Opinion: What brands need to know about China’s changing beauty landscape

    China International Beauty Expo CEO Lin Lin Jacobs reveals the key drivers, trends and consumer changes shaping China’s beauty industry as the fair turns 35 this year.
    Image: Courtesy of Lin Lin Jacobs
    Lin LinCEO of China International Beauty Expo
      Published   in Beauty

    I saw a profound leap in beauty technologies that deliver solution-driven products at the September edition of our China International Beauty Expo (CIBE) in Guangzhou. Brands are embracing artificial intelligence (AI) and tech to enhance product experience, reducing wastage for higher customer value.

    Home-use beauty appliances for everyday facial exercise, skin boosts and hair growth are being expanded out of professional scenarios.

    This year is CIBE’s 35th anniversary. Ma Ya, my mother, launched the first beauty trade show in China on 20 August 1989. It was a time when a simple lipstick could do wonders for a Chinese girl. We have passed a few milestones since then.

    After my mother lobbied the National People’s Congress between 2010 to 2016, the State Tax Administration removed the value added tax on general cosmetic products and implemented a 50% deduction for luxury cosmetic products on 14 October 2016.

    The same year I joined CIBE, we started our domestic expansion. We now hold over 12 conventions in Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, showcasing products and services covering the beauty and cosmetics, medical, fertility and sexual wellness, 50+ care, healthcare and supplements segments.

    Image: Courtesy of Lin Lin
    Image: Courtesy of Lin Lin

    Digital boost#

    Attitudes to beauty have changed drastically in China over the past few years.

    Today’s women celebrate various skin colors and features. At the same time, makeup skills are being widely shared as tools to pursue freedom and express identities.

    It’s liberating to see modern Chinese women educating themselves on skin, body, sexual, and mental health by experimenting with beauty products that go beyond a surface level.

    While social platforms and KOLs are influential in the Chinese beauty market, the co-existence of platforms like Douyin, Xiaohongshu, WeChat, and the diversity of social sales channels are what make China’s direct-to-consumer market so exciting. Any of these social platforms and KOLs standing alone would not make such an interesting and energetic social selling ecosystem – it’s the mix that creates the magic.

    There’s been a lot of talk about the rise of homegrown Chinese beauty brands and whether they threaten the dominance of Western brands. I see this as inevitable progress as I grew up witnessing the Chinese beauty product supply chain and manufacturers produce, adjust and innovate rapidly to fulfill the global market demand over the past 35 years.

    Image: Courtesy of Lin Lin
    Image: Courtesy of Lin Lin

    Rising tide#

    I don’t believe that beauty business progress presents a threat. Beauty and wellness experiences are great communication tools for finding common ground and sharing cultures. My next milestone will be taking Chinese innovations to the rest of the world via our platforms.

    Of the big international brands, some have succeeded with Chinese female consumers and others haven’t. In my opinion, SK11, Mac, and Tom Ford are anchor brands under Estée Lauder that successfully entered the Chinese market, but failed to engage in product innovation and tailor their messaging to the lives of well-informed and inquisitive Chinese female audiences.

    The key driver for the future of beauty in China is to simplify, educate, and entertain with products and brand experiences that are momentarily therapeutic for our complex and demanding species.

    As told to Jing Zhang

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