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Face to Face with China’s Mask Industry

Source:Ringier Personalcare     Date:2015-07-01
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A foremost transformation in the market proceeds from the phenomenon in which the modern mask—so compact as to fit easily in a purse—has increasingly become easy on the purse, penetrating the mass market for good. No longer limited to the realm of luxury spending, exemplified by high-end brands such as SKII whose masks cost around 100 Yuan per unit, it is now seen widely as an affordable daily necessity. Magic Holdings International, a Shenzhen-based manufacturer recently acquired by L’Oréal, has been at the head of this revolutionary rewriting of the mask industry, notably by selling the 10-yuan masks that have helped to make its MG line, which claimed 26.4% of the market share in 2012, the leading brand in China.

Crucially, MG’s successes help to highlight key trends that are representative of those found ubiquitously on the larger market: the most popular products are those that claim to moisturize, whiten, firm up, nourish, and offer special treatment, including detoxification, protection against acne and wrinkles, and specific care for the sensitive area around the eyes.

Whitening, in particular, is an essential step in the skin care rituals of Asian women, practiced in accordance with the cultural ideal associating whiteness with beauty and refinement. Furthermore, the very variety of mechanisms among the different products reflects the particular practices of Chinese consumers, many of whom select particular masks for particular seasons (e.g. anti-aging and hydration masks for winter, and cleansing and detoxifying masks for summer).

Consumers also purchase products based on their familiarity with commercial patterns, seeking out ingredients that appear universally across the majority of brands; these include hyaluronic acid and vitamin C, whose main functions are hydration and anti-aging respectively. Masks formulated for the special task of replacing lost collagen, an age-defying ingredient that promotes elasticity and firmness in the skin, have become increasingly common, having first taken over in the hip and trendsetting South Korean market.

Ethical claims gain ground

Beyond the immediately visible effects of the mask, there are more ethical and psychological considerations being brought to product claims. As greener lifestyles are pursued with ever more urgency, products with natural or botanical origins are dominating in market subject to changing values. In recent years, the Asian skin care market has widely embraced cellulose-based technology, a phenomenon exemplified not long ago by the announcement of a partnership between Nox-bellcow (Zhongshan) Nonwoven Chemical Ltd, a leading manufacturer of skin care products in China, and Lenzing AC, an Austrian manufacturer of nonwoven fibers whose TENCEL® brand markets itself as an innovative, self-styled “New Age” fiber made from wood.

In accordance with ethical foresting practices, TENCEL, unlike other natural fibers such as cotton, is derived from trees grown on marginal as opposed to arable land. Without the need for artificial irrigation, substantial water resources are saved in the production process. TENCEL is also fully biodegradable, decomposing into water and carbon dioxide within weeks.

Aside from representing an environmentally friendly and sustainable image of beauty, co-branded Chinese facial masks made from TENCEL®Skin also promise the thoroughly modern aesthetic experience of the ultra-thin mask: light, transparent, and tightly fitted to the contours of the face, they offer comfort and a feeling of silkiness, particularly for sensitive skin. Moreover, the structure of TENCEL®Skin’s fibers is clearly streamlined, delivering lotion ingredients onto the skin’s surface more effectively than common synthetic fibers and cotton would, its superior absorption properties allowing the masks to carry moisture in eight times their own weight.

Asian botanicals

Another manifestation of the demand for botanic products is the widespread use of traditional Asian ingredients, a trend that savvy local Chinese brands have taken up to heighten their appeal above that of Western brands. MG, for example, has its own herbal skincare series whose products feature ginseng root extract, aloe extract, bamboo extract, licorice root extract, baiji root extract, kochia fruit extract, green bean extract, pueraria extract, and more.

Other companies that have pursued this trend include Estée Lauder, which launched Osiao in 2012 to create a brand identity aimed uniquely at an Asian audience capable of appreciating Chinese plants and herbs, and Inoherb, a local Chinese company that makes use of lotus, rhodiola (golden root), white peony extract, wild chrysanthemum extract, among other herbal ingredients, to create masks that hydrate, nourish, anti-oxidize, whiten, open pores, and treat acne.
Meanwhile, the Chinese brand Herborist markets its products as a contemporary fusion of classic Chinese elements and the latest biotechnology, playing on both the growing demand for organic products and the longstanding respect for traditional medicinal practices.

Filling in the gaps

With so much already done in the way of innovation, it may be difficult to perceive existing gaps in the industry for Asian skin reconstruction.

In recent years, a sector that has been successful in this respect is the overnight mask, the product of a particularly cutting-edge technology. Disappearing into the skin upon application, the overnight mask is not rinsed off after application, but left on until the following morning. It is further distinguished from traditional night creams and masks by its lightweight formulation, high water content, and long-lasting moisturizing properties, all of which work to maximize skin transmission in accordance with the body’s natural circadian rhythms. With research suggesting that blood flow and collagen production accelerates in the evening hours, reaching their peak between 11 pm and 2 am, the mask is designed to hydrate and nourish the skin during this crucial time frame for skin-cell regeneration.

Brands like South Korea’s Amore Pacific and China’s Naruko, which produce the overnight masks Laneige water sleeping pack and Night Gelly, respectively, make use of ingredients with anti-oxidant and cell turnover-accelerating properties to promote deep hydration, whitening, firming, repairing, smoothening, pore-minimizing treatments, and problems associated with inadequate or troubled sleep.

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