Datamonitor Comment

As China's women fight for 'body hair freedom', how will the personal care sector be hit?

By Michelle Yeomans

- Last updated on GMT

As China's women fight for 'body hair freedom', how will the personal care sector be hit?

Related tags Gender

As men strive to keep themselves baby smooth, women are now challenging the characteristics of traditional femininity, one of which being hairless armpits, by growing their underarm hair.

In China, feminist Meili Xiao has initiated an 'armpit hair revolution' in the form of a competition on social media where she is encouraging women to protest against gender inequality in the country, which is attracting substantial local and global media coverage.

This, researcher Irene Bi says, represents a trend of modern women reluctant to be pigeonholed into dated female stereotypes which has in turn shifted beauty standards towards a more gender-neutral or 'boyish' end of the scale.

However, Bi says the emergence of this 'armpit hair trend' does not necessarily mean there will be a massive drop in hair removal product sales in the near future.

The personal care sector can help women to embrace their true self...

Conventionally, personal care products, particularly those in the colour cosmetics and skin care categories are designed to help women achieve certain beauty standards defined by society.

However, the Datamonitor analyst reports that with modern women becoming increasingly subversive, they might be more attracted to products or marketing campaigns that focus on expressing their individuality, rather than something that encourages them to fit the mold.

"Brands could resonate more strongly with their female audience if they can help improve their self-esteem, by helping them to acknowledge and appreciate their own individual differences," ​says Irene.

The rise of the 'pro-ageing movement' is a good example of this, competing with the prolonged anti-ageing trend by encouraging women to age naturally but beautifully, healthily, and confidently.

'Pink it and shrink it' is not working as it used to..


The fact that women are becoming increasingly independent results in them becoming more critical of messages that can be taken to imply that they are the “weaker sex.”

Therefore, brands can gender-neutralize their offerings to make them appeal to both sexes.

The Body Shop’s 2015 limited-edition Smoky Poppy is a good example for the former, with packaging featuring a black background and a dark red flower in the center.

Although the trend for armpit hair among females is an extreme case of a minority taking the initiative to overthrow stereotypes, it is a sign that companies should start rethinking their product development and branding strategy to cater for modern women with changing attitudes towards femininity.

"Brands should get ready to take up the challenge, as the era for redefining feminine beauty has just begun​," says Bi.

Related topics Market Trends Skin Care Hair Care

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