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Markets & trends

So different, so similar: colour cosmetics in Japan and China

If Japan has a strong influence on cosmetic trends in Asia, yet some significant differences remain between major markets in the region. Florence Bernardin, Director of market research agency Information et Inspiration, provides us with several examples concerning these make-up trends.

No doubt, the world of beauty and cosmetics has today, its eyes focused on Asia. Despite the early hour, it was before a packed audience, on the occasion of the latest edition of MakeUp in Paris, that Florence Bernardin, Director of Information et Inspiration, a marketing intelligence firm specialized in the cosmetic sector and Asian markets, presented the latest trends in the Japanese and Chinese make-up markets.

Cultural differences

Florence Bernardin

Florence Bernardin

By way of introduction, Florence Bernardin provided a brief description of these two markets, which have some similarities (demanding consumers, an abundant supply of good and even very good quality) but also many differences.

Among these, there is first a different historic relationship regarding make-up. Of course, in both countries, there is a heavy and long tradition. But, while in Japan the transition from ancient culture to modern use was made in continuity, the history of China is marked by the break due to the revolutionary period, with an interruption of intergenerational transmission.

Make-up is truly part of the daily routine of Japanese women, it plays an important social role and it is even seen as an obligation. "In Japan, women never go out without wearing make-up," explains Bernardin. While in China, women have rediscovered make-up only quite recently, as a result there is more distrust and fears concerning, firstly, the possible toxicity of products and on the other hand, concerning the image a woman would give of herself. Whether in terms of formulation or of result, the word "natural" appears to be an essential criterion in China.

These differences are reflected in figures. In Japan, make-up represents 24% of the overall cosmetic market, against 10% in China.

Different practices

Another consequence is that the Japanese woman is particularly well informed and has a thorough knowledge of products. "She is an expert at using cheap products with luxury products at the same time," emphasised Bernardin.

The Japanese ideal of beauty is quite different from the Chinese ideal. The ideal shape of the face, of the eyes (almond-shaped in Japan, large and wide in China), of the nose and lips differ greatly from one country to the other.

From all this, results of course, some very different preferences vis-à-vis the products. For Japanese women, complexion is a central concern and foundations are leaders in the make-up market (58%). In China, on the contrary, make-up products for lips are the top sellers (40%). In addition, it should be noted that 75% of young Japanese (15-30 years) use false eyelashes, to which they find a number of advantages (an ease of use, an immediate and stronger impact than that of a mascara, no risk for the product to run). This tidal wave is actually washing away the mascara market in Japan, a phenomenon not yet observed in China.

BB Creams

After presenting the characteristics of the different segments for both countries, Florence Bernardin highlighted the case of BB Creams, the latest phenomenon in the Asian cosmetic market.

What is it about? The BB Cream term is a contraction of Blemish Balm, Blemish Base or Beblesh Balm. In the beginning, this product was first used, after laser surgery, to cover, soothe and soften the skin. It is therefore a perfect example of multi-functional product.

There too, Florence Bernardin noted some significant differences between the two markets. For Chinese women , it is a make-up product, used to cover skin imperfections, correct the skin tone, and provide a "natural" result. For Japanese women on the contrary, it is a multi-functional skincare product that enables to save time because it protects the skin against UVs and can be used either as a light foundation or as a make-up base.

Freshel’s BB Cream tops five million in sales

According to Kanebo Cosmetics, BB Creams ideally address the needs of thirty- and forty-something busy modern women. Under the Freshel brand, Kanebo offers a BB Cream line with five distinct roles: beauty lotion, emulsion, cream, sunscreen, and thin cosmetic base.

Since the launch of the first item of the line in September 2009, the various versions of Freshel’s BB Cream (Freshel Moist Lift W Cream, Freshel White C W Cream UV, Freshel Moist Lift BB Cream, Freshel White C Mineral BB Cream UV) have sold a total of 5,001,996 units. [1]


[1As of June 3, 2001. Source Kanebo Cosmetics.

© 2011 - Premium Beauty News -
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