetics at a much higher price to save its health.

Bioderma, the pharmaceutical skincare company, get a tarnished image due to counterfeit products. Back in 2015, over 1100 bottles of cleansing water were confiscated for being fake.

Best cities to target the key consumer in China

The urban consumer is the most sensitive to organic ingredients and natural benefits they could bring to their skin, to offset the big city life:

  • Air pollution: skin problems, dehydration, dull complexion
  • Water tap: hard water, dry skin, plumpless aspect
  • Allergies: heavy metal residues develop allergies, redness skin, spots
  • Stress: rash aspect, oily skin, wrinkles

With the launch of the Pure Shots franchise, Yves Saint Laurent targeted the worldwide urban consumers. The popup store on Hainan Island in September 2020 featured sustainable beauty innovations and showcased the benefits of YSL Pure Shots. The “YSL Urban Skin Check tool” was a striking phygital experience to enable Chinese consumers to receive a 5 minutes skin diagnosis and personalized recommendations.

How to effectively target these consumers? Among all the clean sensitive beauty lovers, 38% mention a problem of access to green beauty products. The best opportunity lies in targeting third tier cities:

  • First tier cities: Benijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, etc…
  • Second tier cities: Chengdu, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Wuhan, etc…
  • Third tier cities: Guilin, Dongguan, Wenzhou, etc…

The average spending for cosmetics is 21,200 RMB for third tier cities compared to 19,100 RMB for first tier cities. These consumers have the biggest spending and lowest access. You should create a strong digital strategy as they are more likely to spend time online to make some research and shop online.

How to promote your Clean Beauty brand in China?

Branding is key for Clean Beauty Brand in China

In Europe, green cosmetics are always associated to nature, landscapes, plants, etc. Such a campaign is likely to be a failure on the other side of the continent. In China, the image of nature is not profitable for any brand because it is a direct reference to countryside, and automatically to poverty and undervelopment. The natural cosmetics market in China is a specific one and needs to adapt its codes.

The social prestige of a brand could be enhanced by specific codes such as gold, premium logo, high-end packaging and renowned ingredients. The success of Abeille Royale, the Guerlain best selling franchise, is linked to the specific use of luxurious gold and to the benefits of natural royal jellly from Ouessant bees.

The cosmetics is a first step into luxury purchase for the Chinese consumers. The storytelling of an organic based skincare line must be to share dream… Which is not the case for mud and plants associated to nature! The image must preferably be built around cleanliness, premiumness and innovation.

Clean beauty Brand need to be on Chinese Social media

Promoting a clean beauty brand starts with a wise choice among the social platforms. The necessary social media to develop your cosmetics activities are: Weibo and WeChat.

Weibo, the KOL reference

Weibo is the reference for beauty lovers. With famous cosmetics KOL and beauty bloggers, this social media is the most engaging one to build an influence around your products. The engagement rate and post virality is one of the most important on Chinese social media.

Chinese consumers greatly appreciate KOLs. They used to follow several beauty bloggers to gather a lot of information on the products they should be likely to buy: tutorials, brand reviews, feedbacks, try-on and crash tests. The influence superstars are a trusthworthy source of information for Chinese consumers due to the importance of “not losing face” in China.

A Weibo page is the best tool to introduce your brand to Chinese consumers and share information about your products with them. You should first build your branding strategy before entering Weibo. Then, you will have to share a lot of interesting content to engage with your community. The Chinese consumers love to share on social media, especially on Weibo. The more your content is appealing and interesting for your targeted audience, the more they will share. This is the best tool to increase your brand audience.

WeChat, the community influence

WeChat is the social influence, coming from friends and family. The Chinese consumers are sensitive to “moments” and discussion groups. While the moments help them to get a quick and personal feedback on a specific product, the discussion groups are a great tool to discuss about brand and receive product recommendation.

Surprisingly, 13% of Chinese consumers even buy directly on WeChat official accounts for cosmetics products. The convinction from peers is so important that they could immediately purchase.

First, you should create an official account followed by a mini-app on WeChat. It will help you to reach your target audience before engaging conversation with them. The real plus-value for cosmetics brands is engaging a community manager who will create groups and engage directly with customers: additional information on the products, tips for application, beauty advices, etc.

When your cosmetics brand is established on WeChat, you can create impactful WeChat ads. From banner ads to KOLs ads, you can guide your community to re-engage with your brand. Beauty brands often use this technique to promote a new product or a limited edition (like the ones for Chinese New Year).

How to build your Clean Beauty Brand E-reputation in China?

In China, a low credit is given to the brand website. Why? Because you will only talk about your brands in positive terms. The Chinese consumer always value a transparent feedback explaining the pros and cons of each product.

This is where the importance of e-reputation lies in: client reviews on social media are as much important as your official website… if not more!

Little Red Book: the app for cosmetic in China

Xiaohongshu, also called Little Red Book, is the Chinese Instagram. Many KOLs use this social media to expose their lifestyle and talk about their habits. The beauty sector is very popular and the community is always looking for “shopping notes” on international cosmetics brands.

This platform is a golden nugget for any clean beauty brand because 80% of the community are women. They have an important purchasing power and they are always willing to discover new products to buy.

KOLs on Little Red Book by GMA

Meilishuo: the app for beauty lovers in China

The platform Meilishuo is considered to be the Chinese Pinterest, benefiting from a strong 40 million fans community. The social media name litteraly means “conversation about beauty“, which aims at targeting women for personalized clothes and skincare products.

Keeping a positive e-reputation on this platform is key as it gathers you core target. On Meilishuo, there are 3 million daily users mainly composed by women aged between 20 and 25 years.

Baidu SEO

As mentioned earlier, the Chinese consumer will focus on third party information from Baidy and other social media. A bad SEO and you do not exist to the eyes of the Chinese consumer.

Baidu is the Top 1 search tool and account for 70% of the total market share. So your brand does not only need “to be on Baidu”, but visible on Baidu with a strong SEO strategy.

Generally speaking, the SEO on Google and Baidu could be similar as you need to prioritize strong keywords and Mandarin only websites. If you do not speak Mandarin, it is almost mandatory to be accompanied by a Chinese translation and SEO strategy agency. In practice, the SEO is more complex on Baidu than on Google. You have to build a rich Chinese website promoting strong keywords, good reviews and interesting comments.

You can learn more on top Chinese Baidu SEO agency here

How to sell Clean Beauty cosmetics in China?

Sell Clean Beauty cosmetics in China with e-commerce

In Mainland China, consumers prefer buying through e-commerce websites. Today, e-commerce is a strong asset to cope with. The annual sales of cosmetics industry in China reach 25 billion euros. And more than 7 billion sales were achieved through e-commerce platforms. With a growth rate of 40% annualy and the Covid-19 game changer, the dominance of digital has made its way through.

Especially for luxury and cosmetics, 60% of Chinese consumers prefer to buy through Tmall, Taobao and Luxury Pavilion, 48% on official websites and 44% on These e-commerce solutions are the Top 3 platforms favored by luxury Chinese consumers. Each platform generates its own assets and opportunities and you should better know their specificites before entering them:

If you are a cosmetics new entrant in the Chinese market, you would better chose to sell through cross border. This solution is made for international brands, which are not located in China and would like to sell without a license. Even the e-commerce giants mentioned above have launch their crossborder platforms, like Tmall Crossborder and JD Crossborder.

Which cross border platform should you go with? For a turnkey solution, you could use Xiaohongshu. As we mentioned earlier, this app would help you to grow your audience and go along with a direct ecommerce platform. Users will follow the KOLs advice and clients shopping notes directly on the platform to buy your cosmetics. You could use the same approach with Kaola, an ecommerce platform dedicated to international premium goods to target a younger audience.

And if you are a digital lover doing business in China, never forget that your sales strategy must be combined with stores and distributors. The Chinese consumer journey is made of online and offline habits!

Sell Clean Beauty cosmetics brand in China with a distributor

The distributor network in China is basically a jungle, with more than 10K distributors existing on the market receiving almost hundreds of offers per week. Obtaining a deal with a distributor is a challenge… only if you do not understand their codes and interests.

If you need to retain only one thing about Chinese distributors: they are looking for high ROI and low risk. In China, distributors are taking into considerations brands with an existing strong reputation that could generate revenues fast with a strong conversion rate.

And how do you convince a Chinese distributor that your Return on Investment will be huge? By doing branding, e-reputation and SEO. And now we have come full circle 😉

Do you need a specific digital service?

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Feel free to contact us if you want to develop a market for your product or service in China.

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