Cosmetics Products in China: Characteristics of Male Consumers
14 April 2016
As consumption levels in mainland China continue to rise and the country’s international business ties develop, looks increasingly matter at work. In light of this, the growth potential of the mainland skincare and cosmetics products market should not be underestimated. Many Chinese men today are not only using skincare products but are buying cosmetics products (such as BB cream or concealer) which offer facial enhancement benefits. According to Euromonitor International’s estimates, retail sales in the mainland men’s skincare and cosmetics products market will grow at an average annual rate of 13.5% during 2016-2019, much higher than the global average of 5.8%, to top RMB1.9 billion in 2019.
In order to get a good understanding of the characteristics and development trends of China’s skincare and cosmetics products market, HKTDC Research conducted a series of company visits, consumer focus group discussions and an online questionnaire survey between October and December 2015 (see Appendix for details). The survey covered an in-depth study into the spending mentality, consumer preferences, purchase considerations, and purchase channels of mainland consumers of skincare and cosmetics products. This article examines the spending mentality and preferences of mainland male consumers in buying cosmetics products.
Defining Male Makeup
As revealed by participants in the focus group discussions, society has different perceptions of makeup usage by men and women. While female makeup is widely accepted, male makeup (e.g. wearing eyeliner and lipstick) is not. Hence, this survey defines male makeup mainly as facial enhancement, such as concealing facial defects (e.g. pockmarks and bags under the eyes) in order to have a cleaner, more polished look.
Male Makeup More Acceptable to Women Than Men
The questionnaire survey , found that more female respondents than males find men wearing makeup acceptable. Both male and female respondents were asked the question “What is your attitude towards men wearing makeup such as BB cream to make their skin look cleaner?”. Among the women surveyed, 28% said they “totally accept it and would encourage my male friends to do so”; while only 21% of all the men surveyed say they “totally accept it and would encourage my male friends to do so”.
By age group, the more mature male respondents were less receptive to men putting on makeup, with 45% of the male respondents aged 31-45 saying that they “cannot accept it for the time being”. Only 13% of the female respondents aged 31-45 said they “cannot accept it for the time being”.
Male Makeup Mainly Used to Improve Appearance
Society in general is rather conservative when it comes to men wearing makeup. However, as well-groomed male actors from Korea have taken the mainland by storm, male respondents participating in the focus group discussions said they would use such products as BB cream or concealer to enhance their facial appearance in order to make themselves look fresher or conceal acne/pimple marks on their face. They also stressed, however, that they do not want people to notice they have put on makeup. Overall, 5% of male respondents indicated they would “make up every day”, while 29% would “wear makeup on an as-required basis”, and the majority (66%) “do not use any makeup”. The proportion of young respondents (aged 20-30) wearing makeup is higher than that of more mature respondents (aged 31-45).
Since the main purpose of men wearing makeup is to make their skin look smoother and cleaner, the cosmetics used are mostly foundation products and the steps required are also relatively simple. Overall, respondents said they use 1.6 products on average every day, with sunblock (36%) and BB cream (30%)  being the most used items. A small percentage of male respondents (16%) would use specialised makeup remover to remove their makeup.
Among all male respondents, 29% said they would only “wear makeup on an as-required basis”, which is most likely to be for meetings with business clients or banquets. The types of cosmetics they use on an as-required basis are similar to those most used daily, with foundation and makeup remover being the main items.
Men Wear Makeup To Look Better and Boost Confidence
The survey shows that most of the male respondents (54%) who wear makeup admit that the main reason for doing so is to “look better and boost confidence”. For young respondents, the motive for wearing makeup is more related to the pursuit of “beauty”, while mature respondents are more likely to wear it because of necessity in work situations and because they are influenced by other people.
Brand: The Main Consideration for Men in Buying Cosmetics
Male respondents participating in the focus group discussions said they believe that society in general frowns on men wearing makeup and that they themselves seldom exchange information on cosmetics with other people. For this reason, most would only buy brands that they are familiar with. Currently, not many cosmetics brands on the mainland market offer men’s lines, while those that do offer mainly BB/CC cream and sunblock. Men tend to know about brands’ cosmetics products through knowing first about their skincare products.
The survey finds that male respondents’ top three considerations in buying cosmetics are: “brand” (75%), “word of mouth” (62%) and “product benefits/efficacy” (50%). While young respondents place more emphasis on the “brand” and “product benefits/efficacy”, more mature respondents attach more importance to “word of mouth” and “price”.
Men’s “Passive” Loyalty towards Cosmetics Brand
In the survey, 31% of male respondents said they only purchase cosmetics from one to two brands, compared to only 17% of female respondents who do the same . Male participants in the focus group discussions point out that the small number of male cosmetics lines available has limited their choice, which also helps to explain why when they find the right brand they are likely to stick to it. However, as men seldom exchange information on cosmetics with other people, they can be easily be persuaded to make new purchases when brand promoters recommend new brands/products to them. Based on this observation, men’s cosmetics brand loyalty can be described as “passive”, which is similar to their attitude towards skincare products (for details, please see Skincare Products in China: Characteristics of Male Consumers).
Male Cosmetics Lines Appeal to Consumers
Women have traditionally been the target consumers of the cosmetics industry and not many products specifically for men have tended to be available. The survey shows that the factor that most attracts male respondents to buy a new cosmetics brand is the launch of “products meeting a specific makeup need”, followed by “new product types” and “new product forms”. The proportion of young respondents buying new cosmetics brands because of “promotional offers” and “attractive gifts” is higher than that of mature respondents. This is probably due to the fact that the purchasing power of young respondents is more limited, which makes offers and gifts more attractive to them. By comparison, mature respondents are more easily influenced by “recommendation by family and friends” and “attractive ads” when they buy a new cosmetics brand.
Men’s Most-Purchased Cosmetics Brands: Mainland and European
Among male respondents who use cosmetics, the most-bought cosmetics brands are from the mainland (38%) and Europe (20%). It is interesting to note that the proportion of young respondents buying Korean brands is considerably higher than that of mature respondents, while mature respondents buy considerably more US brands than young respondents.
Male consumers’ main considerations when buying cosmetics products are: “guaranteed quality/good word of mouth” (68%) and “good value for money” (62%). The survey finds that the primary consideration of respondents in purchasing mainland cosmetics brands is “good value for money” (83%), while the primary consideration in buying foreign brands is “guaranteed quality/good word of mouth”. It is worth noting that among male respondents who mostly purchase Korean brands, their rating of Korean cosmetics products is high and that the proportion of mature respondents buying Korean brands is higher than the overall average.
Currently, society remains rather conservative when it comes to men wearing makeup. However, as the mainland is increasingly influenced by seeing well-groomed Korean actors in films and television, more young men indicate they are using cosmetics products such as BB cream or concealer to enhance their facial appearance. Of the different types of cosmetics available, men mostly use foundation and sunscreen products. “Brand” and “word-of-mouth” are their main considerations in buying cosmetics. Due to the paucity of male cosmetics lines available on the market, when male consumers find the right brand, they tend to stick to it. However, when a new cosmetics brand enters the mainland market, it is likely to stimulate demand from male consumers if it can offer specialised products for men. Meanwhile, brands can also modify the packaging and design of their products, by using neutral colours and simple design, for example, in order to attract male consumers.
 The questionnaire survey covered 2,400 female respondents and 800 male respondents.
 Findings of the online questionnaire survey show that among all the 800 male respondents, 269 of them use makeup. This article only analyses the data of these male respondents who use makeup.
 For details, please see Cosmetics Products in China: Characteristics of Female Consumers.
- Health & Beauty
- Mainland China
- Mainland China