China Chic – which refers to the unique expression of Chinese culture in products and brands – has become a trendy topic. Though the concept was originally conveyed by sportswear brands like Li Ning, it has now expanded across various industries including beauty, food, fashion, gaming, and more. But perhaps the industry most influenced by China Chic is cosmetics. Online conversations about the phenomenon across social media sites, forums, and blogs have risen significantly since 2021 (as indicated by the figure below), and newly created brands like PERFECT DIARY, Huaxizi, Pechoin, and Meogeping are now among the most-mentioned Chinese beauty brands.

Figure 1 By monitoring volume of online conversations overtime, we see the emergence of China Chic

Figure 2 Classifying top brands helps us understand who is playing a leading role in the market

3 keys to success for China Chic cosmetics brands

To understand what’s driving the success and expansion of China Chic cosmetics, we analyzed the top brands through the lens of social listening. They’ve set themselves apart and reached new audiences by:

1. Delivering oriental elements in their product design and gaining social media attention with crossovers and limited version products

Different from other international brands, China Chic cosmetic brands adopt Chinese cultural elements to emphasize uniqueness and stand out among category competitors. Traditionally, Chinese features like natural landforms and local ingredients are applied to brand research and development, and play a key role in social communications. But for these makeup products, brands tend to highlight cultural elements right in their package design. Plus, online consumers have embraced special “limited editions” of cosmetic products – which has resulted in high volumes of organic social sharing.

Figure 3 Screen Shot: Brand crossovers like PERFECT DIARY Eyeshadow × CHINESE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHY have gained significant traction with consumers

 “I like this eyeshadow palette so much, the retro window grille design that is full of Chinese elements.”

2. Boosting their brand awareness though influencer marketing campaigns

The quick rise of these brands’ awareness and interest is partially attributed to their successful influencer marketing approaches. To move from unknown brand to national, household name, China Chic cosmetic brands have leveraged celebrities and relied on social authors with strong social media presences for brand promotion and to engage broader audiences. Partnering with local idols has proven to be an efficient way to not only approach target audiences, but convert them into paying customers.

Figure 4 Screen Shot: Young idol’s endorsement of PERFECT DIARY generated significant online buzz

3. Fulfilling the needs of young consumer groups with unique product features and cost-effectiveness

When looking at the primary audience of these China Chic brands, more than 90% of online discussions come from younger generations, particularly Gen Z. For them, the competitive product efficacy, good looking design, and lower costs are key purchase motivations. In general, this younger generation is prouder of Chinese culture and Chinese self-developed products, so they are more inclined to promote and share their experience with cosmetics. Makeup tutorials on social media, for example, aroused huge social impact and generated organic product recommendations to the larger online population.

Figure 5 Screen Shot: HUAXIZI Lipstick × Chinese concentric lock design

“Huaxizi has gone farther and farther on the road of making art. This is in the concentric box of Huaxizi’s new gift box. Whether the shell or the lipstick paste, it is full of Chinese style~ This is a work of art wearing a lipstick red coat!”

Next stop: China Chic cosmetics are going global

Through social listening, we can see the expansion of China Chic cosmetic brands and products across the globe. Fueled by the vigorous development of China’s cross-border e-commerce platforms, Chinese cosmetic brands can now take advantage of this new reach to expand to overseas markets.

For example, PERFECT DIARY, one of the top “C-beauty” brands, has set Southeast Asia as its international target. To knock on the doors of overseas users, the brand sells through its official website, Shopee, Lazada, and Amazon. As early as 2020, PERFECT DIARY started to operate official overseas social accounts including YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, etc., to communicate with global consumers and improve brand awareness. And to engage with new audiences in these markets, it uses localization methods including collaborating with southeast local stars like the Vietnamese singer AMEE and Malaysian influencer Joey Chua. Plus, PERFECT DIARY has developed beauty products that match local skin tones to meet the various beauty demands of users in different regions. It’s clear that these investments have paid off as the brand has now secured the top position in Southeast Asia cross-border ecommerce.

Figure 6 Screen Shot: PERFECT DIARY ranks 1st in Shopee cosmetics category in Southeast Asia

Besides PERFECT DIARY, more and more China Chic brands are receiving worldwide attention. For example, many Instagram bloggers have circulated recommendations for Maogeping, highlighting the brand’s products that exude unique Chinese charm in their quality, practicality, appearance, and packaging.

Figure 7 Screen Shot: New Zealand beauty blogger @Shannon recommends Maogeping to her followers

Now two years after the official start of “C-Beauty products going overseas” in 2020, more than 30 brands have entered the global market. As China’s cosmetics exports and development of cross-border ecommerce platforms continue to grow, we expect to see China Chic reach even further into new markets in the coming year.

For brands looking to expand overseas – or track trends in the beauty industry – Synthesio’s AI-enabled consumer intelligence platform plus expertise from the Ipsos Social Intelligence Analytics service line provide insights that are complete, accurate, and predictive. To learn more, request a demo with our team today.