February 12, 2019
The immense popularity of K-beauty has proven that the industry has gone global. Today, countless Korean brands fill the shelves of department stores and beauty retailers all over the globe. In 2017, it was reported that the K-beauty industry makes up $2.64 Billion worth of South Korea’s exports.
How did it all happen?
#1 Advanced Resources
In terms of research & development, South Korea is way ahead of the league. Experts say the technology and formulas being developed are 10-12 years ahead of the rest of the world.
The nation’s government even has funds and tax breaks for the development of the industry, including overseas expansion. The trend-led K-beauty industry places large importance in R&D, with the big players investing more than $100 million to push the boundaries of product innovation.
#2 Expansion beyond Asia
Tony Moly was the first few brands to branch out into the West. The beauty brand not only contains functional ingredients, but it also features over-the-top packagings.
Left: Tony Moly Petit Bunny Gloss Bar Right: Tony Moly Panda’s Dream White Magic Cream
Tony Moly first started expanding outside of South Korea by opening stores in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and several Southeast Asian countries in 2009. After experiencing a wave of popularity in Asia, the brand was soon stocked by Urban Outfitter. By 2015, Tony Moly opened its first flagship store in New York.
With that said, the biggest player in K-beauty is still the Amore Pacific corporation. They are home to over 30 K-beauty brands, such as Etude House, Laneige and luxury skincare brand Sulwhasoo. Similarly, Amore Pacific went global too, with Sephora globally distributing the brands.
#3 Clean Ingredients
In Asian cultures, beautiful skin is a reflection of good inner health, which is why most Asians prioritise skincare. Historically, South Korea has a deep heritage in skincare. Back then, the creation of potions and concentrates using traditional Asian natural ingredients, such as rice, snail extract, mugwort, Ginseng and Matcha, was common.
Today, these ingredients are still the basis of most modern Korean skincare products. The importance of clear and glowing skin is what has initiated the global clean beauty trend.
To further demonstrate the popularity of Korean skincare internationally, we captured the data of the 4 top-performing Korean skincare products at Sephora US from January to February of 2019. The key products identified are the Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow sleeping mask, Dr. Jart+ Ceramindin liquid toner, Laneige sleeping lip mask and Belif moisturising eye bomb.
Stock movement of the K-Beauty products
The chart above shows the stock movement of key K-beauty products mentioned above. Under just one month, all 4 products experienced a fast speed to sell-out in an international retailer.
A New Dawn for Asian Beauty
The rise of K-beauty has opened the doors to new opportunities for the Asian beauty industry. In comparison to K-beauty, J-beauty is slightly more reserved. They like to keep things simple and functional. Brands like Shiseido and SK-II have been pushing the most innovative and purest formulas in the international market for decades but failed to capture the new generation. However, the new awareness of rare and active ingredients native to Asia has indirectly sparked a Renaissance in J-beauty.
J-beauty tends to play the long game, they approach beauty scientifically, with endless hours in the lab and strict testing to get the best formula possible. As an example, Shiseido created their ReNeura energy moisturising cream that is developed from Neuroscience (yes, as in the scientific study of the brain) to activate the skin senses to detect skin information and damage in real time. J-beauty innovation is not only limited to skincare, as high-quality brushes and makeup tools are also being developed by acclaimed brands Hakuhodo and SUQQU.
Source: Suqqu’s Instagram
Essentially, J-beauty is the older, more mature sister to K-beauty. Both industries involve research and high-quality ingredients but ultimately have their own approaches to the beauty industry. However, the fundamentals remain the same – healthy glowing skin should be the basis of any beauty regiment.