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How Asia trends are evolving the game of men’s beauty

It has been well-acknowledged that the global pandemic significantly changed the beauty and personal care consumers behaviour and landscape. Though not a new concept, men’s grooming had been uncommon before. The market expansion and growing demand of men’s skincare are breaking down old, traditional and masculine norms; men have progressed to be more receptive of beauty and self-care. It is no longer limited to hairstyling or facial hair grooming.

Brands are paving the to make beauty and personal care products accessible to men. The need for male cosmetics has evolved into a big trend in Asia. While deemed common in South Korea and Thailand, Gen Z males in Japan recognised the importance of physical appearance through skin care and cosmetics While there are products that are specifically marketed to Gen Zs, but the older millennials also known as Xennials, are also attracted to them.


Japan was hit hard with many states of emergencies and mandates during the country’s battle against the pandemic. Remote working has made men more conscious about their looks during video business calls. Shiseido recognised this demand and created an AR makeup filter, specifically for men, to use during video conferences on popular channels such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Adopting proper routines and point makeup for eyes or lips allow men to be presentable and impressionable. Mintel research found that the Japanese male segment leans toward the ‘no-makeup makeup’ trend. The products they would go for are foundation, concealer and lip colour with the main objective of enhancing their au naturel look.


Men drawing eyebrows makeup

According to The Yomiuri Shimbun Online, the popularity and influence of Korean male idols’ beauty, skin care and makeup routines are key factors in persuading purchase. Japan’s Ministry of Finance reported the import value of skin care products from South Korea increased by five folds since 2012, reaching 50.4 billion yen (estimated 318.4 million sterling pounds) in the year 2021. Local influence plays a big role too. The emergence of “YouTubers”, “TikTokers” and “Instagrammers” have the persuasive voice to sweep the younger generation off their feet. Shogakukan Dime briefly shares the launch strategy of the brand, EXGEE, where it collaborated with the popular YouTube group, Espoir Tribe. This beauty collaboration pushed their lineup of easy-to-use hair care products and created content to teach Gen Z students hairstyling. More brands are creating new product lines to target Gen Z males who are more receptive to beauty and grooming. For example, Shiseido launched Sidekick with this market segment in mind. Various types of facial wash, moisturisers and sheet masks are packaged in colourful, vibrant glass or aluminum with the brand name smeared boldly across. The design is inspired by collectible sneakers, which is typically an interest to the Gen Z market.


Japanese Men's Beauty Brand Exgee

Male celebrities in Asia have certainly been paving the way for men’s makeup, by being advocates and brand ambassadors on TV and the internet. South Korea and Thailand, for example, have normalised the idea of men’s makeup to look good and feel confident for a long time. Thai actor, model and singer – Mixxiw – endorsed Maybelline’s foundation on his Instagram profile. Harper’s Bazaar and GQ also tapped onto the international star, Jackson Wang, to engage with fans on his skin care routine on YouTube. Celebrity selling power and influence has proven to be both captivating and educational. Authentic representation helps men feel safe to openly discuss and learn personal care usage.


South Korea, especially with the global popularity surge of K-pop and K-drama since mid-2000s, changed the definition of masculinity with cosmetics. Millenials and Gen Zs are on the lookout for new male beauty trends. When pop culture news broke that a makeup artist  applied a Laura Mercier concealer on popular K-pop group BTS, the brand benefited from the social media hype on Twitter and TikTok.


In an Esquire article, South Korean men’s cosmetic purchases were responsible for 20% of the world’s beauty products a few years ago. There is indeed a high growth potential for men’s makeup where Japan, South Korea and China ranked top three globally back in 2021. In fact, over 50% of all men’s makeup launches since 2021 were seen in North Asia, as per Mintel’s findings. The trend and acceptance will continue due to Asia’s unique concept of masculinity and their openness to diversity.

However, Mintel also finds that men continue to prioritise convenient and easy-to-use beauty and personal care solutions. Simple and fuss-free, yet effective, routines appeal to the male demographic. There is still a sizeable segment in which economical and minimalism are preferred, aligning with earlier trends of skin minimalism and multi-functional solutions. The concept of multi-functional is closely linked to a familiar trend known way back when blur, BB and CC creams were highly sought after some time in 2011 or 2012. Admittedly, again, the pandemic drove up the demand for the return of hybrid or multi-functional beauty.


Of course, consumers want effective products but at the same time; they care about how the beauty products benefit their well-being. We understand this from New York Style Guide on why hybrid products are perceived to be more sustainable as well. The male demographic desires hybrid beauty especially in territories such as China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan. They have a keener sense of aesthetics which opens opportunities for makeup with skin care benefits. This has become a time-changing shift due to Gen Z’s push for genderless norms. Moreover, men can feel confident when shopping because they understand what they seek in a product. For example with skin care and makeup, men prefer the sensory or texture to be non-tacky such as Men’s BB Foundation formulation by Croda or; multi-functional face cleanser that also removes makeup, as reported by Shogakukan Dime.

Whats Trending in Asia 2023

Whats Trending in Asia
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Now that most of Asia has relaxed mandates of mask-wearing, consumers appreciate the convenience and results hybrid beauty promises. Furthermore, social media influences the hybrid beauty movement. In a Pinkvilla interview, Sephora’s beauty director commented “These hybrid beauty products are currently popular because consumers are becoming more informed about the benefits of the goods through social media and improved merchant counseling." TikTok is considered the place to be for beauty edu-tainment such as a profile like CRD Beauty Crew, which have a lineup of cosmetic chemists and insiders from the industry, to educate on ingredients.

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The new era of self-expression influenced the return of makeup and fashion that trended in the early 2000s or, also known as, the Y2K times. Mintel reports, “The desire to be comforted by the past creates opportunities for brands to evoke nostalgia by… recreating iconic makeup moments from the early aughts.” Though it may be a niche market, but men are open to brow slits, dark eyeliners and vivid pastel eyeshadows.

Korean Male Celebrities Makeup

Some slight differences, however with today’s Y2K makeup trends, are that brands release cosmetics with inclusive colour ranges, more conscious ingredient-sourcing and benefits for skin. The latter validates the demand for hybrid makeup. Y2K makeup trends will continue to intensity in 2023 as noted by Korea JoongAng Daily with the ongoing influence of Korean celebrities, which is compelling enough to ripple to other countries and regions. 

Beauty, for as long as we know it, has been an industry heavily skewed to women. Worldly perspectives and norms are changing gradually yet surely, in which the male demographic can no longer be a neglected market segment. In this time of self-love, inclusivity and broadened beauty standards, men’s grooming needs are set to change the game of beauty and personal care.

Want more details into the trends of diverse Asia? Download our What's Trending in Asia Presentation to find out more.


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