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New research from Mintel reveals that two-thirds (66%) of urban Chinese consumers aged 20-49 who experience skin conditions say lifestyle is a top factor causing their facial skin conditions, followed by an endocrine disorder (47%) and environmental pollution (45%). Due to the traditional mindset, these consumers are more likely to modify their lifestyle (72%) and pay more attention to daily facial skincare (71%) before taking any extra measures to treat their skin conditions. Meanwhile, 86% of male skin condition sufferers claim they don’t take any measures, allowing it to heal on its own, compared to just 3% of female skin condition sufferers.

Products designed to manage specific skin issues have a long history of development in China, but the cosmeceuticals industry only just started gaining momentum over the past few years. So far, only 38% of urban Chinese consumers* use cosmeceuticals to improve their skin conditions.

The most common skin conditions of urban Chinese consumers are not all the same for men as for women. Acne is the main concern of males (45% vs 38% among females), while they are less likely to report dark spots/pigments (24% vs 36% among females).

Alice Li, research analyst at Mintel, said, “Minor skin conditions seem to be no big deal for Chinese consumers. The majority of them don’t bother to use specialised products or take medicines to treat their skin conditions. In order to broaden the consumer base and usage frequencies, cosmeceuticals need to promote more preventative usage by positioning the products as a holistic approach to maintaining healthy skin, or address lifestyle factors, such as stress or lack of sleep, which is regarded as the number one cause of skin conditions in China, according to our research.”

Generally speaking, domestic cosmeceuticals are different from Western cosmeceuticals (normally known as dermocosmetics). Domestic products focus on treating specific skin conditions, usually with traditional Chinese medicine or herbal medicine; while dermocosmetics is tied to dermatology.

In China, there is a growing trend of skincare products claiming to be dermatologically tested, growing from 3.3% of new product launches in 2015 to 8.9% in 2017, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD); meanwhile, the ‘for sensitive skin’ claim is also on the rise as it was featured in 12% of new product launches in 2017, even exceeding similar launches in Japan in 2017 (10.4%).

“As Chinese consumers highly value scientific data and endorsement from professional institutes to support product quality, dermatologically tested claims could help local brands build a professional and effective image,” Li added.

What’s more, cosmeceuticals are perceived as milder than general skincare products by 66% of respondents* and 74% agree it’s essential that cosmeceuticals contain enough effective ingredients. While 60% agree cosmeceuticals formulated with fewer ingredients are safer, nearly the same percentage (62%) of respondents are concerned that long-term usage of cosmeceuticals may result in dependence.

“Our research shows that urban Chinese consumers have two equally important, yet potentially competing demands for skincare product ingredients; they need a star ingredient to demonstrate efficacy and as few chemicals as possible at the same time. Cosmeceutical brands could highlight their safety and mildness compared with general facial skincare products, and the positive impacts they have on maintaining healthy skin. Brands also have to do more to change the image that long-term usage may result in dependence,” Li concluded.

*3,000 internet users in tier 1-3 cities aged 20-49; survey conducted November 2017.

Interviews with Alice Li, Research Analyst at Mintel, are available on request from the press office.