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Saving Face

By: Carrie Lennard
Posted: March 26, 2010, from the April 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
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In Asia, the booming Chinese and Indian markets are helping to keep sales of facial skin care buoyant, thanks primarily to the Asian obsession with facial whitening products. Whitening agents appear in most types of facial skin care products in the Far East, and have been strong contributors to the 15% and 16% value growth achieved in the key Indian and Chinese markets, respectively, during 2007–2008, according to Euromonitor.

Future developments are set to target male consumers as male skin whiteners, currently a niche category in facial skin care, become increasingly popular, particularly in the Indian market. In Asia, pale skin is considered beautiful and has traditionally been associated with sophistication and wealth.

Because of this cultural ideal, there has always been strong demand for skin whiteners. The key difference is that now Chinese and Indian consumers have more money than ever before to spend on them. This is generating interest from multinational players keen to gain a share of the market.

An influx of new whitening product launches from facial skin care brands are being introduced in China, with many of the leading personal care players heavily promoting their whitening facial skin care products in 2009. The key consumer base for whitening products remains young women, particularly those in urban areas who typically earn more and are willing to pay extra for premium whitening products.

Whitening to brightening

Skin whiteners have even made the surprising transition from Asia-Pacific to Western markets, where they are marketed as a product that makes skin look younger, and key skin-whitening ranges have been adapted for Western markets, such as the United Kingdom, by calling them “brighteners” as opposed to “whiteners.” In markets such as the United States and the United Kingdom, they are being marketed as improving skin tone as opposed to whitening the skin, although they often contain similar ingredients.