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Chinese Beauty Spend Grows on Added Skin-Care Steps

The trend is to expand their skin-care regimen, contrary to Western markets where simplification and multifunctional products are gaining popularity.

HONG KONG — Chinese women are now using an average of six to seven steps in their daily skin-care routines — a longer grooming process than Europeans —and are looking to add more to their regimen, according to a report from OC&C Strategy Consultants.

“Typically, Europeans go through between five and six steps, and in the west, the trend has been for simplification: for multifunctional products. In China, the trend is to actually increase the number of steps,” said Pascal Martin, an OC&C partner who authored the report.

“Even in Japan, the [number] of routine steps have started to decrease a little bit, as women are putting more emphasis on practicality and they like a cream that is multifunction,” Martin said. “We haven’t seen this trend in China, it’s a very small part of the market. That’s just skin care and then they get into makeup. The overall time spent on their skin is quite long. It’s a half an hour or more.”

The report, released Wednesday, found that some respondents, especially those over 30, followed a nine-step daily routine, putting it on par with a South Korean skin-care regimen, usually estimated between eight and 12 steps.

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While it may seem at odds with the lifestyle that comes from an increasingly urbanized nation, Martin said it can be attributed, in part, to the different role beauty plays in society.

“Chinese women in their work environment want to look perfect,” Martin said. “I think that when you look at western culture, the most sophisticated cosmetics routine would be geared toward social occasions or seduction. For Chinese women, it’s not only that but also looking professional, looking perfect in their everyday work environment.”

Average spend on skin care per year was 3,600 renminbi ($572), but closer to 4,000 renminbi ($636) in first-tier cities. Close to 90 percent of respondents increased their skin-care spending in the last year.

It also revealed a preference for complete skin-care sets, with roughly 75 percent preferring that to mixing and matching multiple brands.

“Building loyalty is not an easy game. China’s skin-care consumers are always curious and tempted to try out new products and concepts that are trendy in the market,” said Veronica Wang, an associate partner at OC&C. “The first product that consumers discover in a brand, often the most famous one under that brand, can become an anchor for their trust in that brand, which will give them comfort to try other products under the same brand. This star product is key to convert and retain customers. It is therefore critical for brands to build strong star products, as it helps drive both customer acquisition and loyalty, and create longer term loyalty.”

“Our survey also showed that Chinese women form their knowledge of skin-care treatment through experimentation and brand-switching mostly before they reach the age of 25, and then settle into a more stable consumption pattern of their preferred brand set around the age of 30,” Wang said. “This means that brands have to make sure they educate Generation Z and catch Millennials at an early stage of their skin-care discovery journey.”