The concept hails from South Korea, where women strive toward the beauty aesthetic of flawless, pale skin through the use of multiple skin care products, including multi-tasking BB and CC creams, all of which originated there. Domestic players, including AmorePacific Corp. and LG Household & Health Care, have driven the trend for innovative beauty products and now many of the multinational beauty companies are developing their own version of K-Beauty.
South Korean women traditionally are very image conscious and willing to invest in beauty products to enhance their appearance. According to Euromonitor International, this has stimulated sales of beauty and personal care in the region.
“Trading up to premium brands has been increasingly apparent in certain categories such as baby and child-specific products, color cosmetics and skin care,” commented Joanna Chan, research analyst, Euromonitor International.
Another factor fueling growth in the South Korean market is consumers’ desire for convenient beauty products that enable them to strike a balance between hectic work, tight deadlines and the need for downtime. BB/CC creams have been a beneficiary of this socio-economic trend and have also experienced huge success in other markets.
According to Euromonitor, domestic manufacturers accounted for four out of the top five positions in beauty and personal care in 2015, with a joint value share of 52%. Both LG Household & Health Care and AmorePacific Corp. offer comprehensive product portfolios across the category as well as a spectrum of brands with prices ranging from mass to premium.
“Domestic players are keen on new product innovations and so consistently bring out products with novel benefits, application methods and packaging to sustain consumers’ interest,” noted Chan.
Local celebrities are also important role models to consumers striving to attain their look. Irene Kim, a model and co-host of the K-Style TV show, is one of the most high profile stars, with her strong social media following and beauty collaboration with Estée Lauder as a global beauty contributor.
10-Step Skin Care Routine
One of the more intriguing trends to emanate from South Korea has been the 10-step skin care routine. These include lightweight products such as essences and serums, which are designed to be layered one on top of the other. According to Asia strategist Florence Bernadin, Asian women love to mix products to achieve glow and perfectly moisturized skin. They are known as “modisumers,” a combination of modification and consumer. Both Euromonitor and Bernardin will present at next year’s In-Cosmetics Marketing Trends presentations in London, which takes place April 4-6.
The 10-step skin care routine was brought to Western consumers’ attention by Soko Glam, a blog and transactional website run by a Californian and her husband, who regularly visit Seoul to search for the latest beauty innovations and get them on the Soko Glam website. Each of the 10 steps is described with product suggestions, which explain unfamiliar skin care concepts. Double cleansing, for example, consists of an oil cleanser to remove makeup and dirt followed by a water-based cleanser to remove any residue from the oil. Next up is an exfoliator for a polished complexion, a toner to balance the skin’s pH levels, an essence for hydration and to help with cell turnover, a serum, booster or ampoule for specific skin issues, a sheet mask (the heart of any Korean skin care routine), eye cream, moisturizer and finally, sun protection. On its website, Soko Glam sells curated sets of Korean skin care products costing $199, which are based on the 10 steps necessary for the specific routine.
Innovation is key to maintaining Korean women’s interest in beauty products, whether it be new, unusual ingredients or technologies. In 2015, Euromonitor noted that manufacturers were focusing on incorporating sophisticated ingredients in beauty and personal care, particularly natural herbal ingredients.
“Manufacturers were also extending their success in one category to another through successful ingredients,” said Chan.
For example, AmoreParcific Corp. added liriope rhizome extract for its soothing and moisturizing properties to its holistic Sulwhasoo color cosmetics line, which is an extension of the skin care range. Fermented skin care is also on the rise, with a number of Korean brands launching new products into the category due to Korea’s long history of making fermented foods, such as kimchi, the country’s national dish.
“The recent trend in well-being has been driving the use of natural and milder ingredients, presenting the perfect opportunity for fermented skin care to succeed,” added Chan. Fermented beauty ingredients are said to break down substances into simpler molecules for easy absorption by the skin. Another benefit is that fermentation creates B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and beneficial enyzmes.
According to Chan, recent innovation in adding microbes to formulations has revitalized fermented skin care.
“There is increasing attention on fermented skin care products in Asia and this beauty trend has hit Europe as well,” she said.
Recent fermented skin care launches include AmorePacific’s Intensive Vitalizing Eye Essence and TonyMoly Timeless Ferment Snail Skincare. SU:M37° Water-Full Rebalancing Gel Lotion is described by Soko Glam as one of the most innovative moisturizers out of Korea right now for its four key fermented ingredients including bamboo water, said to be beneficial to skin health; red clover flower extract for skin vitality; hibiscus flower extract to promote moisture and gold-silver flower, which is meant to have a pore minimizing effect.
Spotting the next BB cream phenomenon is a challenge for global beauty brands, looking to cash in on the next big K-Beauty trend. Sheet masks came close as beauty brands quickly jumped on the trend with their own versions designed to address virtually any skin care issue. But there is still a reluctance by many Western consumers to ramp up the number of products in their skin care regime. Florence Bernardin believes that the multi-step approach will gain ground: “It will not be a 10-step routine, but I foresee liquid care + serum+ emulsion catching on.”
K-Beauty is just one of the topics up for discussion at In-Cosmetics Global, which is set for March 4-6, 2017 in London. More info: www.in-cosmetics.com