Skin whitening in India gathers pace

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

Skin whitening in India grows
As the Indian skin-whitening market focuses on beauty-enhancing claims around health, David Tyrrell, Global Analyst at Mintel says “brands need to take the ethical high-ground when talking about fairer skin care solutions”.

The skin whitening trend continues to gain momentum throughout Asia-Pacific as consumers strive towards achieving a fair complexion. The Indian market remains a key sector, with skin whiteners accounting for 46% of total facial care retail sales in 2015, Mintel reports.

Ethical and natural brands are now in a position to dominate the Indian marketplace and wider region, as increasingly consumers are demanding high-quality ingredients and sensitive, yet sophisticated marketing campaigns.

Female beauty

Indian brands and international companies are adopting clever marketing tactics to deliver key messages on the importance of celebrating and encouraging diversity within the female beauty industry.

Skin whitening products containing lightening benefits need to position the products sensitively and use respectful, covert marketing messages to promote and raise awareness responsibly.

Indian consumers are results-driven and therefore will focus on brands that not only respect natural ingredients and develop clear marketing messages, but that are also true to their claims and successfully enhance skin radiance healthily.

India represents approximately 4% of facial bleaching product launches between January and August in 2016. Although these lines that lighten the skin’s hue may appear to represent a small percentage of the beauty sector, India is leading the way compared to South Korea, Japan and China as it continues to focus on evolving brands that deliver health-based messages.  

Healthy marketing

Brands are seeing the power of healthy messaging that focuses on female empowerment.

The multinational fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) leader, Unilever, launched Dove's 'Self-Esteem' project to directly challenge cultural norms and traditions in India. Its Let's Break the Rules of Beauty video shows an open and broad discussion on the diversity of female beauty.

“67% of Indian women and 64% of Indian girls would like to see a more diverse range of beauty represented in the media,”​ said Srirup Mitra, General Manager, Hindustan Unilever, Personal Care.

Diversity in beauty and cosmetics within India is dominant as female consumers no longer want a generic set of cosmetic styles and hues, but rather want to enhance personalisation within the cosmetics industry.

Natural Indian brand Banjara has also marketed its products based on the importance of female empowerment to challenge India's traditional 'fair' skin look. The brand’s Skin +ve line actively encourages and promotes the diversity of skin colour. It used social media marketing and the #proudofmycolor hashtag to emphasise its contemporary and evolving messaging.

Research company, Mintel, found that fairness descriptions have formed a common theme in marketing tactics throughout the skin care market in India, and accounted for 6% of facial skin care launches in the country between January and August 2016.

Mintel also analysed the number of Indian brands that made beauty enhancing claims in facial skin care launches. These claims were made 63% of the time for moisturising/hydrating launches, 47% for brightening lines and 42% for anti-aging products.

Economic growth

In the last five years, India has seen double-digit growth in the facial skin care segment. The anti-aging segment has witnessed particular popularity, as it increased 18% in value sales (INR million) from 2014 to 2015.

Mintel expects India will showcase increasing numbers of 'natural' brands that use developed marketing campaigns that include targeted product descriptions such as 'brilliant', 'radiant', 'vibrant', and 'evens skin tone'.

To gain a competitive edge in India, brands will need to combine this focus on healthy complexions with transparent messages that demonstrate the use of quality ingredients, diversity in female beauty and personalisation to build trust and credibility with the Indian consumer market.

With GDP growth of 7.5% in 2015, it surpassed China’s 6.9% economic growth rate. As India remains underdeveloped and with vast opportunities available, the potential for further growth remains significant.

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