China's radiant male skin care market has a fresh shine: A raft of domestic startups is tapping global investors for funds, with ambitions to rival giants like L'Oreal in a billion-dollar business serving image-conscious millennial men like Hou Junru.

The 24-year-old Shanghai education worker got into skin care as a student and splurged more than $1,000 on creams and lotions in e-commerce firm Alibaba's giant Nov. 11 Singles Day promotion. "My need is to keep the skin moist and look pale," said Hou.

It's a priority shared by many of his peers, influenced by the spread of social media and South Korean pop culture that embraces a softer version of masculinity. Already the biggest in the world, the Chinese men's facial skin care market is forecast to hit 12.5 billion yuan ($1.90 billion) this year — and expand 50% to 18.5 billion yuan by 2025, research firm Mintel estimates.