The US has replaced China as the biggest importer of French cosmetics products, according to data from cosmetics association FEBEA. Cosmetics is the third-largest contributor to France’s trade surplus, behind aeronautics and wines and spirits.
France’s position as the world leader in cosmetics has gained strength after a record year for exports in 2022. These increased 18.8% to €19.2bn last year compared with 2021. Fragrance exports were up 30.2%, while the make-up and facial skincare category saw growth of 11%. Together, these two categories accounted for €16bn, or more than 85%, of French cosmetics exports in 2022.
"These excellent results show that, despite the current economic and geopolitical uncertainties, despite the supply difficulties and cost increases that companies are facing, French cosmetics still have a strong global appeal,” Emmanuel Guichard, General Delegate of FEBEA, said in a statement. “The sector has been able to reinvent itself to meet new consumer expectations, in particular by offering ever more sustainable and environmentally friendly products.”
US overtakes China as number-one importer of French cosmetics
The European Union is the main destination for French cosmetics exports, accounting for close to 37%. In 2022, exports to the EU increased 24.2%, driven by the 33% growth in sales in the fragrance category. Germany remains the biggest market for French cosmetics in the UE: imports to the country increased 21% to €1.9bn last year.
In 2022 the US overtook China as the leading importer of French cosmetics products. Exports to the US increased 28% to €2.3bn (+48.2% compared to 2019). Covid restrictions saw Chinese exports slow 3.1% to €1.954bn. Exports to Asia grew 8.8% in 2022 compared to 2021 (32% in 2022 vs 2029), totaling €5.179bn.
Exports to the Middle East saw strong growth, rising 33.8% compared with 2021. Growth was notably driven by exports to Saudi Arabia (+20.4%) and the UAE (+41.8%).
French lipstick: a hot item in China
By category, French fragrances are most popular in the US, followed by Germany, Spain, the UK and UAE. French lipstick, meanwhile, is the product most imported by China, followed by Singapore, the US, Germany and South Korea.
With a trade balance of €15.6bn, cosmetics is the third-biggest contributor to France’s trade surplus, behind aeronautics (€23bn) and wines and spirits (€16bn). The fragrance, make-up and facial skincare segments represented 95.2% of cosmetics exports to the US.
Close to two-thirds of cosmetics manufactured in France are exported. Cosmetics export activity alone represents some 130,000 jobs in the country.