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Lipstick market in China

Lipstick market in China: driven by face value pricing and male beauty

Under the influence of the “beauty value economy”, China’s cosmetics market has always attracted the attention of people who love beauty. According to Baogao, lipsticks accounted for 28% of the Chinese cosmetics market in 2019, with a year-on-year growth rate as high as 36.6%. The lipstick market in China will reach 30 billion yuan by 2025. However, the epidemic in 2020 has caused a large number of brick and mortar cosmetics stores to close, which impacted the overall physical sales of cosmetic products in 2020. So, what is the current state of the lipstick market in China?

Key consumers of the lipstick market in China

From the perspective of consumers’ preferences of cosmetic products in China, lipstick/lip gloss products are the most popular, accounting for more than 60%; followed by BB/CC cream, accounting for nearly 50%.

The proportion of consumers' preference for the three-color cosmetic products Lipstick market in China
Data Source: Baogao, designed by daxue consulting, The proportion of consumers’ preference for the three-color cosmetic products

The post-85s and post-90s have become the main consumer groups in the lipstick market in China. They account for about 62% of the total population, of which females are the main consumers. On average, a middle-class female consumer in China buys 4 lipsticks every year. As for consumer concerns, 80% of consumers are more concerned about safety when they buy lipsticks, followed by the quality and beauty of the product. 

However, women are no longer the only important consumer group for the lipstick market in China. According to the “Economic Report on Face Value in 2020”, the growth rate of lipstick consumption in male cosmetics in 2019 reached 278%, and more and more men began to use male cosmetics such as sunscreen and facial masks. For example, a Chinese KOL Lee known as a “Lipstick King”, because in his social media he posts videos of trying different lipsticks.

Blogger Lee trying lipsticks Lipstick market in China
Source: voonze, Blogger Lee trying lipsticks

The year-on-year growth rate of men-only cosmetic brands in 2019 has reached 56%. Many cosmetics companies have specially developed men’s facial skin care kits, cleansers, lotion creams, special masks, BB creams and CC creams and lipsticks for male consumers. 

New trends in the lipstick market in China

Lip glosses lead in the lipstick market in China

Lip makeup has several sectors: lipsticks, lip glosses and lip glazes. From the perspective of market distribution, lip glaze is the largest segment of the lipstick industry in China, accounting for about 38.6% of the lipstick market, followed by lipsticks, accounting for about 34.2%, and lip gloss taking the third place. 

Segments distribution in the Chinese lipstick market 2020 Lipstick market in China
Data Source: 163data, designed by daxue consulting, Segments distribution in the Chinese lipstick market 2020

The luxury lipstick market in China is growing

Thanks to the continued growth of the beauty economy and the strong growth of high-luxury beauty makeup, lipstick, as the beauty product with the highest degree of standardization, the lowest entry barrier, and the highest daily demand, has become the gateway for Chinese consumers to purchase high-end luxury brands. In the first half of 2020, lipsticks were the category with the highest sales among high-end luxury makeup accounting for 35.4% of sales. 

From the perspective of sales channels, in recent years, with the rapid development of the e-commerce industry in China, online sales channels for lipsticks have gradually expanded and become the main sales channels for lipsticks. In the online cosmetics market in the first half of 2020, the online sales of lipsticks represented 12.15% of total sales.

Competition between foreign and domestic brands

The lipstick market in China is dominated by foreign brands

The most popular lipstick brands in China are Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Givenchy, Chanel, Estee Lauder and Giorgio Armani. On the whole, the quality of China’s domestic lipstick products varies. The market is mainly concentrated in the middle and low-end areas, and domestic lipsticks are less well-known and have a small share in the overall lipstick market.

Foreign make-up brands have an absolute dominant position in the Chinese market. For example, both Dior and Chanel pay more attention to the Chinese market, and their brand image in China is very good, and they are also popular.

France is the key exporter of lipsticks in China

As the world’s largest exporter of cosmetics, France has a century of commercial accumulation of cosmetics, flavors and fragrances. The beauty industry is France’s second largest export industry after the aviation industry.

Recently, the latest data from the Federation of French Beauty Businesses (FEBEA) shows that affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, China will surpass Germany and the United States for the first time in 2020 and become the largest export market for French cosmetics. China is the largest lipstick market for France, and a quarter of the lipsticks exported from France are sold to China.

Domestic brands use traditional Chinese elements to attract customers

Considering the rise of cultural confidence in China, cosmetics using traditional Chinese aesthetic to rise in popularity. Some cosmetics brands that focus on Chinese designs cater to the consumption trend of modern young consumers. For example, Run Baiyan’s Forbidden City lipstick which is part of a Forbidden City cosmetic range includes lipsticks, eye shadows, blushes, nail polishes and other makeup products. The most prominent are the six Forbidden City lipsticks, namely Langyao Red, Bean Paste Red, Rose Purple, Maple Leaf Red, Tourmaline and Mermaid Ji. 

The color of the Forbidden City lipstick paste comes from the red national treasures in the Palace Museum. The appearance design of the lipstick tube is inspired by the costumes of the imperial concubine of the Qing Dynasty. The Forbidden City lipstick also uses 3D multilayer printing technology to print traditional patterns on the lipstick tube, highlighting the texture of the fabric and the three-dimensional sense of embroidery.

Run Baiyan's Forbidden City lipstick Lipstick market in China
Source: Shopee, Run Baiyan’s Forbidden City lipstick

As a creative product developer, the Forbidden City has always developed many popular cosmetic products. With the support of fans, the Forbidden City lipstick marketing has received a lot of attention with its eye-catching design and colors.

Foreign lipstick brands also ride the wave of Chinese culture-themed designs

Guerlain Chinese New Year limited edition lipstick Lipstick market in China
Source: Marie Claire Australia, Guerlain Chinese New Year limited edition lipstick

At the same time, many international brands also include Chinese culture’s elements or regularly launch festival-limited products. However, some foreign brands have a relatively superficial understanding of Chinese culture. Most of the festive and New Year limited editions just add the Chinese zodiac of the year to the packaging.

Pharmaceutical companies enter the lipstick market in China

Currently, not only ordinary cosmetics companies, but also pharmaceutical companies have entered the lipstick market one after another. Drug makers suffering from deteriorating earnings have chosen the lipstick market as a new growth driver.

Ma Yinglong lipsticks Lipstick market in China
Source: Campaign Asia, Ma Yinglong lipsticks

For example, Ma Yinglong, which was focusing on hemorrhoid ointment, launched lipstick products recently. According to the Ma Yinglong Babao flagship store news, the lipsticks launched this time are Ma Yinglong’s brand Ma Yinglong Babao, which are magenta matte velvet cream, Champs Elysées matte velvet cream and first love color blemish water lip balm. The three lipsticks cost at 138 yuan, and the three-color set costs 399 yuan.

Key takeaways about the lipstick market in China

  • Lipstick is one of the most promising industries in the Chinese cometic market: it has wide range of products both in luxury and low-end categories.
  • Foreign brands dominate the Chinese lipstick market. Namely, French brands are among the most sold.
  • The lipstick market in China is driven not only by the face value economy, but also by the growing popularity of men’s cosmetics.
  • Domestic and foreign brands have appropriated culturally charged designs to market their product to an increasingly culturally confident China.
  • Pharmaceutical companies are joining the Chinese lipstick market in search of new growth opportunities

Author: Valeriia Mikhailova

See our report on the male beauty market in China