Chinese consumers are aware that the reality of long working hours, environmental pollution and excessive screen time is negatively affecting the condition of skin, especially in fast-paced Chinese cities.
“There is a strong understanding of wanting to balance skin along with a real desire to see products rooted in scientific claims, which makes the microbiome a compelling topic over the coming years,” said Nicole Fall of Asian Consumer Intelligence.
However, Fall said the level of skin microbiome understanding among consumers was still very low. She observed that not many Chinese Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) were talking about skin microbiome or probiotic beauty.
“When we monitor KOLs, which are usually the first touchpoint for consumers to gain beauty knowledge in China, very few if any are talking about the microbiome. Some discuss probiotic skincare but even these influencers tend to be somewhat niche rather than the bigger names with lots of followers,” she said.
China catching on
However, this is potential for this to change very quickly with well-known players such as Lancôme and La Roche Posay raising awareness of probiotic benefits through their marketing efforts.
She added the industry focus and research on the skin microbiome will bring the phrase ‘skin microbiome’ to common vernacular.
Fall teased that she was currently working with a well-known microbiome beauty brand on its launch into the Chinese market.
This, she believes, is just the beginning. “I think we’ll see a number of companies pushing their claims in this area which in turn will help to evolve the category.”
Fall believes what will help drive demand for skin care focused on the microbiome is a real understanding of ingredients.
“With influencers looking for their next topic to discuss, the microbiome becomes another area of expertise that could both help educate consumers further as well as differentiate brands seeking to level up their natural offerings beyond it contains plant-based ingredients.”
She predicts that the market will see brands jump on the bandwagon to keep up with the trend.
“Unless these brands truly work with the microbiome by providing ingredients such as beneficial bacteria and other live ingredients such as probiotics to provide a diverse and healthy microbiome they’ll get found out fairly quickly.”
Already, Fall and her team have observed some brands using the term ‘microbiome’ as part of their marketing.
“Upon closer examination, it tends to be a substitute for the word ‘environment’ rather than through ingredients such as pre-biotics, post-biotics and probiotics or claims like ’biome friendly'.”
Currently, a large number of Chinese consumers are specifically looking for beauty products that can calm irritated skin. Microbiome beauty brands can play in this space by playing up the natural angle and provide dermatological benefits that heal as well as restore.
“There is a societal pressure to look good in China, so any brand that can convince consumers that it has real science, as well as natural ingredients, should gain recognition because people want results in return for their hard-earned money,” Fall elaborated.
She concluded: “The skin microbiome or 'skin environment' provides consumers with more knowledge on what is best for their skin based on evidence; either by testing their microbiome to determine its status or through products that claim to re-balance the skin’s microbiota.”