A playbook for China’s $10 billion men’s beauty market

Men’s skincare routines are no less demanding than women’s. Take 22-year-old college student @你的男友. He regularly shares his daily grooming routine on Xiaohongshu. In the morning he cleanses his face with Clé de Peau Beauté cleansing milk, then massages the La Mer lotion into the skin in small circular movements and dabs a few drops of Helena Rubenstein’s serum lightly onto the face and neck. Finally, he applies La Prairie cream with his fingertips to moisturize the skin.

The growth of consumers like @你的男友 — and many like him who share similar content on the platform, such as @乌鸡gege and @马修日常 — mean it For the first time, the market size of men’s skin care products in China is expected to exceed $10 billion mark (68.6 billion RMB) this year. It will double by 2026. There were 110,000 posts on Xiaohongshu titled “How to look good” As of June 2022, searches for “male beauty” are up 167 percent in the previous two months.

Xiaohongshu users @你的男友 shares his daily skincare routine with his 18.8k followers. Photo: Xiaohongshu

With demand increasing, many global cosmetics giants have joined the race. In May, British conglomerate Unilever launched high-end men’s beauty line EB39, and Japanese group Shiseido released men’s skincare brand Sidekick the following month. But they face stiff competition from established domestic players Make Essense 理然 and DearBoyFriend, who are the rising stars in this new space.

Yet the male beauty market here accounts for just 2 percent of the female market – despite this increase. Still, Lin Lin Jacobs, CEO of the mainland’s largest international beauty fair, CIBE, thinks the potential is huge. As she puts it, “The local population of 1.4 billion is half male and half female.” Here, Ying daily analyzes the consumer demographics, current challenges and viable marketing strategies of the men’s cosmetics market in China.

Who buys men’s beauty products?

Male beauty consumers are disproportionately younger than their female counterparts. Corresponding Xiaohongshuamong men, the 25-34 age group has the highest per capita beauty consumption a monthly average of more than $220 (1,500 RMB). In particular, the post-95s in the top-tier cities are fueling the men’s grooming industry 46 percent. “The under 34 year olds [men] make up over 70 percent of the value proposition, versus 50 percent for women,” said Hwee Chung, Head of Beauty at Kantar Worldpanel.

Men’s salons are nothing new in the West, but the concept is just beginning to catch on in China, particularly among mature, professional men. Companies should therefore not neglect the somewhat older contingent. “In 2018 there were only 800 barber shops, now we have 3000. Male consumers from first and second tier cities usually go there twice a month for a haircut, shave and facial,” noted CIBE’s Jacobs . “They’re more comfortable in the male-only environment.”

Another demographic that native Chinese men’s beauty label Make Essense (which has over 400 million users) is eyeing is its yet-to-be-activated customers. “They are the group of people who are unaware of the needs of skin care,” affirmed Make Essense founder Huang Weiqiang. Rather than recruiting existing consumers from competing names, another option would be to educate a customer base that doesn’t think they need to apply toners or creams.

C-Beauty brand Make Essense teaches men how to use their skincare products. Photo: Make Essenses Weibo

Don’t forget women

The profiles of female buyers should also be a priority for companies when creating marketing campaigns and promotions. Like Xiaohongshu report, 65 percent of men’s beauty searches come from women. “While younger consumers are increasingly making their own product purchases, older cohorts are largely dependent on their female family members for purchases,” commented Chung.

Women being partners, siblings and friends play a crucial role in building men’s beauty routines and consumption habits. The same report points out that women tend to give away skin care products to men during the festive season. Many commented that this was the time they first started testing beauty products. Men’s beauty companies should be careful to take this cohort which exerts a significant influence on men – consider.

How to market a men’s skincare brand

Today’s young consumers rely heavily on online tools to learn about new areas, products and companies. Douyin, Xiaohongshu and Weibo are the ones search engines who have benefited the most from this cohort. As a matter of fact, Content creators who are male increased by 82 percent on Xiaohongshu between April 2021 and April 2022.

Lisa Yu, Founder of Beauty incubator Gēnlab, suggests going further when it comes to connecting with consumers. For example, she recommends the Xiaohongshu-like app Hupu 虎扑, where men actively share NBA, sneaker, and sports-related content. Financial news outlets are also useful, especially those whose demographics match 24 35-year-old employees and over 35-year-olds. Cooperation with games such as Honor of Kings or League of Legends is also possible despite government regulations.

In addition to the right channel, the content must be targeted. In order to promote men-focused beauty brands, the communication needs to emphasize the effectiveness of the products. “Men are more result-oriented. But once the results are in, they are very loyal,” noted CIBE’s Jacobs. Appearance and smell also play a crucial role. As Yu explained, “Men don’t want to smell like roses. They want to smell sexy.” And of course, campaigns aimed at women looking for a gift for men are another viable option.

Given the sheer number of men in the country – a population of 7 billion They offer a potential gold mine beyond the saturated women’s skin care market. As Huang noted, “There is no shortage of consumers buying men’s grooming products in China. What’s missing are professional brands and products that are truly developed with men’s skin in mind.”

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