Reports

    No beauty category can outpace China’s sunscreen market

    China’s sunscreen sector is growing at triple the speed of its beauty sector. How can brands get on the bandwagon?
    Image: Mistine
      Published   in Beauty

    Last year, facekinis — a full-face protection that shields wearers from UV rays — took off in China amid record-breaking temperatures across the country.

    As awareness of sun protection steadily rises among consumers, the sunscreen market in China is experiencing significant growth. Data from iiMedia Research reveals a consistent upward trajectory in the size of China’s sunscreen market, expected to soar from $2 billion (14.8 billion RMB) in 2023 to $3.1 billion (22.4 billion RMB) by 2028.

    Chris Kam, the overseas business development director at cosmetics company Better Way Asia, shares that the sunscreen market has recorded a 12 percent year-on-year growth rate in 2023, surpassing the broader cosmetics market’s rate. In 2023, cosmetic sales in China increased by 5.1 percent year-on-year in 2023 to reach $57.2 billion (414.2 billion RMB), as reported by the National Bureau of Statistics.

    China's minimalist natural beauty brand Unny Club is pioneering waterproof and sweat-proof technology. Image: Unny Club's Weibo
    China's minimalist natural beauty brand Unny Club is pioneering waterproof and sweat-proof technology. Image: Unny Club's Weibo

    Multifaceted needs#

    Unlike in the West, high sun-protection factor (SPF) products, including SPF30-50 and SPF50+ variants, dominate sales on China’s e-commerce platforms. This trend is driven by domestic consumers who prioritize effective sun protection, prompting brands to innovate and expand their SPF offerings.

    The “Sunscreen Industry 2024 White Paper,” jointly issued by Tmall Beauty, TMIC, and Flywheel, delineates three key segments driving the future trajectory of the sunscreen market: professional-grade sunscreen, skin-nourishing sunscreen, and make-up combined with sunscreen.

    “Before, consumers wanted a sunscreen that would protect them from UV light and prevent them from darkening. Today, consumers look for reduced redness, anti-aging, and blue-light protection from home devices,” says Better Way Asia’s Kam.

    This shift highlights the importance of innovation in sunscreen formulations to address multifaceted skincare needs.

    One notable advancement in sunscreen technology originates from Mistine, owned by Better Way Asia, which unveiled its upgraded self-developed ingredient, Taremi Plus, at the Skin Photobiology International Summit. Utilizing AI computational biology, this enhanced formulation provides comprehensive protection against a broader spectrum of harmful rays, including UV and high-energy visible light. By inhibiting oxidative stress, melanin production, and collagen degradation, Taremi Plus represents a significant leap in photobiological sun protection.

    Similarly, Chinese skincare brand Uniskin adopts an “external defense and internal resistance” formula, integrating antioxidant-endogenous ingredients into its Milky Shield Sunscreen formulation. This innovative approach aims to enhance the skin’s natural defense mechanisms, mitigating oxidative damage and promoting overall skin health.

    Meanwhile, China's minimalist natural beauty brand Unny Club is pioneering waterproof and sweat-proof technology, expanding the usability of sunscreen products across different environments, from daily commutes to outdoor sports and beach outings. These innovations satisfy the growing demand for versatile sun protection solutions that cater to diverse lifestyles.

    Chinese skincare brand Uniskin integrates antioxidant-endogenous ingredients into its Milky Shield Sunscreen formulation. Image: Uniskin
    Chinese skincare brand Uniskin integrates antioxidant-endogenous ingredients into its Milky Shield Sunscreen formulation. Image: Uniskin

    Personalized solutions#

    Furthermore, Chinese consumers’ sensitivity to skincare ingredients is spurring product development. Domestic brands such as Ositree, Beast from the East, and Meifubao are leading the way by prioritizing formulations tailored to sensitive skin needs.

    “Shoppers in China reject the addition of fragrance to their suncare products, as they believe scent would irritate their skin. They prefer ingredients to be as clean and natural as possible,” shares Kam with Jing Daily.

    Take Ositree’s capsule sunscreen series, for instance. By offering two specialized sunscreen formulations — one targeting whitening and the other targeting sensitive skin concerns — Ositree exemplifies the industry’s commitment to personalized skincare solutions.

    Ositree exemplifies the industry’s commitment to personalized skincare solutions. Image: Ositree's Weibo
    Ositree exemplifies the industry’s commitment to personalized skincare solutions. Image: Ositree's Weibo

    Over the last decade, consumers have been encouraged to use sunscreen products daily to protect themselves from UV rays. However, starting last year, many beauty bloggers have advocated for more sparing usage. Dong Xiaozha (@董小眨), a blogger focusing on sensitive skin, suggests, “You should not coat yourself with sunscreen daily, but only when the weather forecast shows that the UV light indicator is higher than five. Otherwise, you will risk ruining your face.”

    Another KOL, Lili (@李李呀_LiLi), shares videos teaching consumers how to correctly apply sunscreen, encouraging them to use an amount the “size of a coin” and to not apply it in small circles.

    Especially when it comes to sensitive skin, educational content on correct application methods is widely appreciated by shoppers and can help hasten their purchasing decisions.

    Looking ahead#

    The proliferation of outdoor activities and travel lifestyles is not only fueling the expansion of the sunscreen market, but it is also driving innovation within it as consumers seek out effective products tailored to their various needs, according to iiMedia Research.

    By focusing on innovation, efficacy, and customization, as well as localized marketing strategies, brands can capitalize on the burgeoning demand for sun protection solutions and outshine other beauty categories.


    • China’s sunscreen market is expected to see significant growth, from $2 billion in 2023 to $3.1 billion by 2028.
    • Three key segments will drive the future trajectory of the sunscreen market: professional-grade sunscreen, skin-nourishing sunscreen, and make-up combined with sunscreen.
    • Sharing educational content, such as how to correctly apply sunscreen, can help skincare brands acquire shoppers and hasten their purchasing decisions.
    • Beyond offering effective formulations, sunscreen labels must also create emotional value that strengthens and deepens their customers’ product memory.
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