Reinventing China’s ancient practice of foot baths

June 14, 2019
4 min read

In China, foot baths have long been a traditional wellbeing treatment to improve general health, due to reasons and practices relating to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

With today’s younger consumers increasingly health-conscious, this ancient treatment—which fell out of favour—is seeing a revival, especially on social media platforms where this age-old wellness remedy has been a hot topic.

This trend has spurred the creation of related products as well, such as foot bath buckets and TCM herbal blend bags to add to water (which are selling well on China’s e-tail platform Taobao).

Here, we take a look at how brands can ignite more interest in foot baths among China’s young consumers.

Modernise textures and formats

Most existing foot bath products are still sold in traditional formats, such as herbal bags, powders or salts, with a heavy focus on the bathing or soaking process. In this light, brands can experiment and update product formats to improve their overall image.

To differentiate, companies and brands should develop new products that cater to the whole foot care routine, as well as consider ones that use modern textures to make foot care more convenient and effective.

Label Young Shocking Foot Bath Essence, South Korea (Source: Mintel GNPD)
Label Young’s Shocking Foot Bath Essence, for instance, is a 2-in-1 foot care product that combines a foot bath (soaking process) and essence (aftercare). To use as a foot bath, users are required to spray the product five to eight times into hot water and then immerse their feet in the water for 15 minutes to remove dead skin. As an aftercare, users need to sprinkle evenly on dry skin and wrap their skin in a warm towel.

Cross-category opportunities

A relaxing foot bath is more than just a daily healthcare routine; it is an indulgent moment of ‘me time’. China is currently embracing a ‘oneconomy’ and experiencing big changes to society and traditional values. In addition, solo consumption is expected to have an unprecedented impact on behavioral patterns—a movement that is highlighted in Mintel’s 2019 Global Beauty and Personal Care Trend ‘You 2.0’.

As such, foot baths can offer solitary indulgence and brands should go beyond their traditional confines and seek more cross-category opportunities to transform the ritual into an experience for self-optimisation. The foot bath moment can be integrated with other fast-moving consumer goods categories, such as facial skincare, books and aromatherapy products.

Linglong Solitude Box, China (Source:
Linglong(玲珑) is a vertical, female-led fashion business that promotes self-optimisation for women in China. The brand offers a Solitude Box (独处盒子) which is a gift box that features either a fashion or culture book and wine. This idea of a gift box made especially for solitary moments can bring inspiration to foot bath players, particularly as products from all types of categories can be linked to the ritual of solitude that a foot bath brings.

Sparking innovation with water-saving concerns

The traditional foot bath takes the form of a large bucket of water, but this is no longer feasible amid growing concerns around water usage. As it is, regular foot baths are not an easy habit to stick to as they are time-consuming. As well, the use of large volumes of water is expensive and bad for the environment.

This opens up opportunities for companies and brands to explore alternative solutions that will give the same effects of a traditional foot bath but with less water waste. In fact, we are seeing plenty of innovation in this area including the growth of steam foot bath machines.

Netease Yeation Steaming Foot Bath Machine (Source:
China’s e-tailing platform Netease Yeaton launched a private-label foot bath that steams the feet instead of soaking them, and in doing so, just 160ml of water is needed for a 20-minute foot bath. In fact, the traditional bucket foot bath is being challenged by clever innovation which includes water-saving foot bath boots which also help to massage while soaking the feet.

Water-saving foot bath boots (Source:

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Laurie Du
Laurie Du

Laurie is Mintel’s Senior Beauty Analyst based in Shanghai. She provides insights on the Chinese beauty market, consumer behavioural trends and new product development.

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