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The facial mask segment is a rising star in the facial skincare category in China for reasons of convenience, personalisation and premiumisation. However, new Mintel research* reveals that facial masks with a cleaning function are experiencing an upswing in usage due to the rising concerns surrounding air pollution, as one third (32%) of urban Chinese consumers say they are most concerned about pollution. In fact, 36% of urban Chinese women used facial masks with a cleaning function in 2017, increasing to 40% in 2018. Cleansing facial masks are most popular among younger females as more than half (54%) of females aged 20-24 say they use them today, compared to 34% of females aged 40-49.

Brands are seizing this opportunity to launch masks with a cleaning claim, which occupied 13% of new product launches in 2016, rising to 15% in 2017, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD).

Vicky Zhou, Beauty Research Analyst at Mintel, said,

”Many consumers consider pollution as a main reason for skin damage, indicating that they are realising the importance of anti-pollution products. However, while we’ve seen some pioneering brands, mostly from overseas, educate consumers about the harmful effects of air pollution to the skin, and innovating with anti-pollution facial masks, local brands in China have yet to utilise the anti-pollution claim. Meanwhile, facial masks with a cleaning function are more desired by Chinese consumers and brands. Thus, there’s an opportunity for brands to differentiate the anti-pollution function and invest in ingredients to raise consumers’ awareness about anti-pollution products.

Mintel research reveals that the facial mask market in China has grown with a value CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 30% between 2012-17, reaching RMB 21,055 million in 2017. This compares to the 11.9% growth seen in the total facial skincare market over the same time period.

Mintel research indicates that facial mask brands from Asia are most often used by urban Chinese consumers, while local brands make up the top three—Pechoin (17%), One Leaf (15%) and Unifon (14%). Research from Early Data, Mintel’s joint venture partner specialising in e-commerce business intelligence, reveals the most popular online purchasing channel for facial masks in China is Tmall, contributing nearly 40% of total online value sales. Meanwhile, One Leaf, MG, Unifon, Mask Family and Pechoin are the top five mask brands in terms of value sales on Tmall**.

“While the facial mask category shows potential, it has not yet developed into a dominated market. Brands face fierce competition from domestic brands, cross-category brands and international brands. Online channels not only help local brands win fans, but also help international brands better connect with consumers. Moreover, we are seeing some niche brands use social media to target the Chinese market.” Zhou continued.

Finally, male consumers present a new growth opportunity for the facial mask market in China. Male consumers possess nearly the same awareness about facial skincare ingredients as female consumers do, such as awareness of collagen: 68% of male consumers have heard of or purchased collagen products, while 72% of female consumers say the same. Additionally, more male consumers (55%) have heard of essential oil than female consumers (52%).

“We are seeing a trend of men becoming more and more involved in the beauty and personal care market, whether voluntarily or they are being encouraged by their spouses or friends. Brands have begun to educate male consumers about the importance of skincare, resulting in increased new product development tailored for men’s unique skin conditions. We predict this new launch activity will continue to increase.” Zhou concluded.

*Research was conducted in January 2018 among 3,000 Chinese consumers aged 20-49 in tier 1-3 cities.
**Early Data research conducted in December 2017.

Press review copies of Mintel’s Facial Masks China 2018 report and interviews with Vicky Zhou, Beauty Research Analyst, are available on request from the press office.