How COVID-19 is impacting personal care and beauty in China

How will personal care and beauty categories perform after the outbreak?
05 March 2020
china beauty
Jason Yu

Managing Director, Worldpanel Division, Greater China

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There's no doubt that the current epidemic outbreak has deeply influenced consumers' daily life and in addition to the impact on food and transportation, it's estimated that changes will also be witnessed in consumers' purchase behavior across personal care and beauty products.

COVID Beauty 

According to Kantar Worldpanel’s beauty panel, prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, the overall traffic of personal care sector has been relatively stable. During the year, March, mid-year, and the end of the year usually gain the most obvious traffic growth driven by promotion activities from online retailers.

 COVID Beauty 2

Among all the subcategories, skin care has won the most traffic, while color cosmetics has gained the biggest year on year growth up to January 24th 2020.

How will personal care and beauty categories perform after the outbreak of Covid-19?

We have the following predictions:

1. Short-term influence on hair care

During SARS outbreak in 2003 there was no official quarantine policy from government so most consumers still maintained their regular pace of daily work and life, but when they came back home, they cared more about their daily personal care routine. This boosted certain cleansing categories such as hair shampoo and body wash.

But during the recent epidemic situation of Covid-19, under the strict (semi) quarantine suggestions and policy, consumers have been staying at home for most of the time (even as long as 14 days) without going out and working from home has been widely accepted by many companies.

In this unique scenario consumers have decreased their hair washing frequency and "no hair wash" has been a popular hash tag in social media. For example, in Sina Weibo, the topic of “number of days without a hair wash” has over 65,000 discussions and over 379 million page views.

We can foresee that in a short period, the related categories, such as hair shampoo, conditioner, will see a drop in purchasing. But in the medium to long term, with the relief of epidemic situation and people returning to work the hair care category will soon start to pick up.

2. Big impact on color cosmetics and fragrance

While consumers are still using body wash and hair shampoo at some frequency, color cosmetics seems to be less relevant as most females are staying-indoors and the biggest influence should appear in the two weeks after China Lunar New year.

We estimate that during the current outbreak or even some time after the outbreak finishes, the recovery of color cosmetics will be relatively slow as the protection on face will last for some time.

In spite of the huge impact, there are some encouraging signals when you consider the new life style and work style among young generations.

The increasing popularity of video conferencing, video dating, selfies and livestreaming on Social networks mean many young consumers will still wear makeup, and some sophisticated females even invented "face mask makeup styles" which focus more on eye makeup. In Sina Weibo, "the must-haves for face mask makeup" topic has gained more than 14,000 discussions and over 8.9 million page views up to February 20th.

For fragrance, due to less socializing out of the home during the epidemic outbreak combined with the increased usage of disinfectant fluid /spray, the number of fragrance usage occasions will reduce significantly.

3. Rising awareness for body cleansing, skin care will also win more attention

Led by hand wash / sanitizer, body cleansing is surely a hero category during the epidemic outbreak. In addition, due to long periods of staying at home, the lack of exercise, and the wearing of face masks, the facial skin status will also be influenced including the problem as skin dullness, roughness due to friction, sensitivity, which will need more care. And with the increasing frequency of washing hands, there will be an increased need for hand cream.

These factors will drive the rebound of the skin care category, especially those products with the benefits of keeping skin healthy

4. The next rising star: Environment friendly products

According to a survey on sustainability by Kantar Worldpanel in 2019, more than half of Chinese consumers pay close attention on "sustainability", which is mainly out of their concern on health.

As the outbreak of Covid-19 is somewhat considered as the revenge from the nature, in the future, we expect consumers will show more care towards Mother Nature. This alongside the continuing education from media and brands abut sustainability means that products with environmental friendly elements will gain more preference among consumers which will likely inspire the beauty industry to integrate sustainability into brand strategy, and focus more on products with "nature" and "healthy" concepts.

Though we predict that personal care and beauty categories will be impacted greatly during the epidemic outbreak, with the increasing of health awareness among consumers, and the recovery of normal daily life and going-out frequency, different categories will start to pick up at different times.

It’s estimated that hair care will bounce back relatively quick, and then skin care; while for color cosmetics, it might take some time until consumers feel it is safe to remove their face mask.

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