After a 2020 year marked by an 11.8% drop, the first since 2009, exports of made in France perfumes, cosmetics and toiletries were on the rise again in 2021 to reach EUR 16.2 billion, according to French customs figures. With an increase of 22.5% compared to 2020, the French cosmetics industry posted the best performance across all sectors. Not only has the pre-pandemic level been regained, but exports have increased by a further 2.5% compared to 2019.

Although imports also increased in 2021 (+24%), the trade balance, however, exceeds the outstanding level reached in 2019 and the cosmetics industry ranks in the top 3 contributors to France’s positive foreign trade balance, with a balance of EUR12.9 bn, behind aeronautics (EUR30.8 bn) and wines and spirits, (EUR14.6 bn).

Record growth rates in China and the United States

The EU and Asia together account for almost 2/3 of French cosmetics exports.

With EUR 1.9 bn or 11.7% of exported goods, China is the leading country of destination for French exports. After a 2020 year already marked by a sharp increase (+20.4%), due in particular to the substitution of purchases previously made during trips to France, the acceleration in exports (+28.9%) in 2021 attests to the attractiveness of French cosmetics, particularly make-up, for Chinese consumers. For instance, France currently exports more than one in three lipsticks to China.

The United States follows in second place, with EUR1.8 bn or 11.2% of total exports. Growth was again robust in 2021, particularly in the perfume category, which grew by 66% compared to 2020. In third place comes Germany with €1.5 bn or 9.5% of total exports.

In contrast, in Russia and Brazil, two countries where sales have fallen by around 22% since 2019, partly because of their economic situation, exports are down.

The Middle East is also experiencing a drop (-5.7% compared to 2019), mainly due to the standstill in air traffic and consequently travel retail because of the pandemic.

Colour cosmetics, skincare and perfumes

The make-up, skincare and perfume categories are the most dynamic in terms of exports. Together they represent 86.2% of total sales of French cosmetics abroad.

Perfumery alone, with 30.6% of French cosmetic exports, posted the highest growth in 2021: +35.4% compared to the previous year.

Make-up and skincare together account for €9 bn or 55.6% of exports. Skincare products rank first (€7.5 bn), followed by lipsticks and eye make-up products.

According to the French trade association representing cosmetic manufacturers (FEBEA), these figures confirm France’s position as the world leader in cosmetics, a country whose know-how is recognised throughout the world.

"The cosmetics industry is proving its impressive ability to bounce back from the health crisis," says Emmanuel Guichard, Delegate-General of the FEBEA. "It took advantage of course, of the market upturn, but also innovated to meet new consumer expectations. Companies of all sizes play a part in these good export figures, large groups but also many small companies which, thanks to their dynamism, are also champions of the Made in France label. Since the onset of the crisis, demand for more natural and environmentally friendly products has increased. It is because the sector meets these expectations and invests heavily in R&D that it can perform so well throughout the world."

According to the FEBEA, the cosmetics industry employs more than 160,000 people in France.