As of 2019 China’s beauty industry is the second largest in the world, with skincare the biggest and fastest growing market segment within the beauty and personal care industry. In 2021 China’s skincare market was worth 9.2 billion RMB (1.34 billion USD), recording a 17% y-o-y increase. Historically, China’s skincare market has been dominated by Western and Japanese brands, but post-Covid there has been an acceleration in the growing preference for domestic brands, particularly amongst young people, giving rise to a new wave of premium domestic skincare brands.
UNISKIN 优时颜 is one such brand that has seen great domestic success. Founded in 2018 by Dr Du Le, UNISKIN is a science backed, anti-ageing skincare brand specifically formulated for Chinese skin. In 2021 it received Tmall Beauty’s Rising Brand of the Year Award with their star item, “Wrinkle reducing eye cream 2.0”, performing as the top domestic eye cream with sale volumes over 130,000. Since then, the brand has secured financing totalling 100 million RMB (15. 6 million USD), and grown from an exclusively online brand to managing a variety of offline channels including a flagship store in Shanghai’s Lane Crawford, pop-up events and its own clinic.
UNISKIN’s rapid growth stems from the company’s acute grasp of new trends in the consumer market, principally anti-aging concerns, a desire for premium quality, targeted formulas backed by research and development and an emphasis on well-being and enjoyment for the user.
UNISKIN’s brand DNA: Prioritising pleasure and holistic skincare for Chinese consumers
Understanding the growing demand for anti-ageing skincare among Chinese Millennials and Gen-Z
UNISKIN is first and foremost an anti-ageing Chinese skincare brand, differentiating it from other domestic players and building a bespoke brand identity. Those aged between 18-30 account for 80% of consumers in China’s skincare market and anti-ageing is increasingly becoming a skin concern amongst this demographic, even Gen-Z. During the 618-shopping festival in 2022 there were three times more Gen-Z consumers searching for anti-ageing solutions on Tmall than the previous year. iiMedia Research also reported that 53% of 829 surveyed began to pay attention to aging affects from 26-35.
UNISKIN’s main customer base are women in their early to mid-20s, mostly white-collar workers, as well as mothers, whilst approximately 10% of customers are male. Anti-ageing products have previously been the preserve of multi-national brands due to the high value added and subsequently higher price points, but UNISKIN has created a range of anti-ageing products specifically designed for Chinese skin making it a highly relevant and cutting-edge domestic brand.
Science-driven skincare: UNISKIN’s commitment to research and development
UNISKIN puts R&D at the heart of its philosophy and brand identity. Founder Dr Du Le graduated UCLA with a degree in molecular cell biology, obtaining a doctorate before founding UNISKIN to tackle skin concerns he felt were unique to Chinese skin, particularly the ageing process. According to UNISKIN’s website the founding team all have scientific research backgrounds from US and European institutions. This scientific and clinical image is key to the brand’s focus on efficacy which promises high-quality targeted formulas that deliver results.
Post-pandemic, improvement in skincare awareness has meant that consumers are increasingly paying attention to skincare ingredients, leading beauty marketers to coin the phrase “skintellectuals” 成分党. UNISKIN’s range of targeted products contain high quality, trusted and recognisable anti-ageing ingredients such as retinol, peptides, and hyaluronic acid. Their website also provides further educational resources, providing a spotlight on active ingredients and guides for products, helping inform buyers and further involving them in the process of selecting and enjoying skincare.
Targeted skincare solutions for Chinese skin
UNISKIN has distinguished itself from other skincare brands by focusing on scientific research and product formulation specifically tailored to Chinese skin. This approach has allowed UNISKIN to build a range of highly effective anti-ageing products for Chinese consumers, owning several patented technologies and publishing several international SCI skin medical papers.
Since the pandemic, younger people in particular have shown a growing propensity to support domestic brands, known as the Guochao 国潮 trend. As a domestic brand that specializes in skincare for Chinese consumers, UNISKIN is well-positioned to benefit from this trend and attract consumers who are looking for high-quality domestic skincare options.
A unique combination of product efficacy and aesthetic design
During the pandemic skincare acquired a strong psychological value, with consumers linking their products and routines to their emotional wellbeing and a healthy lifestyle. In a crowded skincare market, prioritising pleasure and wellbeing for the consumer is a keyway that UNISKIN has differentiated itself, gained consumer recognition and built a brand community.
This not only includes the visual appeal of UNISKIN’s products which are minimalist yet creative in design but also UNISKIN’s philosophy that skincare should be a holistic and comprehensive experience. According to UNISKIN founder Dr Du Le, skin health and a healthy lifestyle are inseparable, meaning that skincare should be an enjoyable way we can take care of ourselves each day. This premium experience should not only include product efficacy but also fragrance, product appearance and service, which UNISKIN has achieved through a variety of offline marketing channels.
UNISKIN’s unique combination of both product efficacy and aesthetic design are what differentiates it from other domestic brands such as Winona and Proya, also known for their strong R&D background and focus on Chinese skin. The promise of an elegant and pleasurable experience when shopping for and using UNISKIN products has allowed the company to build a distinctive and attractive brand culture that consumers want to invest in.
What keeps UNISKIN’s customers coming back
As Ye Rui, partner and Head of Science Division at UNISKIN, said during an interview with VMarketing, “Differentiated marketing must come from differentiated products”. Domestic brands have previously sought to compete with international companies by delivering a lower price point, but UNISKIN is gaining its market share at higher price points by investing in R&D capabilities and an elevated brand image that reflects the quality of its products and the extensive development that goes into formulation. The premium quality of UNISKIN’s products appeals to a new community of ‘skintellectuals’, particularly amongst the younger population, who are deeply invested in skincare brands and subsequently take great time and care over their consumer choices.
Creating a community
UNISKIN started selling on e-shopping platforms such as Tmall, WeChat and Xiaohongshu, reaching a cumulative transaction of 80 million RMB (12.18 million USD) on the company’s flagship Tmall store in 2021, a 216% increase from the year before. With further capital investment UNISKIN has sought to expand its offline channels and build an offline skincare brand community. UNISKIN was among the first Chinese skincare brands to open an experience store in Lane Crawford, Shanghai, and has opened medical beauty clinics which combine skin care products with professional treatment.
UNISKIN has held many creative and interactive pop-up events to connect with its community and bring together like-minded people. In 2021 UNISKIN co-hosted an event themed “Ideal Drop” in Shanghai. Involving 33 other lifestyle brands over 1,200 square metres of inside/outside space, the event got participants to think about what an ideal weekend means to them. UNISKIN’s interactive pop-up store displayed a full range of products with professional dermatologists on hand to deliver free skin consultation and recommendations. Easy access to expertise is a key part of the UNISKIN brand; through informed marketing and offline exposure UNISKIN has created a community to share and enjoy skincare.
Prioritising pleasure and holistic skincare for Chinese consumers
- UNISKIN has tailored to growing trends in the skincare market – with a focus on active ingredients, function driven and premium quality products.
- Focus on Chinese skincare and R&D background are key selling points for domestic consumers.
- UNISKIN is an anti-ageing skincare brand, targeting a growing skin concern amongst young people, who comprise 80% of the skincare market.
- Emphasis on well-being through product design and brand philosophy is popular post-covid as skincare developed a strong psychological value.
- Offline exposure as well as educational influencing helps build a brand community of ‘skintellectuals’, who are highly interested in and enjoy skincare.