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The Natural Beauty Market Taking Shape In China

In parallel with a wider shift in consumer demand for ethical products, the green and natural cosmetics market is on the rise in China.

In parallel with a wider shift in consumer demand for ethical products, the green and natural cosmetics market is on the rise in China. According to a report from L’Occitane, China is the second largest market for natural based cosmetics. While green credentials have not always been a priority for Chinese buyers of cosmetics, the landscape for natural products is shifting.

A search for natural cosmetics 天然化妆品 on the Little Red Book app returned over 25k results
A search for natural cosmetics 天然化妆品 on the Little Red Book app returned over 25k results

A recent survey published by Clear found that 69% of Chinese consumers were willing to purchase a completely natural product at a premium price. And according to Lee Folland from Reuters, companies’ green credentials are high priority for modern Chinese consumers who are environmentally and health-conscious and aware of the use of synthetics materials and chemicals in cosmetics.

Schwarzkopf’s Extra Care Purify & Protect anti-pollution repair range (Image credit: Happi)
Schwarzkopf’s Extra Care Purify & Protect anti-pollution repair range (Image credit: Happi)

The market for ‘healthy’ and natural products in China has grown as a result of several convening factors. On the one hand, demand for premium products, particularly those that offer something different either in terms of brand story or in product credentials. On the other hand, the pollution of day-to-day life in urban China has fuelled a taste for natural, toxin-free products. Consumers are willing to pay a premium price tag for such brands. Schwarzkopf recently introduced a new anti-pollution range of products aimed at the Chinese market, demonstrating a clear opening in the market for brands that can offer some form of escape from China’s environmental degradation.

While natural ingredients — from from collagen-boosting snail extract to donkey milk — see a surge, a lack of transparency around quality and provenance remains a significant issue. This is not solely limited to cosmetics — I recall walking through a wet market in Beijing and seeing fake organic stickers being distributed across an array of fruits and vegetables, none of which were organic. A series of public health scares have prompted somewhat of a wake-up call among Chinese consumers who now demand more rigorous food and cosmetics safety measures.

In a report by Lab Brand on the Western and Chinese perceptions of organic and natural cosmetics, they write that Chinese people tend to favour traditional ancestral medicinal remedies when it comes to healthcare and cosmetics, therefore Chinese consumers are already receptive to the notions of nature and balance. Western brands such as The Ordinary, Lush and The Body Shop known for their natural, cruelty-free images have seen remarkable success. The disputes over animal testing has caused setbacks to The Body Shop’s China relationship yet their products remain more popular than ever online as daigou sell through unofficial channels. Furthermore the personalised skincare regimen promoted by The Ordinary has struck a chord in China when catering to different skincare needs, something brands can play on with KOL marketing campaigns.

LVMH’s new Cha Ling product line (Courtesy Image)
LVMH’s new Cha Ling product line (Courtesy Image)

The Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) group also joined in catering to its Asian audience and launched its own eco beauty brand Cha Ling to promote the antioxidant and anti-aging medicinal properties of Pu’er tea. However this week the Chinese Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) has passed a new regulation banning marketing beauty products as medicinal which falls in line with global FDA standards, which will pressure the medical cosmetics industry to ensure the terminology is congruent with regulation guidelines.

The growth of the green and natural cosmetics market addresses wider social and environmental issues in China but signs point toward positive growth. Experts from Clear agree that ‘untapped opportunities lie in unique distribution channels and traditional remedy stories’ for building a brand, so foreign brands looking to set themselves apart from the competition should take a leaf out of the books of brands that have already done so and open up to these key opportunities in the Chinese market.

For more information on how to help your brand succeed in China, do reach out to us at info@tongdigital.com

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