Beauty is no longer a market intended for women only. In Asia, there is an intensification of male beauty on several levels. For one, men are increasingly employed to promote beauty products. They become brand ambassadors for products aimed at women and the results are quite surprising. Second, the consumption of beauty products by and for men is also experiencing a strong growth with the emergence of specific offers or brands.
Male beauty ambassadors
Male ambassadors is a real thing in Asia and you can find countless number of collaborations between beauty brands and K-pop idols or drama celebrities (the latest to date is between Korean brand Cosrx and drama actor Kim Soo Hyun).
In China, there is an expression that could be translated by « Fresh Little Meat ». It is a term used to describe handsome young males and is most commonly used for celebrities, particularly rising stars. These celebrities have become very in-demand to endorse luxury skincare and make-up brands, becoming local ambassadors. In the last few years, a few collaborations went viral showing that men are as legitimate as women to promote skincare and makeup brands.
Chinese pop idol Fan Cheng Cheng was chosen as the face of Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty range. The Nine Percent member and younger brother of actress Fan Bing Bing was named as the spokesperson for the cosmetics brand in China on September, 2019 and the, then, 19-year-old artist uploaded a picture of himself modeling the makeup range on his Weibo that went viral.
Xiao Zhan, also known as Sean Xiao, is a Chinese actor and singer. He is a member of the male idol group X NINE and he received recognition for his roles in the dramas Oh! My Emperor (2018) and The Untamed (2019). In July 2020, Olay announced a 24-hour sale of a celebrity gift box for the Qixi festival (aka Chinese Valentine’s Day), which sold out in minutes.
Li Xian is a Chinese actor best known for his roles in the dramas Who Sleeps My Bro (2016), Medical Examiner Dr. Qin (2017), Tientsin Mystic (2018) and Go Go Squid! (2019). Estee Lauder’s official Weibo post on its collaboration with Li Xian was shared more that 430,000 times with more than 30K comments.
Male beauty consumption
These male ambassadors and influencers are leading the change, and men in Asia have changed their attitude toward skincare and makeup. For instance, the average Korean man uses about 13 cosmetic products on a monthly basis. Men using skincare and makeup is becoming more accepted and if the terms used are slightly different (we talk about grooming rather than skincare), the market in Asia-Pacific is forecasted to reach US$25.9 Billion by the year 2027 (source : ReportLinker).
Brands launching makeup dedicated to men are very popular in the region, showing that there is a real demand for products designed and formulated especially for men. Makeup for men started with brands offering foundations and concealers to help cover blemishes in a very subtle, imperceptible way. The idea was to get a no-makeup makeup look to enhance the skin. Nowadays, color cosmetics is a thing, with nail polish, eyeshadow or lipstick products developed and aimed to men. It is ok to wear colorful makeup and men can sport it more openly
Gen Z and Millennials across Asia, similarly to the western world, are also becoming more sensitive to the notion of gender and are looking for more inclusivity and blurred frontiers. This movement has several roots. A social one, where more people express a desire to remain flexible about their gender identity rather than committing to a single definition. A political one, where governments themselves are raising the question of genders as an answer to inequality issues between women and men (mainly in the west for now). And an economical one, where demand for gender-neutral products from men and women alike has never been so strong.
As a result male beauty can, and will, only keep on growing and companies willing to benefit from this shift in consumption will have to adapt. They can create products that are directed to men specifically or develop a genderless offer that will appeal to both men and women.