sunscreen market in China

The sunscreen market in China is becoming more functional and premium

Among Chinese consumers, the preference for pale skin as a beauty standard is alive and well, and one of the products benefiting from this trend is sunscreen. With the continuous improvement of Chinese consumers’ awareness of skin health, sunscreen is no longer just for sunny summer days. Many now use it daily in the cold seasons when the sun radiation is not that strong. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the sunscreen market in China has a hopeful outlook. However, consumers are also becoming more demanding for quality of ingredients.

In 2018, the sunscreen market in China reached 6.7 billion yuan with YoY growth of 9.8%. According to Mintel trend analysis, the sales growth rate of sunscreen cosmetics in China will remain at the annual growth rate of 10% in the next 5 years and the market size will reach 8.2 billion yuan in 2021. 

China’s sunscreen market size sunscreen market in China
Data Source: Zhiyan Consulting, China’s sunscreen market size

Current trends in the Chinese sunscreen market

SPF+PA products have great potential

At present, there is a relatively uniform method for evaluating the sun protection performance of UVB in the world, namely the sun protection index (SPF) method. As people’s understanding of the tanning effect of UVA has gradually deepened in recent years, many well-known sun protection companies have focused on SPF. Because SPF+PA (Protection Grade of UVA) compound products can significantly improve the absorption capacity of ultraviolet rays, they will be more popular in the market in the future.

Lotions/creams prevail on the sunscreen market in China

At present, the sunscreen market is mainly based on skin care sunscreen lotions/creams and sunscreen sprays. These two types of products account for more than 95% of the market share. In March of 2021, the sales of sunscreen lotions/creams in the Taobao Tmall sunscreen market were 873 million yuan while sunscreen sprays were 186 million yuan.

The sunscreen spray has been widely praised in the Chinese market due to its convenient portability and rapid cooling, and its sales have increased by 28% year-on-year. However, some consumers on Chinese social media platforms have begun to worry about the UV blocking effect of sunscreen sprays, as more spray needs to be applied on a skin to get the same effect as lotion gives.

blogger’s review on sunscreen stick sunscreen market in China
Source: Xiaohongshu, blogger’s review on sunscreen stick

The “sunscreen stick” has become popular on Taobao live broadcast, Xiaohongshu, Douyin and other platforms. It is not only simple and convenient to use, but also stylish. In 2019 its sales have increased by 400% in a year. 

Which sunscreen products are popular in China?

In the consumption of sunscreen products in China, sunscreen multifunctional products are the leading category. According to Measure Commerce, in recent years, consumers’ demand for sunscreen products for moisturizing and after-sun repair functions has increased. Considering high requirements for skin care effects, “sun protection + maintenance” type sunscreen products will receive more and more attention.

Such functions as “moisturizing” and “pore covering” have become popular recently among Chinese consumers. Sunscreen products with “moisturizing” as the main function accounted for 36% of the total market share, followed by the other popular effects including repairing, refreshing and brightening the skin. In addition, more and more consumers are seeking sunscreen products that can “cover pores”. At the same time, the demand for products that can achieve after-sun repair effects after use is also expanding. The sales growth rate of the two functions was as high as 200% and 350% in 2021.

Increase rate of sunscreen products sales in China with different functions sunscreen market in China
Data Source: China Beauty Network, Increase rate of sunscreen products sales in China with different functions

According to the analysis of keywords related to sunscreen products in the past two years, the amount of “sensitive skin”, “repair”, “anti-blue light” words has increased by more than 30%, among which the amount of ” anti-blue light” in the first quarter of 2021 reached 186.5%. 

Tmall, sunscreen advertisement sunscreen market in China
Source: Tmall, sunscreen advertisement

According to Tmall Consumer Report, in 2020, the Taobao Tmall sunscreen market has an annual turnover of 7 billion yuan, including the “sunscreen” category under the “beauty skin care/body/essential oil” category and “men’s sunscreen”, “baby sunscreen/cream” and “maternal sunscreen” under the categories and maternal and child categories.

Big opportunities of male’s sunscreen market in China

male sunscreen and sun protection products in China sunscreen market in China
Source: Daily latest, male sunscreen and sun protection products in China

In recent years, with the changes in consumer behavior, men’s awareness of skin care has also gradually increased. As the men’s skin care market in China has developed rapidly, the purchase rate for men’s sunscreen products has increased year by year. According to data from, during the period from June 22 to July 10 2020, the overall sales of men’s sunscreen products In Central Anhui, Fujian, Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia, and Xinjiang, increased by 311%, 551%, 290%, 760%, and 194% respectively.

Asian sunscreen brands are leading the market

Sunscreen products from Japan, China and South Korea are the best-selling on the Chinese sunscreen market. Those brands together account for more than a half of the sunscreen market e-commerce transaction volume.

The competition in the sunscreen market in China is fierce. Domestic brands are leading in the category of budget sunscreen products. Two out of three top brands are Chinese: Avene and Mentholatum.

Market share of mid-to-high-end sunscreen products in China sunscreen market in China
Data Source: huaon, Market share of mid-to-high-end sunscreen products in China

Although the scale of China’s sunscreen market has been expanding in recent years, the market share of mid-to-high-end products is still relatively small. In 2018, the market share of mid-to-high-end products in China accounted for 24%, an increase of 8 percentage points year-on-year. From the perspective of the Chinese high-end sunscreen market, Shiseido from Japan has a leading market share, accounting for 40.2% in 2018, followed by Kiehl’s, La Roche-Posay and Yue Sai, accounting for 5.8%, 6.7% and 4.7% respectively. In recent years, with the rapid development of the domestic cosmetics market, domestic sunscreen brands have also shown a rapid development trend, and the market share is expected to further increase.

Korean brand Yuezhi: case study of multifunctional sunscreen products

At present, there are few Korean brands that have achieved meaningful success in the Chinese sunscreen market.  Yuezhi’s sunscreen brand with its “Crystal Sunscreen Spray” has impressive sales on Tmall. It is expected to sell 13 million units in 2021.

Yuezhi sunscreen on the Chinese ecommerce platform sunscreen market in China
Source: JD, Yuezhi sunscreen on the Chinese ecommerce platform

Since 2014, only one type of sunscreen product of Yuezhi’s Secret has been continuously sold in China. Recently, it has developed a crystal sunscreen (a combination of sunscreen, whitening, and anti-aging effects).

Cream-type sunscreens are the key products of Yuezhi. The sunscreen of Yuezhi is basically SPF 50+, PA++++, blocking UVA/UVB. It is a triple functional product that uses adenosine, which is a wrinkle-improving ingredient, and niacinamide, which is a whitening ingredient, to block ultraviolet rays and prevent wrinkles as well as make whitening effect.

In particular, Yuezhi’s Secret Sunscreen has balanced ratio of porous powder and elastic fiber to maintain dry skin and use light and thin essential oils. Therefore, it has the differentiated competitiveness of reducing oil content and long-lasting polymer to improve the lasting power of brightening effect.

Key takeaways

  • With the change in consumption habits of Chinese consumers and the increase in health awareness, sunscreen products have gradually become a daily necessity for most Chinese people. 
  • Multifunctional sunscreen products which include whitening and anti-aging effects are becoming leaders on the market
  • Subcategories like male sunscreen products and SPF+PA sunscreen products have great potential.

Author: Valeriia Mikhailova

See our report on the male beauty market in China