Self tanning versus skin whitening: a global skin care demand divide?

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

self tanning and skin whitening trends

Related tags: Personal care, Sun tanning

We asked Sharon Kwek, Senior Innovation and Insights Analyst, Beauty and Personal Care at Mintel whether the tanning trend has been completely replaced by skin whitening in APAC.

Although male grooming brands are exploring new and innovative product launches and creating partnerships with celebrities and promotions, eastern and western consumers’ product choices differ.  

Contrasting consumer concerns

The cosmetics and beauty industries are seeing similarities in popular trends in the East and the West, as K beauty and K pop concepts from South Korea and lip colour care in China influence non-APAC countries including the US.

However, while the self-tanning industry is growing in demand in the UK, as British males up their self-tanning purchases, APAC consumers are spending their disposable income on skin whitening products instead.

“Fake tanning in Asia is probably a thing of the past,”​ emphasised Sharon Kwek, Senior Innovation and Insights Analyst, Beauty and Personal Care, Mintel.Self-tanning in the EastMarket research company, Mintel, revealed that 14% of British males used self-tanning products in 2016, with this figure rising to 27% for the 16-24 year old demographic.In the East, the male self-tanning segment has grown in popularity, with less than one in 10 (9%) in 2015 rising to 14% last year.  Among the 16-24-year-old age demographic, these figures increased from one in six (16%) in 2015 to almost three in 10 (27%) men in 2016.In the UK, tanning salons are seeing an increase in attendance by males, with 25% of men between 18-24 years old having used a tanning salon in 2016. This figure is compared with 21% of women of the same age group, demonstrating how the self-tanning segment is developing at a faster rate for males compared with females.

Gradual tanner usage among men also rose from 7% to 12% and oral tanning supplements went up from 6% of men to 11% in the period from 2015 to 2016.

Celebrity influence

“The increase in usage of self-tan is growing rapidly amongst the nation’s men, driven by the popularity of self-tan among high profile celebrities,”​ highlighted Roshida Khanom, Senior Beauty & Personal Care Analyst at Mintel.

“Today’s men are reflecting on their image and responsibilities and how to express their masculinity. With younger men focusing on their appearance more, the self-tanning sector could see a boost,"​ added Khanom.

No tanning in Asia

On the other hand, Kwek went on to say that “while there may still be a minority of consumers who use bronzing lotions or go to tanning salons, I wouldn’t think that it’s sufficient enough to call it a trend here in Asia”.

“In addition, the number of new sun-tanning product launches in this region has been minimal in the past two years,”​ emphasised Kwek.

“There may be a possibility, but I don’t see this trend making a comeback in Asia in the short-term / in the next two to three years,”​ she went on to say.

Is there a total divide?

While the self-tanning trend is on the up in the UK, it shows no signs of re-emergence in APAC as brands around the world are concentrating on creating products that support healthy looking skin.

“Currently, consumers all across the world want healthy-looking skin but this isn’t limited to just how sun-kissed or tanned one’s skin looks,”​ added Kwek.

“We are also talking about brighter skin tones, dewy-looking skin and reduction in age spots here.”

As consumers search the shelves for items that will give their skin a healthy looking appearance, Mintel has found that “whitening, or brightening as some may call it, isn’t only a trend in Asia”,​ and therefore indicates that both sides of the global cosmetics industry want to improve the appearance of their skin.

In fact, “globally, we are actually seeing more international brands release beauty products with brightening purposes – blurring the line between the eastern and western regions”​, Kwek concluded.

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