The visible pollution in many cities around the world, and the steps that people are taking to mitigate against its dangers, have sparked a change in the beauty industry, with China at the forefront of a new consciousness about pollution.
In 2017, Mintel’s Global Skincare Analyst, David Tyrell, noted that “Consumers, particularly in China, are well aware and very worried about the damaging health effects associated with pollution” and warned that brands looking to gain an advantage should show that such products are clinically effective.
Part of the problem is that there is no standardisation of claims across the industry, like there is with products that claim UV protection. Many experts dismiss brands’ claimed benefits and recommend a normal skincare routine as an effective defence against pollution.
In a number of Asian markets, anti-pollution properties have become common, forcing more sophisticated brands to move beyond general claims. “In general, Chinese consumers are more focused on addressing their specific skin issues or needs – i.e. the impact that the environment and their lifestyle has on their skin, such as skin ageing, or dull or dry skin,” said Klaus Redomske, president and COO of the German skincare brand Babor Asia-Pacific, speaking to South China Morning Post.
Other brands have moved to position their products around a commonly heard pollutant – such as PM2.5, which refers to a size of harmful airborne particle. The strategy bears some similarity to the story of the ozone layer, which was an environmental story that people could understand relatively easily. Larger, more global trends are more difficult for people to grasp.
But consumers, especially younger ones, are becoming more difficult to convince, with the rise of review platforms like Xiaohongshu, alongside better levels of education than previous generations. Loose claims are less effective in this environment.
Outside of the beauty category, anti-pollution is an increasingly popular strategy, with high-end Beijing hotels offering spa customers “pollution solutions” and offering cleansing services that claim to thoroughly cleanse pollutants from the surface of the skin.
Sourced from the South China Morning Post, Cosmetic Design Asia, The Conversation; additional content by WARC staff