updated 20 Feb 2011, 12:16
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Mon, Jan 10, 2011
China Daily/Asia News Network
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What men also want
by Yu Tianyu

It started with just a few cosmetics stolen from his wife, but before long Terry Ben Shiyuan was using facial toners, cleansing milk and moisturizers every morning.

"And that's just the tip of the iceberg," says the 39-year-old Beijing executive. "I use mud masks and have weekly facial scrubs, and use concealer to hide the dark circles around my eyes and foundation if my skins looks wan."

Ben is among the many du shi yu nan - "city jade men", the Chinese term for metrosexuals - who have transformed China into a key market for men's cosmetics.

Sales of men's health and beauty products in China were set to overtake North America in 2010 and will probably grow about five times faster until 2014, according to consultants Euromonitor International.

The dynamic growth is being fueled by the fact that "Chinese men have become more comfortable with buying their own grooming products", says Euromonitor analyst Kevin Zhu.

"They no longer have to borrow cosmetics from their wives or girlfriends."

Sociologists say that confidence has also coincided with a greater desire to impress in the workplace.

Data released by consultancy firm CTR suggests almost 40 percent of urban men used skincare products or cosmetics in the first half of 2010, including more than 60 percent of businessmen.

"Taking care of your appearance is absolutely not feminine behavior, especially for old people like me in industries dominated by young and energetic people," says Ben, a senior manager at a social networking company, who admits to using Lancome mascara before important meetings and presentations.

"Looking good helps me win appreciation, especially when I'm working with young staff members," he adds.

"It also shows my business partners that I'm serious and detail-orientated, with a spirit for innovation."

Cosmetics also come in handy for jobseekers looking to make an impression on prospective employers.

Although appearance only accounts for 20 to 30 percent at an interview, "when candidates are extremely similar in terms of capabilities, good looks can become key factor", says Judy Zhu, a manager at Career International Consulting who specializes in the high-tech sector.

Expert cosmetic advice is now offered to city jade men in many lifestyles magazines, including offshoots of popular global fashion publications like Bazaar Men's Style published by Trends and Conde Nast's GQ China.

"We run one feature story about men's cosmetics every issue," Zou Wen, an editor at GQ China, says in a Bloomberg news report. "Reader feedback from the Internet tells us they want two to three such articles."

Whatever the motivation, the more time Chinese men spend in front of the mirror, the better it gets for the cosmetics industries' major players.

The men's skincare market in China was estimated to be worth $269.6 million (S$452.4 million) in 2010, slightly higher than the $227.4 million in North America.

According to Euromonitor's forecasts, the Chinese market will see annual growth of 29 percent between 2009 and 2014, compared to 5.7 percent in North America and 7.9 percent in Europe.

L'Oreal SA, the world's largest cosmetics company, introduced Biotherm Homme to China in 2003, before marketing its popular Men Expert three years later. The product retails for more than 100 yuan (S$19.50). Euromonitor figures show L'Oreal claimed a 32-percent share of the Chinese market in 2009.

"We estimate that the men's cosmetics sector has grown at twice the rate of the total beauty market in China," says Alexis Perakis-Valat, chief executive of L'Oreal China, "and it's only the beginning."

"Chinese men are modern and do not have any taboo," he adds. "They're pragmatic and they see that looking good and being groomed is a great way to boost self-esteem and plays a role in improving relationships in their family, with their friends and at work."

Perakis-Valat says L'Oreal is leading the field in each sector: Biotherm for the luxury market, L'Oreal Paris for the premium mass market and Vichy for the pharmacy market. Last year, the company also began selling Garnier, a brand aimed at entry-level cosmetics users, in third- and fourth-tier Chinese cities.

Other companies that have dived into the market in recent years include Beiersdorf AG with Nivea, Japan's Shiseido with Aupres JS and Proctor and Gamble (P&G), which has so far only released its Olay for Men in China.

Domestic brands have also met with much success. The State-owned Shanghai Jahwa United Co Ltd has seen its range of gf (it is pronounced gaofu) products go from strength to strength. The company recently released a product that includes desert plants to improve skin resistance in tough environments.

"Innovation and development has also boosted the Chinese market," says Kevin Zhu at Euromonitor. "It's gone from simply cleaning and moisturizing products to more sophisticated lines, like anti-aging and anti-oxidation creams."

The compound annual growth rate of the entire cosmetics industry soared from $44.83 billion in 2002 to $66.6 billon in 2009, and is expected to hit $77.84 billion by 2012.

However, compared to women's cosmetics in China, the men's market is still relatively undeveloped, meaning lots of room for new products, adds analyst Zhu. He predicts that affordable and widely distributed products will see the biggest growth.

Research by P&G already suggests roughly 65 percent of Chinese men are using skin-cleaning products, with milks and scrubs among the most popular among shoppers.

However, while sales of moisturizers and lotions may be on the rise, few men are regularly buying facial masks, says Tian Xun, an editor of Esquire China, a fashion bible for young men.

"China's male grooming market has just taken off and Chinese consumers are in the process of adopting a systematized beauty concept," says Alexander Dony, managing director of male grooming at P&G Greater China.

The strategy at P&G is to build a range of skincare, shaving, body care and hair care products that satisfying the increasingly complicated demands of Chinese men, he adds.

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