Male Skincare Emerges as a Market Leader in China

Admit to having a beauty routine? Until recently it would have been unthinkable for many men. In 2021, the scenario is different and the man who cares (a lot) has no problem declaring it. In China, male skincare is the new go-to market. On the contrary, it is a source of pride. Like the former Manchester United player and now entrepreneur David Beckham: finished in the newspapers for his crazy expenses in treatments and hairdressing. He became the face of House 99, a beauty brand dedicated to the male audience and developed in collaboration with L’Oréal Luxe.

Within the line, in addition to the timeless products for grooming, also skincare for face and body, including a spray to treat areas covered by tattoos (another obsession with Beckham). And if the L’Oréal group has invested so much in the project, it means that the cliché of the rude man, who disregards beauty, “a woman’s affair”, is now largely outdated. In China, the male sensitivity for self-care is the theme of the skincare moment.

Read as well: China Skincare Market Guide

What do men buy in the beauty department?

Mintel defines it as a “revolution” for research companies, also supported by social media, web stars, and beauty bloggers: the fact is that now, eyebrows cured, glossy lips, and illuminated cheekbones are no longer the prerogatives of women. From perfumery to shaving to skincare, care for hands and nails and makeup: the men’s beauty routine evolves, opening new frontiers for the cosmetic companies that, after the boom of the beard phenomenon – between balsams, oils, creams, and razors -, can expand the offer in a sector in full growth at a global level. Today, men have no shame purchasing skincare or makeup the moment they take care of their skin. Among the cosmetics products, skincare is the firm favorite of men.

In 2020, growth in subscriptions and traffic content for beauty reached +28% for women and +58% for men. The trend, according to Mintel, goes towards gender neutrality, especially in the presentation of some types of unisex makeup, such as correctors or eyebrow pencils, especially to attract the male public. It is the trend of the moment among the new generations that remove stereotypes and expectations related to gender and not only in the cosmetics sector. On Tmall, skincare sales increased by 70% and makeup sales by 15%. This is not only a trend but a profitable opportunity to seize for cosmetics brands.

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No more stereotypes on male skincare in China

Men spend more and more time in the mirror and now consider as many as ten different cosmetics indispensable. This is reported by the new global report developed by Euromonitor International dedicated to beauty care. The analysis shows a striking increase in the attention of males for their beauty: sales of beauty products for men have reached 50 billion dollars and are expected to rise by 16% within the next two years.

They increase the cosmetic products that they considered essential. Before a man limited himself to using toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant, and shaving foam. Now he comes to purchase and add up to 10 products to his beauty routine. For 95% of the males’ shampoo is essential. Then, the balm, the products after shaving, the hand creams and sunscreens, the detergents for face, pre-shave products, and hair care treatments. In China, male skincare is constantly increasing with new products added to the men beauty routine. The haircare market is also rising with soaring demand for hair gel and hair tools.

In China, men claim their rights to beauty care

In China, as in Korea, male skincare is booming. And if prestige European brands, withdrawn from our markets, go well there, the local brands are experiencing dizzying growth. It is easy to foresee that in the near future anyone who leaves for Seoul or Shanghai will find himself subjected to requests to purchase duty-free cosmetics unavailable to us, Japanese or Korean, not only from friends but also from male friends. The most attentive to grooming will trust the oriental expertise for products designed to control the oiliness of the skin, and for the haircare.

In China, for example, the essences work very well (the latest generation of tonics rich in anti-aging ingredients), and the eye contour creams, hair products, and all-in-one from Korea. In China, men consider cosmetics a certificate of self-confidence and social position: using them allows them to act as connoisseurs. For middle-class Chinese people looking good is a duty even before a choice. Especially since at workmen feel strongly in competition with women, more qualified. Just look at the protagonists of their television dramas: they all belong to an almost feminine physical typology.

The male makeup in China is soaring

In China, male skincare and cosmetics sales increased by 13% between 2016 and 2019. Especially in 2020, the male makeup is soaring. While the women’s makeup sales increased by 29%, the male’s makeup sales increased by 31%. Part of this revenue comes from the pockets of men who, it is estimated spend an average of 2.2 hours in front of the mirror to apply beauty products.

That of the Chinese guys is definitely a fashion induced by a new generation of domestic celebrities who are slowly taking apart the harsh and conventional gender norms, giving more and more to the development of one of the markets with the highest lucrative potential.

Male makeup in China is also pop culture

The Asia-Pacific area is the one with the most consistent growth of the men’s beauty market. In China, Millennial consumers are the keystone of the entire current market. For a boy, the care of his appearance is becoming less and less taboo and more and more essential. In Chinese popular culture, young male celebrities appear in public wearing makeup or as testimonials for beauty products. In 2017, L’Occitane brand, thanks to the actor Joker Xue as a brand ambassador, managed to increase its sales in China by 49%.

Chinese popular culture also changes the way we describe new phenomena. The need to describe men who represent this new beauty revolution has created a new name: “Little fresh meat“, a term often used to refer to young actors and very young pop singers who tend to be androgynous. This evolution of beauty standards among men is reinforced by pop culture and especially K-pop and K-drama. The Chinese younger generations love to watch Korean dramas, in which actors look even more androgynous.

Marketing campaigns created for a male audience are increasingly widespread. In 2020, 97% of e-tail men purchased at least one personal care product. In the last three years, the volume of sales of male beauty products has almost doubled.

Cosmetics goes digital and conquers Chinese buyers

As the big great cosmetics and non-cosmetic brands demonstrate, in China, when it comes to advertising and reaching customers, you need a digital strategy. Also in the case of the male beauty routine, knowing and building a marketing strategy digital is essential to make yourself known and increase sales.

The Key Strategies to Promote Skincare Among Male in China


Nowadays, content is the key thing when you want to optimize your marketing strategy. Chinese customers are not patient and are truly selective: if something does not interest them, they ignore it directly. If you have attractive, graphically pleasing content, not only will new customers be attracted, but they will also be encouraged to buy. They may probably be able to even turn into loyal customers to your brand. Even if the Chinese are not normally loyal customers, if they find something that seems best to them they change without worrying twice.

The contents can be optimized with many tools: interactive experiences, storytelling, and even use beauty apps. In this case, you can have partnerships with influencers to increase brand awareness. The Chinese are truly digitalized people, they love interacting with technology. But storytelling is very important: you need to build a story around your brand in China.


When it is said that China is a world unto itself, it is partly the truth. If someone thinks that the Chinese use Google, as the main search engine to access the Web, it falls into error. In fact, the most used search engine is Baidu gathering 75% of the online queries. Created by the Chinese Public Company, Baidu is based in Beijing and is actually the Chinese Google.

If you compare the percentage of use between Baidu and Google, the difference is huge. What do the Chinese use to perform searches, download, and other ordinary operations? We learn that 86% of Chinese use Baidu, compared to a skimpy 4% that instead use Google China.

These data should make foreign entrepreneurs rethink their vision of China. And the web managers who manage their sites, on how to set up SEO strategies to be traceable on Baidu. Surely a version of the company website in Chinese, in addition to English is essential. But this is only one aspect of the SEO strategy to be adopted, which should be studied in detail, to scale the SERP on Baidu.


Wechat is the fundamental APP to succeed with a marketing campaign. It is on the way to become the most powerful app in the world with 1.2 billion monthly active users. However, it is not easy to develop effective campaigns on WeChat. Why? Because it is not developed on exposure or influence, but on one-to-one, personalized and dedicated relationships with users. Wechat has perfectly understood the importance and development that is undergoing the world of furniture. Above all, it is exploiting it by offering brands the opportunity to combine social and commercial aspects. The platform tends to be what is called a “social e-commerce platform” that reinforces social media and e-commerce activities by connecting them to one another.

The app has perfectly understood the benefits that are achieved by embracing mobile technology in China. An example is the platforms like that have launched a shop on WeChat. On it, you can buy products directly on the app with the dedicated interface of

Read as well WeChat Marketing Guide for Beauty Brands in China


M-commerce is clearly the most used way to do shopping because the Chinese spend a lot of their time on mobile devices. On average, Chinese netizens spend 6 hours per day on their phone. The best place to reach customers is on their mobile phones. It is cheaper and above all, they are more willing to receive advertisements. M-commerce is starting to know a bright future in China. Above all, WeChat is about to become the future M-commerce platform in China, with brands able to launch new micro-shops within the app itself.

Taobao supported by Alibaba dominates up to 75% of the e-commerce market in China. The e-commerce reference created a strategic tool called “Xiaopu“. It is an interface that allows, through a QR code, facilitated access to the online store by suppliers and simplifies the shipping process of the product. Furthermore, the ever-improving e-commerce means that it remains the number one in China. For example, Alibaba has in fact developed the “new retail” strategy, which involves integrating traditional and online channels.

With the use of technology, you can offer consumers an even better shopping experience. An example is the Magic Mirror, a digital screen with augmented reality technology. It allows users to try out different makeup products on the virtual avatar they created, order the product chosen from the flagship store on Tmall, and then receive it at domicile. A key tool since the interdiction of using testers in the shop after Covid-19 pandemic.


Chinese KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) usually have millions of followers on social networking sites, such as Weibo (which boasts an impressive 600 million accounts), and therefore have a lot of influence. Since China has a collectivist culture, followers’ buying decisions are heavily influenced by KOLs.

Chinese people are more likely to trust reviews from KOLs as they have already established a reputation and specialize in a certain field. Such as Junping Big Devil (aka Fang Junping) which is one of the most well-known male beauty bloggers in China. Before becoming a beauty blogger, Fang was a product manager at Chinese tech companies. From this deep understanding of Chinese internet culture, he wanted to launch his online blogging career. From the beginning, he has been really successful. For instance, in March 2016, a three-minute short video where he demystified the ingredients of a then hip beauty product tone-up cream went viral online in a short time. To another extent, Li Jiaqi, or Lipstick King, has contributed to the acceptance of men trying and wearing makeup.


The testimonial is a key element also in China. Valerie Zhang of Vogue China does not hesitate to relate the record of Biotherm’s sales in her country with Takeshi Kaneshiro, known as the “Brad Pitt Asian”. Since 1995, when she appeared in “Fallen angels” by Wong Kar Wai. Although Takeshi, known to us especially in Europe for “The Forest of Flying Daggers” by Zhang Yimou. Now, Biotherm has recently already joined a younger testimonial, the Taiwanese actor Eddie Peng.

Want to learn more about digital marketing in China?

With almost 10 years of experience in international brands entering and developing on the Chinese market, we could provide you tailor-made solutions. Do you have a business that is ready for the Chinese market? You can contact GMA, we are a leader in digital marketing in China.

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