China is driving an international trend of young men that are highly attentive to their appearance.
The male beauty industry is exploding. In fact, it is expected to be worth $166 billion by 2022, with a CAGR of 5.4% between 2016 and 2022, according to a report by Allied Market Research.
The rise of style-conscious men around the world has created a shift in the men’s personal care market, where male consumers use more and more beauty products. In-demand products include aftershave, shower gel, skin care, hair care and makeup.
Western regions command the bulk of the male beauty industry, but the Asia Pacific region is the fastest growing market, according to Euromonitor.
A boom in education and urbanization in countries including China, South Korea and India have given birth to a generation of millennial men with greater buying power — and a taste for self-care.
In China, young male consumers born in the ’90s are the driving force behind the male beauty products market, mirroring their female counterpart.
Just like consumers in the West, Chinese millennials of both genders have grown up immersed in internet culture and social media, which tend to glamorize designer clothes, travel, technology and beauty.
Cinda Securities consumer analysts have reported that products such as solarium and acne treatment are frequently the average Chinese male consumer’s first two independent purchases. L’Oréal Paris, Nivea and Clinique rank among the cosmetic brands preferred by young Chinese men. The men’s cosmetics market is expected to increase by 13.5% by next year.
The focus on male beauty is not an entirely new phenomenon in China. The use of cosmetic products dates back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), when it was customary for high-ranking men to apply a powder made from rice and oil to theirs neck to cover wrinkles and appear younger.
These traditional practices were eventually banned by the government. It took until the early 1980s, when reform policies were introduced, that men gradually re-adopted involved grooming habits. For Chinese and international brands, the male beauty craze has presented a new consumer base to attract and cater to.
Male influencers in China’s luxury cosmetics market are called “little fresh meat.”
Male influencers in China’s luxury cosmetics market are called “little fresh meat.” While the moniker may sound strange to Western consumers, the term in China is frequently used refer to young, well-kept Chinese men assumed to be more attentive to aesthetics than to women.
These young men are widely employed by Chinese consumer brands as a marketing tool to sell their products. From up-and-coming movie stars to popular k-pop bands, these influencers often provide testimonials for female beauty products.
The trend of using male icons to promote women’s brands is currently a leading strategy in the luxury beauty market and has led to reported increases in sales of brands that have jumped on the trend.
And not only Chinese companies are cashing in. French beauty brand L’Occitane said it saw an 11% increase in growth with the so-called YoY icon strategy in 2017, along with a 49% increase in sales on the popular Chinese e-commerce platform, Tmall.
Andre Hoffmann, president of L’Occitane’s APAC divsion, attributed the revenue boost to increased consumer confidence in China and its advertising campaign with pop singer, Joker Xue.
Other western brands, including Lancôme, Estée Lauder and L’Oréal Paris have followed in L’Occitane’s footsteps, bringing on young, male ambassadors meant to appeal to Chinese women.
Some believe the marketing trend uses male sex appeal to attract the female gaze — and their wallets.
Beyond the financial rationale, the trend reflects an increased cultural acceptance of men openly interested in beauty and aesthetics — something that was taboo not long ago.