Chinese consumers are no longer focusing just on facial skincare, but grooming themselves from head to toe. They now recognize body care as an essential component of their self-care rituals.
From May 2022 to April 2023, the sales of body care products on Tmall and Taobao exceeded 7.2 billion (52 billion RMB), outperforming the beauty and skincare category. On lifestyle platform Xiaohongshu, searches for “body care” (身体护理) increased by 750 percent year on year in March this year. Searches for “facial skincare” (面部护理) increased only by 56 percent YoY.
As the post-1990s generations become the main consumers of shampoo and hair care products, China’s body care market has seen consumers grow increasingly picky about the effects of the products they buy, as well as their texture and fragrance.
Visible skin improvements are the priority. However, homegrown consumers also seek mental and physical wellness from their body care routines. For these young shoppers, self-care rituals reflect their lifestyle. An ordinary bottle of cleansing shower gel, or moisturizing body lotion bought from the supermarket no longer satisfies their needs.
As a result, local C-beauty brands are upgrading their products’ functional and emotional value.
Although the Chinese market has been crowded with high-end international beauty and niche fragrance players like Chanel, Byredo, and Jo Malone, their brands’ body care lines are not intensely marketed. They are not core business drivers, but rather complement the brands’ makeup and perfume categories. Additionally, their body care offerings are limited in terms of variety and functionality and may have prohibitive price points.
A roller coaster of emerging C-beauty body care brands has emerged in light of the fast-moving consumer trends and rising expectations towards personal care. These homegrown labels position themselves in the premium category (compared to fast-consumption goods on supermarket shelves) and attract local consumers by leveraging the guochao wave by including Chinese aesthetic elements and cultural references.
These brands have quickly engaged young customers by elevating the body care products’ facets, from functionality to unique visual packaging and relatively affordable prices.
For instance, Chillmore (且悠), a homegrown scented body care label based on natural ingredients for sensitive skin, was founded in 2020 and has swiftly become one of China’s popular body care brands. It caters to a diversified audience by offering a wide range of products — shower gel, body lotion, body oil, deodorant, hand creams, hair mask, and lip oil.
Its signature body oil product retails for 33 (239 RMB) for 120ml, and the deodorant costs 16.5 (119 RMB). Its moody, oriental scent instantly immerses consumers in a Chinese poetic vibe. Packaging also plays a vital role in attracting young consumers nowadays. Chillmore’s is minimalist yet luxurious, reflecting its positioning.
Besides basic cleaning and moisturizing functions, skincare brands have further developed their body care lines to include facial care ingredients of proven efficacy, and spa-level body treatments, in a trend known as ‘skinification’.
According to the China Household Chemicals Industry Association’s China Body Skin Care White Paper 2023, “The demands for body care are similar to the facial skin care users’ demands for moisturizing, brightening, and anti-aging.”
This summer, China’s hyaluronic acid supplier Bloomage Biotech launched X Lab, a new generation functional body care label, and a hydrating shower gel containing patented hyaluronic acids to achieve a similar hydrating effect as its facial cleanser.
C-beauty brand Huko also created two hand care products that cater to the buzzy Xiaohongshu skincare routine called “morning C, night A” (早C晚A), which refers to applying vitamin C kincare products in the morning and retinol at night.
In recent years, “nourishing skin with oil” (以油养肤) has become a buzz skincare trend following “morning C, night A”. It has also expanded from facial care to body care.
With the arrival of winter, oil-based shower gel has become a category with great potential because of its dual function of cleansing and nourishing the skin thanks to its oil-soluble formula.
The shower oil gel market is still nascent. The competition is relatively limited, offering a blue ocean of opportunities. The top sellers in this category are still international brands such as L’Occitane and Bioderma.
But local brands are quickly catching up. Kokomi and Bathfeel launched a water and oil dual-phase mist spray, combining plant essential oils with hydrosols and fruit acids to gently clean cuticles and moisturize the skin. Chinese bath brand Rever offers shower oil products for different skin types.
With the upgraded demand for personal care in the post-pandemic era, body skincare has become a new symbol of self-love and self-pleasure for sophisticated young Chinese consumers. The trend is here to stay.
The Updated Personal Care White Paper 2022 released by CBNData and Tmall shows that more than 80 percent of respondents are paying more attention to their hair and body care routines. According to iResearch data, body and hair care is the second largest category in China’s beauty market, with a total market volume of about 11 billion (80 billion RMB).
Juliette Duveau is founder at The Chinese Pulse is a creative marketing agency, dedicated to the Chinese contemporary market and specialized in the fashion, beauty, luxury, and lifestyle industries.