Being in advance is still a strategic issue for the clinical testing market for the Chinese Beauty industry

By Anne Charpentier

Euro Cosmetics Magazine February 2023
January / February 2023

Today we want to bring a unique and global panorama on the current drivers of the specific but global market of the clinical evaluation for ingredients and personal care brands in Asia and specifically in China. This market of the clinical evaluation concerns skin, hair, scalp, and nail studies, for efficacy, safety and tolerance, consumer tests and sensory analysis.

To give a concrete approach of this subject, we have conducted during the 1st semester of 2022, two surveys, one first dedicated to the purchase habits of European clinical testing managers evaluating actives, toiletries, or personal care, a second one dedicated to the figures around the Clinical Testing laboratory activities.

The beauty market, dynamic innovative and resilient

The beauty market in the world represents a total of € 228 billion in 2021, Asia gathered 39% of the market in 2018 and has represented in 2020 $126.9 billion1. The golden category in the beauty industry is the skin care. But the Covid-19 had a global impact on this market, where Asia, the leader lost some market share due to the several lockdowns particularly in China. Indeed, the difficult period of 3 years of containment and quarantine procedures is just over since December 2022. Nevertheless, we can globally observe a dynamic but resilient market as after the big drop in 2020, it bounced well in 2021.

Asia market as a cosmetics trendsetter

Let’s now see the trends that drives this market globally in the world: Clean-beauty and various cultural changes, sustainability and social responsibility, the regulation constraints, and the life-style changes. Specifically for the Asia zone, we can highlight
5 main trends: Sustainability and packaging, Climate aggression protection, The perfect use and easy experience, Customization, and bespoke Beauty.

Not surprisingly, South Korea is at the forefront as one of the most innovative cosmetic markets in the region. K-beauty is recognized globally, with consumers around the world citing the positive effects and good quality of products as the main positive aspects of the beauty trend. Cosmetics from Japan remain very influential with historical brands and century-old know-how. However, new beauty markets are emerging in the Asia-Pacific region like China, Thailand, or Vietnam. The introduction of halal products has led to the growth of the cosmetics industry in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

In addition, the region’s digital revolution has also contributed to the increase in beauty consumption, with consumers buying more products online. Increased social media penetration has impacted the cosmetics industry, as consumers are more likely to buy products that have been reviewed by influencers. Asian consumers are known to thoroughly research products before buying them. The Asia-Pacific cosmetics industry continues to grow at a steady pace while offering innovative products and maintains a global leadership position.

The Evaluation testing at the services of the Beauty innovation

While Europe is the major testing partner, with 50% of the
global business related to clinical evaluation, Asia is the second localization of these services with 24%. The Asia-Pacific area gathers more than 39 laboratories present in China, India, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea, offering more than 245 methods to analyse the skin, hair, or nails. These testing laboratories answering the evaluation needs for the tolerance and the efficacy with classical but also high-tech instrumentation such as Raman microscopy. These clinical evaluation centres help the brands to be compliant with each local regulation (Japanese, Korean, Asean or Chinese) and to support the claim substantiation needs.

In Asia, the context of the clinical testing market is very good with specific characteristics for each country. In Japan where the average age is the highest in the world with 48 years and despite the importance of the Beauty sector, the number of testing labs is relatively low compared to Europe but high compared to Asia area. We can note that Japan is the 5th country in Asia in term of range of services for skin care. It may be explained by the history of the claim substantiation politics of the national cosmetics brands. For Korea, since few decades the K-beauty influences significatively the international Beauty market with innovative concept and requires specific regulation to enter it. Several CROs are present but with few of them coming from abroad (except IEC Group). South Korea is the second country in term of testing labs number but the first one considering the range of clinical evaluation services. In Indonesia we recently notice the recent emergence of new testing labs. India, the second world’s most populous country with an historical powerful pharmaceutical industry is the country which presents the most numerous centres of testing (ex-aequo with Japan) and the most numerous testing services.

EURO COSMETICS Magazine • Being in advance is still a strategic issue for the clinical testing market for the Chinese Beauty industry • Anne Charpentier, Skinobs • Anne Charpentier, Skinobs
EURO COSMETICS Magazine • Being in advance is still a strategic issue for the clinical testing market for the Chinese Beauty industry • Anne Charpentier, Skinobs • Anne Charpentier, Skinobs
  • The ranking in order of importance of the range of the skin efficacy test services is India, South Korea, China, Japan, and Thailand.
  • The ranking in order of importance of the number of the testing centres is Japan and India, China, South Korea, and Thailand. This ranking is not proportionate to the country size.
EURO COSMETICS Magazine • Being in advance is still a strategic issue for the clinical testing market for the Chinese Beauty industry • Anne Charpentier, Skinobs • Anne Charpentier, Skinobs

China is a particular testing market mainly influence by the growth of the cosmetics consumption, the Beauty purchasing patterns, the specificity of the distribution channel (90% on internet) and finally by its recent cosmetics regulation constraints. The new regulation can be considered as an obstacle to market access (after the positive list that was necessary to comply for ingredients). Indeed, CROs need to have a global accreditation from the Chinese government but also for some claims such as moisturizing, need to use specific instrumentation to get the final approval. It will limit inevitably the foundation of new foreign laboratories. China, the second great world powers just after the United States is the 4th country considering the centre number and the 3rd in term of testing service range. Most of the European respondents to our survey (evaluation managers) works with five or more testing laboratories to conduct their tests, mainly implemented in France, Europe but also in North America and China for about 30%.

EURO COSMETICS Magazine • Being in advance is still a strategic issue for the clinical testing market for the Chinese Beauty industry • Anne Charpentier, Skinobs • Anne Charpentier, Skinobs

We have observed that worldwide the testing services range offered by the CROs is largely influenced by the dynamism of the instrumentation manufacturers providing new equipment and new technology to deliver innovation perspectives. In China, nowadays the offer of instrumentation is lower than the needs.

For Asia, the observation deserves to be more detailed since Japan has a great tradition of skin analysis caught up in recent decades by South Korea. China, for its part, through its new cosmetic regulations, intends to catch up with these two neighbours. It will certainly offer in the coming years many opportunities for analytical methods supported by the intensive use of diagnostic applications for consumers and their corollary of A.I. Tests on hair or strands form a specific category and it is worth looking specifically at this offer proposed by many laboratories.
We can imagine in the future that the emergence of high level of testing requests in China – that constitute a clear and strong entry barrier – will create a new and important demand of measurement devices. May the Chinese testing sector will one day develop its own instrumentations to analyze the skin, hair, and nail The Asia-pacific market of clinical evaluation is held by big testing groups (Eurofins, SGS, MMR research, CIDP, MS Clinical research …) but also defended by local testing providers that act as leaders in each country: Ellead in South Korea for example. In China we can retrieve IEC, Complife, Cosderma Eurofins as originally European actors, MMR research as Indian suppliers then as local actors China Norm, Eviskin, Pony, and all government testing labs that are run by the Chinese administration in every region.

In conclusion

The international clinical testing market is oligopolistic with numerous testing labs. This sector represents through the CROs activities the dynamism of the Beauty sector and its compliance with worldwide regulation for the safety evaluation and the performance substantiation. The WTO (World Trade Organization) did an important work on the standards diffusion of the Beauty sector for 30 years. This global market is not homogeneous and can be mature in some part of the globe such as Europe or North America and some countries in Asia like Japan and South Korea. Some areas are still in development in the field of clinical testing and represent a significant growth potential in South America and China particularly.

The singular know-how of the skin biometrology that European and Asian countries have, influence worldwide the sector with classical or innovative and high-tech methods. Finally, the clinical evaluation services benefits of the influence of the dynamic, innovative, and resilient market that represents the Beauty market today.

The evolution of this clinical evaluation sector has been impacted by the two years of sanitary crisis with the Covid pandemic; in the future, it will be certainly influenced by several elements and mainly the politics with the cosmetics regulations around the world and their specificities (China, Japan, South Korea…), the consumer requests for more ethical testing, inclusivity and social responsibility, the innovation in the field of active ingredients and the technological innovation with IA, diagnosis App, nomad and remote solutions.

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