China Suncare Trend

I. Rapid rotation

  • Suncare refers to functional products with the special purpose of ‘blocking UV rays’ and suggests a wide range of choices depending on the strength and the method of blocking. The usage of vocabularies such as SPF and PA makes it even more difficult for consumers to choose the right products for them.
  • Various types of textures are offered as well: ranging from creams to gels, sticks, sprays and so on.
  • Due to this variety of products, suncare category boasts a rapid product rotation among others.

II. Suncare in China now

Table1. Top 10 suncare brands on May 2019 vs. May 2018

Source: MeasureCommerce | MeasureChina
  • Looking into the Top 10 products in May 2019 and May 2018, the followings are especially noticeable.
  1. The number of overseas brands in Top 10 products lists increased from 4 in May last year to 6 in May this year
  2. Most of the sunscreen products in Top 10 ranking list last year used synthetic methods to block UV rays, whereas this year more products took mixed(synthetic + mineral) methods.
  3. Overseas brands tend to choose a mixed approach.

Figure1. Revenue of suncare product by product type

Source: MeasureCommerce | MeasureChina

1. Texture

  • Currently, the most commonly used texture in suncare products is sun cream and sun spray. Four out of the Top 10 products in May 2018 and three in May 2019 were sun spray products. Most of the sprays are from local brands.
  • However, if we look at the sales trends by texture, sun spray’s popularity seems to be winding down. Sales revenue of sun creams in May 2019 grew +72.8%, yoy and the market share of sun cream out of total suncare category grew from 47.5% to 62.3%. On the other hand, the growth rate of sun spray has already started to decline(-27.0%, yoy).
  • Sales revenue of sun gels showed slight growth(+8.6%, yoy). Sun sticks grew 91.7%, yoy but considering the small market size(0.1% of total suncare category), it is not yet significant.

2. Method of blocking UV rays

  • Currently most suncare products sold in the local market use a synthetic or mixed-method.
  • Suncare products that use a synthetic method often involve stickiness or harmful ingredients. With rising awareness on ingredients, we expect the suncare trend to move from synthetic to mineral method. In the meantime, the ‘mixed’ method will be the most popular form.

III. Korea’s increased interest on the method of UV blocking

  • Korean consumers have shown increased interest toward the method of UV blocking. In recent years, mineral(physical/inorganic) sunscreens have become especially more popular, as opposed to synthetic(chemical/organic) sunscreens in the past. The preference for mineral sunscreens is becoming even stronger with the perception that mineral method contains less harmful ingredients to the skin.
  • Below is the timeline that shows the number of Naver blog postings that includes the keyword ‘Mineral sunscreen.’ The number has been doubling since 2015.

Figure2. Number of Naver blog postings on ‘mineral sunscreen’

Source: Naver blog search result
  • Meanwhile, there seems to be a prominent change in preferred sunscreen texture in Korea. Sun spray, which was very popular in early 2010, is showing a downturn; sun stick and sun gel are particularly popular recently. Sun cream, being the most representative and loved texture by consumers, shows steady growth.

Figure3. Number of Naver blog postings on respective suncare product type

Source: Naver blog search result
  • Many Korean brands now focus on releasing mineral sunscreen products. They specifically mark on the container and packaging that the product blocks UV rays using ‘mineral’ method (Innisfree, Dr.G, etc.).
  • This is a distinctive change from sunscreen products that were released only a decade ago, which focused on whitening or light weight texture(all three products below were actively marketed and sold in 2008).
  • Considering the similarity between the consumers of Korea and China, and the familiar trend in suncare texture, the demand for mineral sunscreens in the local market is likely to rise within the next few years.

IV. Future suncare products in the local market

  • In China, there is a growing awareness on the importance of cosmetics ingredients. One of the most famous KOLs in China, Li Jiaqi recently presented in his Taobao live broadcast several skincare products that were verified by the Korean app ‘Hwahae.’ He mentioned that the app identifies each ingredient used in the product and that he only recommends the ones that are proven to be safe.
  • Many local consumers are already paying attention to SPF level or whitening function when purchasing suncare products. With growing interest in cosmetics ingredients, we expect to witness a preference for mineral sunscreens in the near future in China.
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