Chinese Man’s Beauty Revolution | Self-image Matters

by TRILOGI Press

We’re living a time full of interesting and unconventional new trends. In China, one of them is about men’s growing interest in (and demand for) beauty products, a behaviour traditionally considered in contrast with ‘masculinity’. With a higher awareness of the importance of daily grooming, Chinese men are craving for knowledge about personal care benefits and products. This trend has already gone quite far, to the point that some people belonging to generation Z (people born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s) even started wearing makeup to stand out and improve their appearance.

Men have subconsciously accepted that self-image matters

73 percent of Chinese males in first-tier cities pay attention to their physical appearance

Chinese men, especially those living in first-tier cities, are living under constant pressure generated by the impact their self-image might have on their work and social life. A survey from the consulting agency Kantar revealed that, in 2016, around 73 percent of Chinese men in first-tier cities admitted that appearance matters a lot, both at work and in their personal relationships. 

The internet has traced the footprints left by men users when filling the knowledge gap about personal care. According to 360’s big data, a well-known Chinese internet services provider, between 2014 and 2016 the average annual growth rate of searches about male cosmetics is 40.2 percent. Far exceeding the overall cosmetics searches growth rate during at the same period, which is only 3.5 percent. A survey about Chinese men’s consumption habits revealed that 88 percent of respondents constantly search online for information and tips about beauty and fashion, as reported by the Chinese local newspaper “The Paper”.

Men’s greater awareness about the importance of their personal image is reflected by the growing time they daily spend applying skin care products. According to Nelson’s research, it’s on average 24 minutes in first-tier cities: only 5 minutes less than women. This research further disclosed that among Chinese men with a positive attitude toward makeup, 43 percent are willing to use it if needed, while 22 percent admit that basic makeup (foundation and brow) have become their daily routine. Growing up in this social background, generation Z seems more open towards cosmetics. According to QQ’s big data findings, 40 percent of men born after 1995 will not feel surprised by seeing a man with makeup on.

The Booming Male Cosmetics Market in China

China male cosmetics (skin care & makeup) since 2014 has replaced Korea as the world’s largest market. 

The male cosmetics market in China, albeit already the largest, is still growing at a remarkable annual rate, if compared to others. With the wider use of men’s cosmetics, several distinct trends emerged. Among men of all age groups, skin care products seem to be the most popular category. However, younger men also tend to use makeup for an immediate appearance embellishment, and a large amount of them do it on a daily basis. In the meantime, the gap in personal expenditure on cosmetics among Chinese men and women keeps narrowing year over year.

Male cosmetics are conquering the market

Likewise the Chinese general cosmetics market, the booming Chinese male beauty market is gradually eating market shares of the global male cosmetics market’s pie. Sales of male grooming products in China, including toiletries and fragrances, grew stably at an average annual rate of 7.9 percent between 2013 and 2016, from ¥23bn to ¥31bn. In 2017 it reached ¥34bn, gaining importance against the traditionally more dominant female market, and representing around 9.6 percent of the total cosmetics market. The growth rate is predicted to rise further, up to 13.5 percent in 2019, according to market research firm Euromonitor, way above the global average of 5.1 percent.

Skin care products: the gateway to male cosmetics

The first step Chinese men make towards cosmetics is usually about skin care products since they’re easier to use and don’t need much specific knowledge to be applied correctly. Although it seems a natural fact, it has created and important trend: more and more Chinese men started taking skin care seriously, and are becoming experts. 

Baidu announced that 86 percent of men’s search records about cosmetics refer to skin care, in particular about products, functions and brand information. Chinese men’s rising demand for skin care products increased their share in the male cosmetics market up to nearly 36 percent of the total, reaching ¥12bn in 2017.

Most of the margin was generated online, due to a younger customer base (men aged between 18 and 26) and its purchasing habits (such as online shopping). Alibaba, for example, detected a massive increase in male skin products purchases on its platforms. The turnover generated by these products had a surprising growth rate of 24 percent in 2016, 1.5 times over the general cosmetics, and it kept growing at this rate also in 2017. In the Chinese general skin care market, the growth is 11 percent in the same period.

The narrowing gap between men’s and women’s expenditure on beauty

Chinese men are particularly generous with themselves when it comes to skin care as they seem to really value the effect high-end products and brands could bring to them. According to iResearch, the expense gap of cosmetics between Chinese men and women reduced from ¥26.6 to ¥13.7 per capita between 2015 and 2017 (Data also confirmed by and NanDu Media).

Generation Z: makeup enthusiasts

As mentioned before, Generation Z is the most attracted by personal grooming and makeup. Their consumption schemes and preferences are basically guiding the male beauty industry’s future development. According to CBNData and Tmall Beauty, generation Z has already taken over Millennials as the key consumption contributor in the cosmetics market, generating an impressive 3-digits sales growth rate for three years in a row.

Generation Z’s high standards towards beauty and self-image care have led to an explosion in male makeup products sales. In 2017, generation Z’s makeup purchases represented 42.9 percent of male beauty sales, up from 16.7 percent in 2016. Among the most popular products, BB cream, eyeliner, lipstick/lip balms, and brow pencil taking up 18.8%, 18.6%, 18.6%, and 8.8% of the market respectively.

Key Takeaways

  • More and more Chinese men have subconsciously started considering daily grooming as a regular routine, especially because of the huge impact outer appearance has on their work and private life.
  • The Chinese male beauty market grew rapidly in the past few years and this trend doesn’t seem to be close to an end. This is mainly due to men’s increasing interest in skin care, their willingness to spend on high-end brands, as well as generation Z’s extensive consumption of makeup products.


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