In Chinese culture, the expectations of different genders are quite the opposite, sometimes referred to as Yin (female) and Yang (male).
According to Datamonitor Consumer researcher, Jenny Xiang, although women’s social status is now quite similar to men, the perception of appearance hasn't changed all that much.
"A Chinese girl is supposed to have white/light skin as a symbol of her innocence and fragility, while a man is expected to be tough and hard-working," says Xiang.
The researcher notes that the 'wording game' of whitening products being marketed as 'brightening', isn't good enough to convince Chinese male consumers.
"The same white/light skin is therefore obviously not ideal for men: what the Chinese males want is the same as many other men around the world – bodies full of muscles and a contoured face," she reveals.
Tanning gives illusion of a contoured body
According to Xiang, more Chinese males are looking for personal care products that can help to enhance the appearance of muscle, and because darker skin gives more definition, tanning can be a good shortcut.
She reports that a keyword search for “tanning” (“Beautiful Black” directly translated from Chinese) has seen a sudden increase in 2014 compared to the previous three years, with two peaks in April and July, just when people are getting ready for the summer.
Products will need to cater to Chinese skin though
So, what kind of product has potential to cater to this emerging segment?
Well, Xiang says that sunscreen with a tanning effect is a good candidate, however, if the product is introduced from another region, the formula needs to be tested as some might give an orange result on Chinese skin, which is not desirable.
An interesting marketing angle, the researcher notes, is well-demonstrated by Skinny Tan branded AB Shader Self-Tanner Cream launched in Spain last year.
This product contains a natural tanner with muscle contouring actives that instantly bronzes and develops into a deep tan in just hours, reportedly looking exactly as a real tan does and lasting for up to seven days.