Clean beauty in China: Can influencer Grace Chow help drive awareness of category with new brand?

By Amanda Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

Chinese influencer Grace Chow, is on a mission to propel clean beauty education on the back of her new make-up brand. [Code Mint]
Chinese influencer Grace Chow, is on a mission to propel clean beauty education on the back of her new make-up brand. [Code Mint]

Related tags: clean & ethical beauty, make-up

Consumer awareness of clean beauty in China still lags behind the US and Europe, according to Chinese influencer Grace Chow, who is on a mission to propel education on the back of her new make-up brand.

With over 10 million fans on Chinese social network Weibo, Chow is one of China’s top influencers. Recently, she has made to move to become a beauty CEO with the launch of Code Mint.

The brand debuted on January 20 with six products, ranging from $15 to $20, on top Chinese e-commerce platform Tmall and is set to roll-out into the US market soon.

As the CEO of the company, Chow is heavily involved in the research and development process of the products, said co-founder Lynn Zhu.

She added that Chow’s position as an influencer is a big advantage for the brand.

“As a seasoned cosmetics user, Grace has deep insights on the latest product trends. As an influencer who interacts with fans all day, Grace can initiate discussions with potential customers and get first-hand feedback that can impact product development.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, health has been the one topic that has been top of mind for Chinese consumers and was paving the way for clean beauty brands, observed Chow.

“This pandemic has really changed the carefree mentality shared by most young people and has confronted them with the fragility of life. Demands for healthier lifestyle and better products are steadily rising.”

Chow told CosmeticsDesign-Asia ​that the brand is following a ‘less is more’ approach with beauty by eliminating 66 ingredients in its products.

“We find it essential and urgent to redirect consumers to focus on living a healthier life which implies eating healthier, using healthier products and making conscious decisions all around. So, we created a clean beauty brand with a consistent design that echoes our brand philosophy, de-complexing the norms of colour cosmetics in China.”

At the same time, the brand hopes to promote a message of sustainable living among its consumers.

“The standard of clean doesn’t only apply to choosing healthier products at an individual level but also applies to how our actions impact the environment around us. In addition, Code Mint products are cruelty-free. It’s important that we raise awareness and take actions at the source of cosmetics supply chain,” ​said Chow.

While the concept of clean beauty may not be as prevalent in China as in the West, Chow believes Code Mint can tap into this shift in consumer sensibilities.

“Overall, Chinese consumers are not nearly as familiar with the idea of clean beauty in comparison to American or European consumers. It’s still a novel concept that needs more promotion and education.”

The company also conveys its clean beauty positioning with its packaging. With its clean aesthetics, Code Mint goes against the grain in China, where brands fight to stand out in the market by being extravagant.

“It actually took a lot of courage to create something with a simple façade and to be different,” ​Chow said.

“Our goal with building this brand has never been to stand out with excessive extravagance, which might be the traditional route for influencer-incubated brands. Instead, we wanted to re-inspire people to focus on what products they’re using and what they’re made of.”

Code Mint products are manufactured in China mainly by Cosmax, one of the largest cosmetics OEMs in South Korea, which has recently seen to be investing in clean beauty.

Last year, Cosmax announced the development of its sensitive skin range focused on safety and later announced that it had obtained a natural cosmetics certification from Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) to launch a range of clean baby care products.

The cosmetics manufacturer is also one of the brand’s angel investors and has been supporting the brand, which currently only has 10 full-time staff.

China, US and then Asia

Chow believes that she has launched her brand at a time when Chinese consumers are more opening and willing to try new brands and have an appetite for more outgoing styles.

“Chinese consumers, especially the younger generation, are more inclined to try out a wider range of products catering to new looks and styles. In the past, consumer demands for make-up were to satisfy everyday office look, these needs have changed dramatically. The industry has seen more requests for bold and edgy colours, heavy metallic and shimmering texture as well as creative applications of traditional products.”

The brand believes the demand for more bold colours and looks are especially dominant in the eye make-up category, due to the changes in consumer habits brought about by the pandemic.

“Given that mask-wearing has become an everyday necessity, customers have started showing a preference for lip products with a matte finish that are long-lasting, budge-proof and water-resistant. Consumers have also indicated demands for more exaggerated eye makeup in terms of both looks and colour choices.”

Aside from China and the US, the brand has plans to expand into other Asian markets. However, it will concentrate on the Chinese market in the near future.

“We definitely have plans for expansion into other Asian markets but in the short term, we want to dedicate our energies and resources to establishing ourselves in China,”​ said Chow.

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