male beauty market China

Why the male beauty market in China should no longer be overlooked by beauty brands

In the past few years, with the increase of purchasing power and the awakening of Chinese male beauty consumers’ awareness of personal care, the male beauty market in China has shown a huge potential of growth. Growing double the global growth rate, Chinese male beauty consumers have become a target market of both international and Chinese beauty brands.

China’s e-commerce male beauty market is recovering from COVID-19

According to Euromonitor, from 2016-2019, the Chinese male beauty market increased at an average annual rate of 13.5%, far higher that the global average of 5.8%.

Before COVID-19, on Taobao and Tmall male skincare products had very high sales during the 2019 Double 11 shopping festival. However, male beauty market in China was impacted by COVID-19 just like other industries. Both skincare and makeup sales declined in the first two months of 2020. Now, the market is recovering. Although the online sales of make-up products remain unchanged, skincare and personal care products recovered much faster because those products are seen as more of a necessity among men.

COVID-19 impact on Chinese male beauty consumption

Source:, designed by daxue consulting, COVID-19 impact on Chinese male beauty consumption

Male beauty related content and KOLs are on the rise

The number of male consumers who take part in discussions of beauty-related content on social media is increasing in recent years. According to data, the proportion of male Weibo users who mentioned beauty-related keywords (“cosmetics”, “make-up”, “male skincare”, and “men’s make-up”) almost doubled between from 2014 to  2018. In terms of specific topics, data from Red shows that contents of “personal care” has the highest growth rate, followed by “nail oil” and “fragrance”.

Chinese male beauty market consumption by product and online activity.

Source: zhiweidata & The Red Mid-Year Beauty Insights Report 2020, Chinese male beauty market consumption by product and online activity.

Male beauty KOLs also started to rise on the main Chinese social media platforms. On video-based platforms like Douyin, Kuaishou and Bilibili, 20% of beauty KOLs were men as of December 2019. As for graph-and-text-based platforms like Weibo, 16% of certified beauty KOLs are men.

On Red, also known as Xiaohongshu, plenty of male bloggers share their make-up and skincare experiences. Their posts cover a large range of topics, including product testing and recommendations, personal care techniques, hair styling skills and products’ ingredient analysis. They mainly aim to promote new beauty products and impart knowledge about male beauty. However, their fans are not only representative of male beauty consumers, but many women also follow their content.

A controversial topic in China: should men wear makeup?

With the booming of the Chinese male beauty market, a controversial topic of whether or not men should wear makeup arises.

discussing whether men should wear makeup

Source: Sample of Weibo post 2019 discussing whether men should wear makeup

On one hand, supporters assert that makeup is only a way to enhance one’s appearance and plenty of men do look better with makeup. Since men and women are equal and there is no law that says makeup is the exclusive right of women, boys definitely can wear makeup.

On the other hand, some  think that men wearing makeup is against Chinese tradition. They say that it always sounds weird, but most importantly it makes people feel gay and their sexual orientation is suspected. It is true that China is a conservative country when it comes to LGBT culture, and the Chinese traditional opinion is unfriendly to men who look feminine.

No matter what attitudes towards male wearing make-up, the heating discussion itself could be a sign that male beauty market in China is increasingly drawing people’s attention.

Key characteristics of male beauty consumers

Young men from tier-1 & 2 cities are the main consumers

Chinese male beauty consumers are becoming younger. Now most men have developed skin care habits in their college days. As a result, young men aged 21-25 have gradually surpassed male beauty consumers aged 26-30 since 2017 and become the largest force in the online male skin care market.

In terms of geographical distribution, male beauty market in China is currently focused in tier-1 and tier-2 cities, which covers 60% of the male beauty consumers in China. However, lower-tier cities have large potential to grow, as the young generation has becoming more aware of their appearance.

demographics of male beauty consumers in China

Source: TalingData, designed by daxue consulting, demographics of male beauty consumers in China

Male beauty consumers search for information online

Consumers can easily get a large amount of beauty-related information from both online and offline channels. Offline channels are the more traditional ways, such as friends and physical stores in the shopping malls. However, online channels are gaining more popularity and are much more diversified than offline.

channels to search information for male beauty products in China

Designed by daxue consulting, channels to search information for male beauty products in China

Two online channels, social media and live-streaming, have become the most important channels for Chinese male beauty consumers to research products. On social media, they can read posts and watch videos about beauty products and personal care techniques shared by KOLs or general consumers. The newest and emerging channel for male beauty market in China is live-streaming. In a live stream, the MCs (who are usually beauty KOLs) would usually show multiple products, testing them, and providing promotion codes or discounts on certain products, while the consumers may be able to directly place orders during the live stream.

Male skin care consumers focus on basic products

Male beauty consumers in China like to use basic skincare products. The average person uses 3.7 different types of products, and the top 3 used skincare products are face wash, lotion/facial cream and toner. Hence, advanced skincare products, such as facial mask and sun cream, have low market penetration. Currently the mainstream male beauty brands only provide very simple products or not even cover this category. As a result, this means that there is a big development space in the advanced male skincare category.

which skincare products Chinese men use

Source: CBNData survey data, August 2019, designed by daxue consulting, which skincare products Chinese men use

Light makeup is popular among Chinese men

In addition to daily skincare products, male consumers are also increasingly using color makeup. In the male beauty market in China, lipsticks, BB cream, mascara and eyebrow pencils reached sales of 200 thousand RMB, 13.64 million RMB, 890 thousand RMB and 547 thousand RMB respectively. These products are the universally accepted and considered “must-haves” for male fashionistas. On Tmall, men’s color cosmetics are growing 89% year on year, faster than fragrances, hair care, body care and face care. This also proves that many men are enthusiastically making the jump from skincare to makeup.

Chinese male beauty consumers prefer light makeup and products with waterproof. Their specialty makeup on the market is more basic, such as foundation, concealer and eyebrow pencils. The reason is that most men’s aim is to look more sophisticated and do not desire exaggerated looks. Moreover, men perspire more than women and many of them partake in outdoor work or activities, which are more likely to lead to oil secretion and sweat. Hence, they would want their makeup products to last through water and sweat.

Chinese men prefer skin care sets over individual items

Unlike female consumers who prefer to mix and match their own beauty products from different brands, male consumers prefer skincare sets. This may result from male beauty consumers’ lack of beauty knowledge and thus their preference for the easy way. For most men, the brands’ kits are simple and straightforward to use by following the brands’ recommended steps. In response to male consumers’ request, many brands have launched men’s skincare sets, which usually include basic skincare products such as face wash, toner, and lotion.

the top selling products for men’s skincare in China are all sets

Source: Tmall, the top selling products for men’s skincare in China are all sets

Men’s skincare is often purchased by girlfriends and female family members as a gift

Women should also be considered as a group of potential buyers of male beauty products. Chinese people value gifts, especially when it comes to festivals or anniversaries. On the internet, gifts are always a discussion point and beauty products are a popular category as gifts for male friends or family members.

For instance, there were 41% of male consumers that have used neutral or female beauty brands in 2019, and 33% of male consumers said that the reason they used those brands was that they received the products as gifts.

Key takeaways: how to reach Chinese male beauty consumers

  1. Seek opportunity in KOL live-streaming and Weibo hot topics.
  2. Be a source of information for men’s cosmetic usage.
  3. Lay more emphasis on skincare and basic makeup.
  4. The rise domestic brands led to more intense competition.

See our full report on the male beauty market in China

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