The Rise of Male Beauty in China: A market segment too big for brands to ignore

10 October 2022

As society continues to evolve, outdated gender roles are also transforming. Consumption patterns are changing as well, as demand for male skincare and beauty has skyrocketed in recent years. Male beauty and skincare has steadily maintained growth at 8.5% from 2017 to 2019. In 2020, despite the impact of the pandemic, the annual growth rate remained above 6%, and resumed its rapid increase the next year. In 2021, China’s male beauty market reached ¥9.9 billion, representing year-on-year growth of 23.8%. Furthermore, this exponentially expanding market is expected to exceed ¥16 billion in 2023. Additionally, during this year’s 618 shopping Festival, sales of male beauty products on Tmall saw a 20-fold increase.

In this article, you’ll learn: 

  1. An overview of China’s male beauty market
  2. New trends in China’s male beauty and skincare market
  3. A cross section of male beauty and skinccare consumers
  4. New trends in male beauty consumption
  5. Male beauty in China: Social marketing insights and strategies

An overview of China’s male beauty market

With the continued promotion of beauty and skincare, the male beauty market is no longer limited to basic skincare products, but instead has gradually expanded to include a wide range of beauty products such as foundation and eye shadow. The demand of male consumers is consistently rising, with purchase decisions and price acceptance of cosmetics also increasing. According to data from Tmall and Cainiao, the inventory of male beauty products on Double Eleven in 2020 has increased by more than 3,000% year-on-year, a 30-fold increase. When it comes to specific products, annual sales of men’s lipstick increased by 278%, sales of men’s eyebrow pencil increased by 214%, and sales of men’s BB/CC cream increased by 185% in 2018. Compared with the female beauty market, male beauty in China is still in the blue ocean market stage, with massive consumption potential and a very broad space for development.

In the context of the global male beauty industry, the Asian market is relatively small, with a market size of about US$11.5 billion in 2020, which is still far behind the Western European market size of US$14.4 billion. However, looking at the growth rate reveals that China’s male beauty market is growing faster than the global average. Especially in the context of the booming development of social media, the post-00s have become the newly emerging consumer main force. Diversified marketing methods such as planting grass, live-streaming, IP co-branding and the metaverse are powerful boosters for the growth of the men’s beauty care market.

New trends in China’s male beauty and skincare market

In recent years, the growing potential of China’s male beauty sector has attracted many brands to enter the market and seize a share. At present, China’s male beauty sector is mainly divided into three categories, consisting of international beauty and skincare giants such as L ‘Oreal, Estee Lauder, Mentholidun, Kiehl’s and other brands with male product lines; local brands such as Winona and Perfect Diary; and there are brands specifically designed for males, such as Blue, Riran, DearBoyFriend and Kean.

L’Oreal Men’s collection

Foundation, eyeliner and lipsticks are the main products in male beauty. In China, L’’Oreal has the largest share of the male beauty market, launching its male-specific product lines in France in 2004 and successfully entering the Chinese market two years later. Last year, L’Oreal China and its brand L’Oreal Men invited 1,638 consumers aged 18-34 residing in first- to third-tier cities to jointly develop the “L’Oreal Men’s Facial Repair” product with the big data support of Tmall’s New product innovation platform. The product was only on the market for 3 days, and the sales volume exceeded 35,000, ranking first in the male BB cream and cosmetics categories on Tmall.

Perfect Diary for men

Of course, popular, affordable domestic products are also worthy of consideration. For example, last year, Perfect Diary announced the launch of the Perfect Diary Men’s Refreshing series of beauty and skincare products, collaborating with the Chinese gymnastics team. Among them, the skincare product set includes a facial cleanser, essence and lotion. The brand focused on the “three minute skin management” regimen, its no-frills and multi-functional approach to skincare. In terms of beauty, the brand emphasises the effect of natural makeup, launching two main products, men’s face Brightening Cream and lipstick.

Shiseido new men’s line SIDEKICK

Shiseido, the classic Asian skincare brand, has created a product series for men. The brand’s new men’s cleanser can be used as shaving foam, while the male version of the brand’s popular Red Kidney Essence, Black Kidney Essence, has been designed specifically for male skin while retaining the efficacy of the female version. For makeup, Shiseido offers easy-to-use men’s BB cream, concealer, brow pencil and lip balm. With a few simple products can be convenient and fast to meet the male beauty care delicate and yet natural needs.

Despite a 5.2% year-on-year decline in retail sales of cosmetic products in China during the January-to-May period due to the pandemic, Shiseido launched a new cosmetics product line called Sidekick in China. The men’s personal care line, called “Shi Ke” in Chinese, launched in July 2022 and is aimed at trendy males in their 20s and 30s. At present, Sidekick has launched a total of 8 products, including categories such as cleansers, moisturisers and facial masks. Shiseido is hoping to grow its business by returning to its skincare roots amidst uncertainty during the pandemic.

A cross section of male beauty and skincare consumers

Consumer demand for male beauty and skincare products is largely driven by the pursuit of beauty, a concept that is no longer exclusive to females, but is rather a component of a newer, more modern lifestyle and the embodiment of self care. Focusing on all kinds of consumer groups, different subgroups show personalised consumer needs and characteristics.

Younger, higher-end consumers become the main consumption force

According to consumption data of male beauty and skincare products released by Alibaba Consumer Insights, consumers aged 18-25 and high-spending individuals aged 30-35 comprise 19% and 13% of the overall male consumer group, respectively, ranking first and second overall. Among them, young male consumers are willing to try new brands and products, and also show a certain interest in men’s makeup. Eyebrow pencils and BB cream are the types of beauty products they prefer to buy. However, male consumers over 30 years of age have strong purchasing power and receptiveness towards high-end brands and products, and the demand for anti-aging skincare leads them to seek more effective products such as essences.

Lower-end consumer groups mostly pursue fundamental products

For consumer subsets with lower purchases of general beauty and skincare products, the consumer demand mainly focuses on the three main skincare pain points for males: acne, dry skin and redness. For skincare products, consumers in this subset tend to pay more attention to the fundamental benefits of moisturising and oil control. Facial cleansers, toner, lotion and sunscreen are the most commonly used skincare products for consumers in this subset. They are more in pursuit of a clean and refreshing personal image, and their need for cosmetics and advanced skincare products has yet to be untapped.

The “her economy” cannot be underestimated

Females account for 34% of the male beauty and skincare market, mostly for gifts for their male friends. Among them, female consumers aged 18-24 account for 21%, comprising the highest proportion in the overall male beauty care product consumer group. This group pays more attention to consumption quality and are open to buying higher-priced international brands, while female consumers 25+ pay more attention to cost-performance ratios. In general, female demand for male beauty and skincare products is diversified on the whole, with balanced consumption in various subcategories spread across all types of products.

New trends in male beauty consumption

These are some recent trends worth paying attention to in China’s male beauty market.

Male investment in personal appearances is increasing, and male beauty consumption follows

In recent years, male consumers have increased their investment in their personal appearance. From 2020 to 2021, consumption of male fashion, beauty and skincare products has increased by more than 10%. Furthermore, the market penetration rate of high-end brands has increased by 27%, and sales of high-end male makeup and essence products have continued to grow. In view of this trend, imported luxury brands upgrade both efficacy and user experience, meeting the demands of male consumers seeking advanced beauty and skincare products.

Awareness of male beauty is expanding, and the demand for functional products is increasing

According to Alibaba, in 2021 alone, the number of male consumers searching for keywords related to skincare ingredients and efficacy increased substantially. Among them, the keywords “whitening” and “anti-aging” showed the fastest growth, indicating great potential for brands. The keyword “anti-aging ingredients” largely appeared in the categories of face creams, essences and facial masks, while keywords related to whitening were focused on creams, essences and cleansers. This data indicates that product efficacy is an increasingly crucial factor for male consumers.

Demading male consumers still prefer to purchase female/neutral beauty and skincare products

When male consumers make consumption decisions for beauty and skincare products, functionality and efficacy are the most important factors, followed by brand and style. From 2019 to 2021, the proportion of male consumers buying gender-neutral/female skincare products increased, among which skincare sets from global luxury brands accounted for the largest share. It can be seen that for consumers with higher requirements for product efficacy, brand reputation and products with positive reviews are still the first choice. Male beauty brands must meet the high demands of these consumers through proven product efficacy, reputation and brand equity.

Male beauty and skincare kits are the new gift for females to buy their male friends

In 2021, the per capita unit price for females was 1.1 times that of males, indicating that the purchasing power of females is not to be underestimated. Among male consumer goods, females purchasing gifts for their male friends have long played an essential role. In recent years, more and more female consumers have turned their attention to male personal care products. From 2019 to 2021, the percentage of women’s spending on male beauty products increased year-on-year, with an overall increase of 15%. This type of consumption tends to peak on or around 520 day, Qixi Festival, Valentine’s Day, Christmas and New Year’s Day. International brands have seized the outbreak of these seasons with marketing that appeals to the aesthetic tastes of female consumers when designing limited edition gift boxes.

Male beauty in China: Social marketing insights and strategies

Social media content analysis

In the first half of the year, impressions and engagements for male beauty and skincare posts on Xiaohongshu indicated massive month-on-month growth. Male beauty products ranked among the top 10 in terms of engagement, with posts about male eye makeup, foundation, perfume, toner, etc. This indicates that male beauty is not only a new trend in content marketing, but also a hot topic among social media users. On Douyin in the first half of 2022, male lipstick and toner soared to the top, while face creams ranked fifth in the skincare category, a finding that indicates substantial growth potential for male beauty and skincare product exposure on Douyin. Male beauty and skincare product seeding has strong momentum on Xiaohongshu, and sales have exploded on Douyin e-commerce.

According to a ranking of Xiaohongshu male beauty products in H1 2022, male perfume is the most popular among Xiaohongshu users, followed by male lipstick and facial cleansers. When comparing the engagements of male beauty posts in H1 2022 with that of H2 2021, it can be found that users are increasingly interested in male eye makeup, reaching an amazing 1569.5% increase in engagements, far exceeding the 58.84% increase in posts on male foundation and the 55.96% increase of male facial cleanser posts. From this data, it can be inferred that the demand of Xiaohongshu users for male beauty and skincare content has transformed from simple makeup tutorials to more advanced beauty products and techniques.

As mentioned above, female consumers are also an indispensable part of the male beauty and skincare industry. Similarly, on Xiaohongshu where women account for the majority of users, females also have a considerable influence over male beauty and skincare content. According to the data, females account for 60 per-cent of searches for content related to male beauty and skincare. When creating content marketing for male beauty and skincare products on Xiaohongshu, female users should not be ignored. Many female users share the experience of “leading their boyfriend to take care of skin” and brands can use this content angle to recommend male beauty and skincare products. Among them, the content angles of “giving the boyfriend skincare products” and “boyfriend immersion skincare” respectively saw month-on-month growth of 160% and 96%, which is consistent with the consumption trend where male beauty and skincare products have become the new choice of gifts purchased by women.

China influencer marketing insights

With the development of social media formats such as short video and live-streaming in recent years, the influence of beauty care experts is gradually penetrating into male users, and the male audience in the field of beauty makeup and skincare is gradually expanding. By 2021, the number of active male users following skincare and beauty KOLs has reached 185 million, among which males aged 25-30 years account for the highest proportion of active users, comprising 25.2%.

With the increasing demand for male beauty care content on social media, more male beauty and skincare KOLs and KOCs are joining the ranks of Xiaohongshu content creators. From 2021 to 2022, male beauty and skincare KOLs and KOCs on Xiaohongshu increased by 82%. This group of male beauty influencers has had a significant attraction effect on male users. In the male beauty and skincare sector, male followers account for 17.5%, while in the overall beauty and skincare sector, male followers account for only 6.5%.

Meanwhile, among male beauty and skincare professionals on Xiaohongshu, those with 100,000-600,000 followers comprise the largest proportion, followed by those with more than 600,000 followers. These two groups account for 89% of male beauty and skincare content creators, while KOCs with 5000-50,000 followers account for only 11%. It can be seen that Xiaohongshu users pay increasing attention to male beauty and skincare content, which has led to a large number of male KOLs with massive followings. However, male beauty and skincare experts are still very scarce at the KOC level, relying on content distribution to improve brand awareness and volume.

From the perspective of male beauty and skincare consumers, specialists who provide scientific skincare knowledge can attract more attention. The number of participants in the “early summer skin equation” campaign on Xiaohongshu has exceeded 12,000 and the exposure of this campaign has exceeded 300 million. Many male skincare professionals share scientific knowledge and practical skincare tutorials as part of this campaign.

On Douyin, many male beauty and skincare professionals have also created lots of high-quality short video content. For example, under the acne removal category, which is a high-focus topic for male Douyin users, Peng, a male beauty and skincare KOL, endorsed a product by explaining the ingredients and efficacy of the product, sharing his professional skincare regimen, which has received more than 80,000 engagements and is among the hottest videos on the topic. For male users with more rational consumption patterns, industry professionals can more effectively seed products, winning the trust of consumers through authentic reviews and “popular science” seeding content.

For male content creators in other industries, there are more mundane topics that draw users in. For example, the topic “Boys’ Toiletries” in Xiaohongshu has more than 5,000 posts with more than 100 million topics exposed. Many male lifestyle professionals share their daily skin care products and personal experiences under the topic. The underlying logic of Douyin is driven by interest. Many male life experts use scenes from daily life to naturally implant products with the performance of stories, which can arouse the resonance of male users. Douyin’s “small theatre style” of planting grass has become a major feature of the platform.

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About 评价达人 – PJdaren:

Since 2016, PJdaren has helped some of the world’s largest brands build trust, collect insights and drive sales in China by engaging Key Opinion Consumers (KOCs) and Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) through our state-of-the-art influencer marketing solutions.

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