Subscribe to our newsletter

     By signing up, you agree to our Terms Of Use.


    • About Us
    • |
    • Contribute
    • |
    • Contact Us
    • |
    • Sitemap

    Looking Good: China’s Cosmetics Appeal to Overseas Markets

    Chinese brands are taking advantage of growing cross-border e-commerce to win consumers across Asia with low-price products.
    Mar 25, 2024#economy

    Christmas Day 2023 arrived with a gift for China’s cosmetics industry: Fresh data showed exports of domestically made products to South Korea had risen by 190% in the first eight months of the year, and reached a value of $152 million for the entire year, more than three times the amount in 2022.

    The Japanese market also showed healthy returns, with China exporting more than $121 million in cosmetics to Japan last year, up by 80% compared with 2018.

    The same went for Southeast Asia, where six countries, namely, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam, imported a combined $489.6 million in Chinese cosmetics, an increase of 38% from 2022.

    Chinese cosmetics have grown by leaps and bounds in the global market. According to official data from the country’s customs authority, China exported nearly $7.6 billion in cosmetic products in 2023, double the amount recorded a decade ago.

    This surge in popularity has coincided with the rise of cross-border e-commerce platforms in China, with the so-called “Four Dragons” — Shein, Temu, AliExpress, and TikTok Shop — all performing well in the East and Southeast Asia.

    For the past 90 days, Temu and AliExpress have dominated the download charts for iOS shopping apps in South Korea, claiming first and second spot respectively, according to, a market analysis platform.

    Data from the media BusinessKorea also shows Temu’s monthly active users in the country have surged sevenfold in just three months. AliExpress’ share of the direct purchasing market in South Korea also reached 26.6% last year.

    In Southeast Asia, Chinese e-commerce platforms are also dominating the market, with Tencent’s Shopee, Alibaba’s Lazada, and newcomer TikTok Shop from Bytedance all grabbing a share.

    Cosmetics sales channels in East and Southeast Asia are gradually shifting from offline to online, as customers become accustomed to buying makeup and skin care products with the click of a button. This is creating opportunities for China’s cross-border e-commerce businesses.

    The growing online market coupled with offshore e-commerce paved the way for domestic beauty brands to set up flagship stores on major offshore platforms, including Florasis, Perfect Diary, Into You, Flower Knows, Focallure, and Colorkey. Some brands have even taken the opportunity to open brick-and-mortar stores or connect directly with local retailers, such as in Japan.

    The promotion and advertisement of Chinese-style makeup on social media has also become more sophisticated and widespread in recent years. Compared with Japanese and Korean styles, often characterized as “innocent and cute,” Chinese makeup is presented as more mature and dignified.

    One factor certainly attracting overseas customers to Chinese cosmetics will be the price point, with many products selling for cheaper than those made in other countries, particularly color cosmetics.

    “Talking to my colleagues in Korea, their overall consensus is that the success of Chinese beauty brands stems from the power of TikTok and fun, related content marketing,” Hwee Chung, beauty director at consumer insights company Kantar Worldpanel, told Jing Daily. “They also have fresh, new brand and product images, and relatively affordable price positioning.”

    South Korea’s household disposable income grew by less than 2% last year, although food prices increased more than 6%, Yonhap News Agency reported. Continued rises in the cost of living have forced low-income families to cut back, making low-priced Chinese cosmetics a more attractive option.

    On Amazon, the best-selling mascara is from L’Oreal, priced around $10. However, on AliExpress, the best-selling mascara costs $1 and is made by O.Two.O, a cosmetics brand based in Guangzhou, capital of China’s southern Guangdong province.

    This market trend is also being seen in Southeast Asia, according to research by Meetsocial, a cross-border e-commerce consultancy, which found that the majority of consumers in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam favor eye makeup products priced below $2, the price bracket targeted by many Chinese brands.

    (Header image: Fu Xiaofan/Sixth Tone)