In China, a host of national startups selling men’s skin care products are seeking funds from global investors, with the ambition of competing with giants like L’Oréal in a billion dollar company in service of millennial men who care about their image.
The startups are targeting men like Hou Junru, a 24-year-old education worker in Shanghai who got into skin care as a student and spent more than $ 1,000 on creams and lotions as part of the of the November 11 promotion from e-commerce company giant Alibaba. “My need is to keep my skin moist and to look pale,” Hou said.
It’s a priority shared by many of his peers, influenced by the spread of social media and South Korean pop culture that embraces a softer version of masculinity. Already the largest in the world, the Chinese men’s facial care market is expected to reach 12.5 billion yuan ($ 1.9 billion) this year and grow 50% to 18.5 billion yuan (2.8 billion dollars) in 2025, estimates research firm Mintel.
Market research provider Euromonitor International said the men’s skin care business in China, excluding aftershave, is already more than three times the size of the US dollar market per year. last and more than twice the size of South Korea, and is expected to easily exceed growth in value than both until 2024.
Building on the huge reach of online retailers like Alibaba and JD.com, at least 10 new Chinese men’s skin care brands were established this year, according to media reports.
“A lot of smaller brands are emerging through online channels,” Mintel said in a recent report. “The online shopping experience allows men to quickly choose what they want … online merchants can help men find information and advice more easily than offline stores.”
Six of the new players raised more than 300 million yuan ($ 45.8 million) between them, the founder of one brand told Reuters news agency. Bertelsmann Asia Investments said they have invested in a new Shanghai brand, without saying how much, while others like SIG Asia and Redpoint Ventures have also placed sector bets, according to national media reports and the research database in CB Insights startup.
For the moment, the Chinese market is dominated by three major foreign players: the French L’Oréal, the German manufacturer of Nivea Beiersdorf and the Japanese Rohto, headquarters of the OXY brand. Together, they have a combined 60 percent share, according to Mintel. L’Oréal declined to comment for this article, while Beiersdorf and Rohto did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Beyond that dominance, however, there is a sizable and fragmented share for new local startups to target, hoping to emulate the success of Perfect Diary, a searing Chinese women’s cosmetics brand whose parent has raised $ 617 million in a Nasdaq listing last month. .
Among the new breed of men’s skin care companies is Coen, founded in September by Huang Kai, a Xiamen-based entrepreneur who shut down his old men’s clothing sales business to focus on beauty, with products produced by companies in Guangzhou.
Huang, 31, said sales at Coen – a name that translates to “scientific and grateful” – topped 1 million yuan ($ 152,761) in two months through stores on e-commerce platforms. A 120ml bottle of its flagship cleanser, Dragon Blood, costs 64.90 yuan ($ 9.90) on Alibaba’s Tmall.
Huang, who has products like a beard hair removal cream in the works, said that with more than 200 million men born in China after 1995, there was a huge opportunity to tap into the new generations more open to caring. the skin. According to him, half a dozen of this year’s startups have already raised more than 300 million yuan ($ 45.8 million), adding that he, too, was in talks to raise funds from investors. He refused to reveal which ones.
Bertelmann Asia Investments vice president Cindy Zhu told Reuters her company has invested in Shanghai-based men’s skin care company Just a Cool Brand (JACB), which was established this year. Zhu said the fund believes that the growth momentum of the Chinese cosmetics market will continue.
“JACB will provide more professional products that could appropriately meet the skin care requirements of Chinese consumers,” Zhu said. JACB could not be reached for comment.
Likewise, Redpoint Ventures and SIG Asia have invested in Shenzhen-based Make Essense, according to the CB Insights database. Make Essense, SIG and Redpoint did not respond to requests from Reuters.
A major hurdle for the new breed of Chinese suppliers will be persuading customers who are regular users of well-known foreign brands to switch to domestic manufacturers.
Educator Hou, for example, says he prefers brands like the French Guerlain and La Mer to new national brands. “These products are used on your face, so I don’t want to try brands that I haven’t heard of,” he says.
But others remain open to the possibility. University student Liu Yuxuan, 22, generally uses Clinique and Estee Lauder, but would consider national brands that offer good value for money. “Chinese brands are more down to earth,” Liu said.
One avenue of opportunity for national brands could be to expand into color cosmetics like eye shadow, still a niche but growing segment, according to figures from JD.com and Alibaba.
“Most products for men are boring,” Hou said.
“Why don’t brands offer us more innovative products for men? Like women, I also need skin care to maintain hydration and appear white. I will buy if they are good!