cosmetics marketing china

Top Guide for Beauty and Cosmetics Marketing in China

China is the leading market for cosmetics revenue. The cosmetics revenue will exceed $60.7 billion USD in 2023 and should increase at an annual growth rate CAGR of +5.03% until 2028. All international beauty brands want to catch the potential of this dynamic market and wonder how to succeed in cosmetics marketing in China. Today, we will share our secret recipe.

Key Takeaways:

  • The cosmetics annual revenue is forecasted to reach $77.4 billion USD in 2028
  • The leading categories are personal care, skin care, and makeup
  • The cosmetics market is driven by clean beauty, male cosmetics, and clinical tests
  • Top international cosmetics brands include L’Oréal, Lancôme, Estée Lauder, Jo Malone
  • Top Chinese cosmetics brands include Proya, Chando, To Summer, Winona
  • For marketing, we recommend to focus on Little Red Book, Weibo, Zhihu, and WeChat
  • For sales, we recommend to start with CBEC on Little Red Book
  • After knowing your hero products, you can register your brand and products in China
  • Then, you can open and run an official store on Tmall and sell offline

Let’s dive in.

Overview of the Cosmetics Market in China

In 2023, China will reach a substantial revenue of $60.7 billion USD. This category includes makeup, fragrance, skincare, personal care, hair care, deodorants, shaving products, and beauty tech. According to Statista, the projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of the cosmetics segment should reach 5.03% between 2023 and 2028.

cosmetics market statistics revenue china

The expected annual revenue for cosmetics in China is among the biggest in the world. The cosmetics industry should reach an annual revenue of $77.4 billion USD in 2028. Depending on your sub-segment, your potential and revenue leverages differ. Let’s see which categories will be the largest winners in the coming years.

Skincare, Makeup, and Fragrance Revenue

The Chinese cosmetics market is driven by skincare and makeup. The skincare segment accounts for about 27% of the cosmetics market. In the meantime, the makeup segment reaches also 27% of the cosmetics market. For the past years, international brands always focused their assortment on skincare and makeup for China. It’s only recently that the fragrance market emerged in China.

cosmetics market china

In terms of market opportunities and potential, major brands are turning to fragrance and perfume. The fragrance market is still young, enabling new entrants to gain higher market shares. Especially for niche brands that propose a unique assortment of perfumes.

Once you are clear with the market opportunities, you have to face a new challenge.

What are the import and trade regulations for cosmetics in China?

Main Import and Trade Regulations for Cosmetics

Both international brands and Chinese brands must follow a regulatory framework. This set of rules is decided by the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) and the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) in China. It means that if you want to sell your beauty products in China, you need to register your products, following this framework. Over the years, this process has been simplified to get faster approval.

cosmetics regulations china

During my meetings with brands, I always receive the same questions regarding the process, timeframe, and rules. In general, the registration of your products takes 1 to 1.5 years. It depends on the number of products you have to register and their composition. If you use an active ingredient that is not recognized in China yet, it could take additional time.

In any case, we support you during this phase.

animal testing cosmetics china

In 2021, China implemented changes to its animal testing regulations. According to the latest report of Cruelty-Free Kitty, 10 brands are considered 100% cruelty-free as they didn’t do animal testing to sell in China. This list includes:

  1. Rituals
  2. Aussie
  3. Simple
  4. Suave
  5. Herbal Essences
  6. Dove
  7. Wet n Wild
  8. Physicians Formula
  9. First Aid Beauty
  10. Supergoop!

The Chinese market is moving towards a more clean, cruelty-free, and curated selection of beauty products.

Let’s move to the latest cosmetics trends in China.

Latest Trends for Cosmetics Marketing in China

The beauty trends have a direct impact on the sales and cosmetics marketing in China. Some trends have a long-term effect in the local market while some trends are rising this year, forcing international brands to adapt.

Strong Consumption of Anti-Aging Products

If you already worked with the Chinese market, you know that anti-aging products are sold to a younger audience in China than in any other market. In Europe, your average client age is around 55 years old. In China, it is around 30 years old.

The Chinese culture always insists on the importance of remaining young and healthy. They always used Chinese medicine to prepare unique formulas to remove wrinkles and keep a young face. It also explains why the “beauty filters” were originally born in China. Today, the best-selling items in China are anti-aging creams and serums. These routines start at a very young age, even since 23 years old to fight the passing of time.

anti aging products marketing china

On Xiaohongshu, users share tips on the best creams to remove wrinkles. They also share DIY preparations to reduce wrinkles in specific areas such as the eyes, neck, smile, and more.

Growing Demand for Clean Beauty

A new emerging trend is the success of clean beauty. Indeed, Chinese beauty consumers are now searching for clean beauty brands and products. They favor Western brands with limited ingredients and clean composition. They feel that Chinese brands are not able to provide this kind of clean formula while brands from France, Switzerland, England, Germany, or Europe can supply. On Weibo and Little Red Book, new marketing content related to clean beauty (纯净美容) increased by +600%.

clean beauty cosmetics marketing china

For instance, the Chinese beauty brand Red Chamber is positioned as a Chinese clean beauty brand. The brand raised 10 million RMB ($1.4 million USD) in fund raising. Local investors are betting on the strong potential of clean beauty in China. For international clean beauty brands, China is the next market to capture.

Importance of Clinical Tests and Results

Chinese beauty consumers are some of the most sophisticated and exigent consumers in the world. They insist to know the ingredients, composition, and how to include these products in their routine. On average, Chinese consumers have 6 to 7 steps in their routine (versus 2 to 3 steps in other countries). When they use a product, they ask for clinical tests and results to prove the efficacy of the product. If you sell a product that helps reduce wrinkles, you need to prove by how many %.

cosmetics marketing china

The Chinese cosmetics consumers are called “skintellectuals” as they have very niche discussions regarding these topics. For example, they created topics like “Morning C Evening A” (早C晚A) reaching 640 million views on Xiaohongshu. And the topic “Nourishing skin with oil” (以油养肤) with 460 million views on Xiaohongshu. On this social media, each brand and product is analyzed to compare the clinical results with real-life experiments.

The Success of Male Skincare and Men Makeup

Last but not least, the success of cosmetics among men is huge. Chinese men use skincare and wear makeup, much more than in other countries. Hence, international brands must show both men and women using their products for better marketing localization. No matter your product, you can work with a male influencer or celebrity to highlight it.

As we said earlier, the quest to remain young and healthy is strong, no matter the gender.

men makeup china

Some brands like Chanel and Perfect Diary launched Men’s lines. For example, Chanel launched a liner, mascara, foundation, and lip balm. Perfect Diary created an eye palette for men. Shu Uemura highlighted men using their skincare lines. In brief, the male cosmetics market is growing and international brands must catch this trend to remain relevant.

If you want to catch the train, you also have to keep in touch with the current strong brands in China.

Let’s dive in.

What are the Top Beauty Brands in China?

This is a very common question during my conferences and meetings with brands. What are the top beauty brands in China? Do Chinese people prefer Chinese brands or International brands? Historically, Chinese consumers prefer Korean, European, and Japanese cosmetics brands. But you’ll see they also moved to C-beauty brands recently.

International Cosmetics Brands Marketing in China

Originally, the luxury groups entered the market first such as L’Oréal, LVMH, and Estée Lauder. They reached a strong market share over the year, being still the best sellers in China today. Also, Korean and Japanese brands have a strong success in China. Their products are often optimized for Asian skin tones, making them much more appealing to Chinese consumers.

What are the top international cosmetics brands in China?

  • L’Oréal
  • Lancôme
  • Estée Lauder
  • Helena Rubinstein
  • SK-II
  • Guerlain
  • Shiseido
  • La Roche Posay
  • Givenchy
  • Make Up Forever
  • Bobbi Brown
  • Jo Malone
  • Tom Ford
  • Yves Saint Laurent
  • Byredo

Chinese Cosmetics Brands Driven by Guochao

The effort in ingredients and formulas made by Chinese brands is seducing local consumers. With the Guochao trend, younger generations are re-discovering local brands. Especially during Double 11 2023, we saw more Chinese brands enter the Top 20 in skincare and makeup. Brands like Proya, Chando, Documents, Winona, and Dr Alva are receiving strong exposure and sales among Chinese consumers.

chando proya carslan chinese brand

What are the top Chinese cosmetics brands in China?

  • Proya
  • Chando
  • TIMAGE
  • 3CE
  • Boitown
  • Documents
  • To Summer
  • Carslan
  • Winona
  • Dr Alva

Now that you know the Chinese cosmetics market, let’s move to marketing strategy.

We’ll share our tips for cosmetics marketing in China.

How to Market and Sell Your Cosmetics Brand in China?

The Chinese market is one of the most profitable in the world – if you know how to market it locally. For this, you need to work on your marketing (market study, Xiaohongshu, Weibo, Zhihu, WeChat), on your online reputation (press, influencers, celebrities), and on your sales (cross border, Tmall, offline stores).

Let’s dive in together!

Understand your Local Consumer with Market Study

The first step when you want to sell your cosmetics products in China is to start with a market study. It will enable you to know how to position your products in the current market. The Chinese cosmetics market is mature. Hence, you need to find your unique selling point (USP), your expertise, and what added value you can bring. For this, we always start with a market study combined with a market audit and consumer interviews.

What type of market study for a cosmetics brand in China?

  • Brand Audit: You can conduct an audit of your brand, storytelling, products, ingredients, and assets in regard to the current market data, benchmark, and trends to assess your potential in China
  • Consumer Interviews: You can interview 4 to 6 Chinese consumers to ask about their habits, preferences, and opinions on your products to receive real-time qualitative feedback on your brands
  • Marketing Strategy: You can ask an expert agency to analyze your official marketing to localize your channels, content, and marketing angles to increase your brand notoriety and success in the market
  • Pricing Strategy: You can work with local experts to refine your pricing in China in regard to the import taxes, registration taxes, custom clearance, and pricing landscape

This is the work we implemented for leading brands from L’Oréal and LVMH.

Contact us to receive our case studies.

Launch your Chinese Social Media

Once you know your buyer persona and market strategy, you can start working on your brand awareness. For this, you need to be present on Chinese social media. You don’t need to have an account on all of them – just on the ones used by beauty consumers. Let’s show you!

Target the Beauty Consumer Group with Xiaohongshu

Xiaohongshu (or Little Red Book) is the leading social media for beauty, lifestyle, and motherhood in China. There are about 200 million active users on the app every month. The beauty and cosmetics community is very strong, as they share tons of notes every day about cosmetics topics.

For instance, the hashtag “How to save acne skin” reached 3.15 billion views on the app.

little red book cosmetics marketing china

The best strategy is to create an official account on Xiahongshu. You can obtain the “red check” verification by registering with your official business license and trademark. Then, you can share your brand content and recommend your products based on the current hot topics. You can recommend your face cream treating acne, your star serum to reduce wrinkles, your lipstick for juicy lips, and more. The viral hashtags and topics must be used in your content to increase your local relevance.

In general, cosmetics brands work with local agencies (like us!) for this.

Increase your Exposure with Weibo

Weibo is the equivalent of X (Twitter) and Facebook in China. It has around 590 million monthly active users, including Gen Z, Millennials, and Seniors in China. It’s used by cosmetics brands to work with influencers and celebrities while sharing their latest news about the brand. Weibo is essential for cosmetics marketing in China as it makes content viral.

weibo beauty cosmetics ads account

We recommend opening an official account with the “blue check” to make your brand entry official. You need to write all your copywriting in Chinese to optimize it for the app. You can use your official digital assets or create new Chinese designs to make your content “shareable” and increase the exposure of your posts. Then, you can implement targeted ads to drive sales to your website, Tmall store, or offline stores. And work with Weibo influencers to promote your products.

Become the Cosmetics Expert in China with Zhihu

Zhihu is the biggest Q&A platform in China. It is often compared with Quora as it enables users, brands, and experts to ask questions and share detailed answers on a specific topic. With 100 million monthly active users, this social media is essential for cosmetics marketing in China. Especially when you have a patented technology or unique formula.

The best strategy is to register an official account on Zhihu. Then, you can implement a Q&A campaign to promote your brand, products, and results. You can participate in Round Tables and Lectures to provide your expertise on a specific topic. This is a major platform to show that your brand is not only selling products but also providing a unique expertise on the market. If you want to go a step further, you can also sell your products on Zhihu Marketplace and collect Product Reviews.

Discover our Zhihu solutions here.

Share Beauty Insights with your Loyal Fans via WeChat

You probably already know WeChat as it’s the No. 1 social media in China. With 1.37 billion users, WeChat is the most popular social media for talking with friends, discovering new brands, sharing information, handling payments, and organizing travel. This is why it’s called a “super app”. Cosmetics brands also use it for their marketing in China.

wechat cosmetics marketing china agency

The best strategy is to open a WeChat Store or mini-program. You need to register an official account and then create a customized mini-program. This way, you can communicate about your products, sell your products online, collect consumer reviews, and launch a loyalty program. With this super app, you can do everything in one place. We also recommend launching a WeChat Channel and implementing targeted ads on WeChat Circle to increase your brand exposure and sales.

After your brand awareness, you need to work on your online reputation.

And it all starts with the press.

Get Featured on Cosmetics Magazines

Your PR is essential to increase your online reputation and consumer trust. The collaboration with renowned magazines (Vogue China, Cosmopolitan China, Marie Claire China, ELLE China) and with local magazines (Sohu, Tencent, Sina, YOKA) is key to build your brand notoriety.

When they will hear about your brand on social media, Chinese consumers will search for it on Baidu. If they don’t find any official press release, they won’t proceed further with your brand. So, you need to have at least 3 to 5 publications in the Chinese press.

chinese magazines pr cosmetics beauty

After your institutional communication, you need to enhance your brand image.

For this, Chinese celebrities are the greatest accelerator.

Partner with Chinese Celebrities as Brand Ambassadors

Chinese celebrities are essential to making your brand stand out. The majority of international brands are partnering with Western celebrities, which is good for the brand image. But they need to go a step further in working with Chinese celebrities to show that their products are used by Chinese skin types. And Chinese celebrities are the best proof of approval. Depending on your brand positioning and history, you need to work with a celebrity matching your image.

chinese celebrities beauty cosmetics

We worked with Chinese celebrities for 5+ years. Over the years, we arranged collaborations with actors, rappers, singers, boys’ bands, girls’ bands, and business leaders to increase brands’ notoriety. Before you start, you need to wonder WHO would be your ideal celebrity – his story, age, gender, style, life, habits, and way of thinking. Then, you can find your best match among Chinese celebrities.

Contact us if you need support on this part.

Gather KOC Influencers Reviews Online

This step is essential in your cosmetics marketing in China. It will enable Chinese consumers to combine institutional marketing (press, celebrities, social media) with organic reviews. Working with key opinion consumers (KOCs) will enable your brand to gather content and reviews for its social media and e-commerce store. And it can make one of your products viral, like it’s often the case with Instagram and TikTok in the West.

You can work with KOCs to increase your organic content on social media. We often recommend working with KOCs on Little Red Book and Douyin as it will make your reviews more viral. Compared with influencers, you cannot 100% control what KOCs will say about your brand – which means that if your product is not suitable for their skin, hair, or face, they will say it. If you are confident with your product, it’s the best strategy to make Chinese consumers know about it.

Once you have a positive online reputation, you can move to the selling part.

For cosmetics, you have several sales options.

Start Selling Through Cross-Border E-Commerce

If you want to sell cosmetics in China, you will need to register your brand and your products in China. You will obtain a Chinese business license that will enable you to sell everywhere. If you don’t want to spend on the registration of this license, you will have only one option, to sell through cross-border e-commerce with warehouses in free trade zones (FTZ).

How to sell cosmetics products in China?

  • E-Commerce Sales (Chinese business license required)
  • Offline Sales (Chinese business license required)
  • Cross-Border E-Commerce Sales (no requirement)

Hence, let’s start with your option in cross-border.

Launch a RED Cosmetics Store

Little Red Book is a social media and e-commerce platform. It means you can register a store and sell officially on the platform. Of course, there are other cross-border e-commerce platforms such as Tmall Global, JD International, VIP, Kaola, and more. But we always recommend Little Red Book as it’s the most cost-efficient to set up and can bring higher ROI.

We recommend launching your RED store about 6 months after your official account. This way, you have already gathered a good community and created momentum around your store opening. Once it’s launched, you can organize advertising campaigns (Feed ads, Keywords Ads, Nearby Ads, Sponsored). You can increase your store conversion and sales by implementing live-streaming sessions with Little Red Book influencers.

little red book cosmetics ecommerce china

Another tip, a RED cross-border e-commerce store is a great way to test the potential of your products. Once you gather enough data on your customers, sales, conversion, and potential you can register your brand in China. Instead of registering all your references, you will register only your best sellers. It’s the best strategy to save you money and time.

Once it’s set, you can move to the next step.

Register your Brand and Products in China

This is the most anxious step for international brands: registering your brand and products.

When you have a local partner this step is pretty easy.

You just need to prepare your international business license, trademark, and product composition to start the registration. The laboratory and regulation committee will analyze everything and proceed to registration if it complies with current laws and regulations. If a product is refused, you can obtain a refund if you work with trustworthy partners.

We take care of this for cosmetics brands, contact us.

Launch a Tmall Store for Cosmetics in China

Once you have your Chinese business license, you can open a store on Tmall. Tmall is more recommended than Tmall Global because you benefit from higher traffic and consumers are not limited in their purchase. To launch your store, you need to register on Tmall directly or collaborate with a TP (Tmall Partner). You will need to organize the structure, design, copywriting, logistics, warehouse, set up, and launch of the store. It takes approximately 4 to 6 months to be live.

You can increase the sales of your Tmall store by organizing advertising campaigns (Recommendation ads, Train ads, Exit ads) and participating in events (Double 11, Chinese New Year, 520). You can also use your Weibo and WeChat accounts to redirect your traffic from social media to your Tmall store. In fact, Weibo and WeChat have a partnership with Tmall for embedded links.

If you have any questions on this part, you can drop me a message on LinkedIn.

Work with Offline Stores and Beauty Departments

Offline stores are key to increasing your sales in China. It will enable Chinese consumers from Tier 1, 2, and 3 cities to directly test your product on their skin before purchasing. You can work with leading beauty department stores (K11, SKP, Lane Crawford) and niche offline stores to make your brand accessible to your consumer segment.

beauty retailers china

In any case, you will need a Chinese brochure to present your brand, products, and expertise. We recommend you to have your best sellers selection with a Chinese selection to guide retailers in their purchase. This is the way we work with our network of department stores, distributors, and retailers. It increased the sales conversion by 48%.

This is why your final step is to find and collaborate with a local expert.

Partner with a Cosmetics Marketing Expert in China

Finding the right partner for cosmetics marketing and sales in China is never easy. The market is full of agencies, TP, consulting firms, and companies to help in specific areas. If you want to succeed in China, you need to work with someone who has a clear vision and comprehension of your brand, positioning, value, and objectives in China. The best thing you can do is to work with a 360° partner who has experience in cosmetics.

I worked for Givenchy Beauty and Guerlain. I collaborated with Sephora on marketing activations. And I created Reverse Group to provide a more meaningful and reliable ecosystem for international brands to thrive in China. This is why I also co-founded this agency with Mrs. June Fan, who worked for L’Oréal on WeChat, Weibo, and Tmall for Lancôme and Yves Saint Laurent Beauty. We understand, love, and propel cosmetics.

anais bournonville

That’s it for my guide on beauty and cosmetics marketing in China. As someone who worked in this segment for several years, I loved putting together all the tips and insights I learned over the years. Hope it helps you!

Our Services:

Market Study: We handle customized market studies for brands and companies including consumer interviews, trends consulting, strategy building, and platform recommendations to bring you the best data-driven insights in China based on your brand objectives

Strategy: We analyze your brand and company to match it with the current market data to come up with a customized strategy including products, pricing, marketing, online reputation, sales, and action plan

E-Commerce Management: We can register, launch, and run your e-commerce store on Chinese marketplaces like Tmall, JD, VIP, Little Red Book, WeChat, Douyin, and Zhihu including specific events activations

Social Media Management: We work on official account setup, content strategy and creation, community management, and advertising on WeChat, Weibo, Little Red Book, Douyin, Bilibili, and Zhihu to get noticed by 1.4 Billion Consumers

Influencer Marketing: We have 250+ Chinese influencers (from mega KOL to minor KOC) in the industry of fashion, luxury, and lifestyle in Chinese Tier 1 to 3 cities to increase your brand exposure in China

The Chinese cosmetics market is constantly evolving and remains one of the most dynamic in the world. Partner with us and increase your brand awareness and sales in the most competitive market in the world!

1 thought on “Top Guide for Beauty and Cosmetics Marketing in China”

  1. Pingback: "Skintellectuals": The New Chinese Beauty Consumers

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