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  • Jiaqi Luo

The New Generation of C-Beauty

They’ve been called affordable, fair quality, and basic. “C-beauty” — a.k.a. Chinese-born beauty brands — used to be what most Chinese beauty consumers relied upon when they couldn’t afford better and cooler foreign brands. But with a new generation of C-beauty brands emerging and evolving, this story is quickly being rewritten. And now, at the dawn of the 2020s, C-beauty’s reputation is set to change from a cheap alternative to an industry trendsetter.

In May, Jing Daily reported on the ascent of C-beauty in 2019, saying that C-beauty brands have seen their sales soar in recent years thanks to their high price-to-quality ratio and consumers’ “buy-Chinese” attitude as an expression of national pride. Yet compared to international brands, most consumers still thought of C-beauty as having inferior branding and a lack of cachet.

For most of the past decade, C-beauty was mostly known for producing ‘copycat’ versions of premium international products at a much lower price. For example, a Huda Beauty-inspired eyeshadow palette from a domestic brand would cost $20 — approximately one-third the price of the real Huda palette, which costs $65. In the past, many of China’s local brands established themselves as affordable alternatives for consumers who couldn’t afford the original thing. Consumers were paying for C-beauty’s use — not its brand value.

But today, a wave of new-gen C-beauty brands is challenging the old “cheap, unoriginal” norms of C-beauty by offering a value upgrade, and China’s young and urban population is its biggest advocate. User data from the lifestyle platform Little Red Book showed that entries of “C-beauty” rose 116 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2019, while over 5 million users shared positive reviews of C-beauty brands. According to CBN Data’s report, 70 percent of C-beauty consumers are age 18-25 and from top-tier cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hangzhou. Sharing an audience with international brands, the new C-beauty poses additional challenges to the multinational stalwarts that have traditionally dominated the beauty industry. Among those C-beauty brands, we picked the top-3 value-breaking brands worth watching in 2020:


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