A review of China’s 5 growing beauty trends in 2021

The recent growth of the cosmetic industry in China shows that Chinese consumers have been spending more and more budget in beauty products and procedures to keep a youthful appearance. According to iiMedia Research, its market size was 394.2 billion yuan in 2018 and three years later in 2021, it is expected to reach 455.3 billion yuan !

In China, external beauty is an added value for success, both in personal life, especially for relationships and marriage, and even in professional life to increase the chances of having a great career.

So, what are the growing trends that contribute to the booming of Beauty in China ? Let’s review them !

1.The use of cosmetics by men

The use of cosmetics for men has made a big jump around the world, but primarily in East Asia, particularly China. According to a study conducted in 2021, a little more than 50% of men in China use skincare often, even every day for 33% of respondents. As for the use of makeup among Chinese men, 39% of them use it at least occasionally. [1]

“Sales of men’s cosmetics were around US$15.6 billion in 2019, up 8% from the previous year, according to Euromonitor”. [2]

The stressful work rhythm 996 (from 9am to 9pm, 6 days a week), the pressure from society to achieve the ideal appearance and the marriage crisis, have pushed more and more Chinese men to take care of themselves by using cosmetics or by resorting to aesthetic procedures.

The most popular esthetic procedures for men in China are rhinoplasty, cheek fillers and hair augmentation. Hair is a big growing issue among Chinese men as the stressful working life causes hair loss for men of an increasingly younger age. They are no longer limited to buying shampoo or conditioner, they are looking for innovative products. “According to Tmall’s Hair Care Industry Consumer Trend Insights report, they are seeking more advanced solutions such as hair masks, oils, essences and ampoules. Hair transplants and customized wigs and hair pieces are also very popular”. [2]

Social media played a big role in this trend. The “soft man” and “androgenous” images are often showed through content on Weibo, Bilibili, WeChat, TikTok, and Xiaohongshu, with a new generation of young, fresh, and attractive influencers sharing their beauty tutorials and skincare routines. We can also think about K-Pop and the influence of its idols (singers). These fashionable Korean singers with polished makeup looks are very appreciated, followed and imitated in China.

2.Plastic surgery among young people 

“China’s medical beauty sector is expanding rapidly, growing from 64.8 billion RMB in 2015 to 176.9 billion RMB in 2019 and forecast to reach US $52.4 billion by 2023.” [2]

Many smartphone apps have been created in China to share cosmetic procedures experience, reviews, and pictures with other people. Some examples of such apps are “SoYoung”, the number one plastic surgery app with 8.4 million active users in 2021, and “Gengmei”. According to a SoYoung research, 80% of the Chinese people who got plastic surgery in 2020 were aged bellow 30 years old, with 15% under 19 years old. [3]

Many young people developed what is called “appearance anxiety” because of their exposure to Wanghong 网红, internet celebrities, on social media. The most common operations done in China are eye surgeries to get a double eyelid, nose jobs and fat transfer.

3.The National Wave

The period of the pandemic in China has led to new reconsiderations, and values have been rethought. One of these values is a desire to “return to the roots”, a revaluation of national production: the “Guochao”.

Guochao (国潮) is the combination of Guo meaning “country” and Chao meaning “tide”: the national wave. It is an upsurge in national pride that is spreading to purchasing behavior within the country. More Chinese are choosing to buy local products, now called “designed in China” instead of “made in China”. It can be Chinese fashion brands, cosmetics and even Chinese food!

Using nationalistic arguments creates a strong feeling with consumers, it is powerful emotional marketing that works. There is a sense of reconnecting with local culture, tradition, and art.

This new trend particularly works with the younger generation that was born in a period when China had already started to be a major world power. It is easier for this generation to recognize China’s ability to produce quality local products. There is a greater sharing of “Cultural Confidence” (文化自信) among people under 35.

Foreign brands should really respect Chinese culture and traditions if they want to compete  with local brands, and they especially need to avoid cultural “faux pas” that could hurt or anger Chinese consumers.

4.Innovative beauty devices

Many Chinese people go beyond the classic purchase of creams, serums and other cosmetics to take care of themselves. They invest more and more in innovative and cutting-edge technologies that guarantee them in-depth treatments, almost as effective as salon treatments. There is a rise of this premium beauty market on Chinese e-commerce websites.

According to a Daxue consulting research, China’s beauty device market almost doubled its value from 2017, reaching 6.5 billion yuan in 2019.

There is a real spirit shared by the younger generation to improve their standards of living, to want to live better and better. This includes the introduction of practical and effective tools that improve the personal well-being of millions of Chinese people. Skincare KOLs have also played a big role in promoting these beauty tools online.

“In 2019, beauty tools consumers in China were mainly between the ages of 18 and 34. Among them, the share of consumers aged 25 to 34 is 56%, and the share of consumers aged 18 to 24 is 36%. This represents 92% of the total consumer group.”. [4]

The most used beauty tools are face rollers, sometimes made of stone like jade or quartz, they are part of a traditional Chinese medicine treatment technique called “Gua Sha”. They allow to shape the face and remove tensions by massaging the acupuncture points of the face. There are also devices that vibrate at micro-frequency on the skin, they improve the texture of the skin and improve the absorption of care products. Finally, in the most premium, there are LED light masks to prevent the appearance of wrinkles, eliminate blemishes and keep a good skin texture.

5.Clean Beauty and Food as Beauty

“Clean Beauty” is the trend of having cosmetics with a reduced list of ingredients and a healthier composition, mostly of natural origin (plants, fruits…). “Clean beauty” also wants to reduce its environmental impact by creating less polluting products and packaging. This trend has started to appear quite recently in China.

In 2020, according to a study by Statista, more than 80% of Chinese respondents said they would start buying Clean Beauty products, and 49% of the Chinese population has already consumed them.

The most popular Clean Beauty skincare brands in China are Kiehl’s, La Roche Posay, Origins, Avène, L’Occitane, Fresh, Sisley, FANCL, Nuxe and Aesop.

Linked to Clean Beauty, we have “Food as beauty” that is also a growing trend in China.

“Food as beauty” is the fact of using edible ingredients as cosmetics. Indeed, there is a popular saying in China that “Edible food must be safe to put on the face”.

Therefore, many people in China started using edible ingredients as DIY skincare and more brands have been recently including them into their cosmetics.

“Superfood” ingredients gained a lot of attention as it is used in many cosmetics and promoted to eat as food supplements by many KOLs. These “superfood” are unprocessed foods that naturally contain high nutritional values with higher compositions of vitamins (A, B, C, D, E, etc.), proteins, antioxidant properties, collagen, probiotics, fibers, etc. Some popular superfood ingredients are for example : kale, blueberries, chia seeds, green tea, seaweed…

Brands such as the local CHANDO and Glowsis (光言) use superfood in their cosmetics. Glowsis chose the use of superfood as its whole brand concept. They already launched “a series of products containing kale extract, claiming these products have brightening and moisturizing efficacies”. [5]

Another way of interpreting “Food as beauty” is the consumption of food supplements. Inner beauty is considered to be almost as important as external beauty in China. Many discoveries of food properties and the increasing innovation from brands generated a strong growth of this market.

According to AskCI consulting, the market size of health and functional food in China went from 162 billion yuan in 2018 to an expected 196,1 billion yuan this year 2021, and it could even reach 243,4 billion yuan in 2025 ! In July 2020, 62% of Chinese people admitted consuming dietary supplements.

One local example is the hyaluronic acid giant in China, Bloomage Biotech that “has successfully applied hyaluronic acid in ordinary food. It has launched […] hyaluronic acid gummy bear and hyaluronic acid still water that have become regular products in the market.”. [5]

Want to know more about Beauty & Wellness news and trends in China ? Follow Panda Meetings on socials medias !

Sources :

[1] Statista, “Frequency of using skincare and make-up products among male consumers in China in 2021”, 2021.

[2] China Marketing Insights, “6 Beauty Trends in China, Including a Sales Model Wake Up Call”, June 22, 2021.

[3] Statista, SoYoung research based on SoYoung platform’s userbase, “Consumer distribution of medical aesthetic services in China in 2020, by age group”, 2021.

[4] Daxue consulting, “The beauty device market in China mark the premiumization of the beauty industry”, January 14, 2021.

[5] Chemlinked, “Food as Beauty: A Rising Concept in China”, August 20, 2021.