If it’s not on your radar, it should be. Asia has long been hailed as a hub for beauty innovation, but if you look closer the country that’s making the biggest waves is South Korea. Since their creation of the BB cream, the beauty world has turned their attention to the offerings from the Korean market and waits, in hope, for the next big thing.
In 2009, South Korea’s cosmetics, skincare and toiletries market was worth close to AED27.4 billion. Their advancements in beauty technology and innovation have led to a burgeoning hub of beauty offerings. Alicia Yoon and Cindy Kim, Co-founders of Peach and Lily, an e-commerce site dedicated to sourcing, buying and selling the latest beauty products from Asia started their business as a solution. Both having one aim – to close the gap between Asia and the rest of the world. This year the tide is about to turn. With start-ups bridging the gap between the Asian and Western markets, this year sets to look favourably at Korean beauty products filling the gap in our make-up bags.
According to the Korea Tourism Office, the country is predicted to export more beauty products than it imports within this year. Both the Western and Middle Eastern worlds want a look in. Glowing and baby-like youthful, radiant skin has become the earmark for Korean women, but they pay for it. Alicia and Cindy are well aware of this. ‘South Korean women are some of the most globally demanding beauty consumers. They spend seven times more on beauty per capita per month than women in the US. They consume a wealth of information about beauty and are extremely knowledgeable about formulations and ingredients. They demand the very best quality and efficacy along with beautiful packaging,’ explains Alicia. Trying a range of products comes naturally to Korean women as they aim to achieve the highly sought-after no make-up look. One of the country’s largest beauty companies, AmorePacific, introduced the air-cushion compact, a foundation that contains a high SPF and multiple benefits, and now holds forty percent of the country’s foundation market. In recent months two editions by competing companies have introduced the product to the market with success.
As the Korean beauty industry wades in on the Western market, the surrounding beauty lovers’ eyes are firmly fixed on the new skincare superpower of the world. Many beauty insiders and professionals have claimed that South Korea is twelve years ahead in terms of beauty innovation. Alexia Inge, the co-founder of Cult Beauty, a beauty e-commerce site based in the UK, has actively started seeking products from South Korea. ‘It has been on our radar for a while because it has been the source of many of the innovations in skincare over the last five years. When talking to our expert panel and the founders of brands everyone agrees that this is the most exciting part of the world for skincare technology right now,’ explains Alexia. It’s the women, the consumers, who are dictating the need and value for this innovation and evolving marketplace. Alexia has noticed the optimism behind the brands. ‘It’s an up-and-coming nation too long overshadowed by the North. There is a thriving economy and real sense of optimism and this always inspires creativity. The women aren’t afraid to step away from tried and tested looks making them a brilliant customer base on which to trial new ideas,’ she says.
It’s not only the innovative technology used to create an array of products that has captivated our attention, but also the ingredients used within them. ‘The products feature hero active ingredients. Some common ones that are not as ubiquitous elsewhere include Ginseng, rice water, Asian herbs, mushrooms, snail extract, seaweed and kelp, botanicals, and even green tea,’ says Alicia. Korean scientists have honed in on the regenerative qualities of starfish. The starfish’s ability to re-grow limbs has had a groundbreaking effect on anti-aging products.
This desire to innovate and be in possession of the most beautiful glowing skin extends even further. South Korea may be a superpower for skincare, but they’ve also attained the title of being the plastic surgery capital of the world. From Restylane Vital injections to regular Botox, plastic surgery has become part of the norm to obtain beauty. Alicia and Cindy think this is in part due to advancements in technology, ‘South Korea is tremendously advanced when it comes to plastic surgery techniques and therefore, there are minimally invasive and easy ways to slightly alter facial features. With subtle changes and the high technology, increasingly more women and men are opting for cosmetic surgery. And as more people do it, the more it’s become accepted and therefore, more and more people opt for cosmetic surgery,’ explains Alicia.
And what’s the next big thing? Finishers. They serve as the last addition to your skincare regime before make-up is applied, leaving an all-round glow. The must-have beauty product is due to the hit shelves over the next few months (note: essences and sheet masks are firmly on the radar too). Trends are constantly emerging from South Korea, which Alicia believes is ‘because consumers are so demanding and companies need to innovate to keep up with the competition. Korean consumers like to see new things every season – therefore, Korean companies end up being the fastest globally to introduce new SKUs,’ says Alicia. Korean woman understand the value of adding ‘booster’ layers to their daily beauty regime.
South Korea has some of the most demanding beauty consumers that, in turn, demand a latest trend to trial. As beauty start-ups begin to immerse themselves within the Western market, Korean products are beginning to be more readily accessible to us. It won’t be long until we’re turning to, trying and testing the next big thing, thanks to South Korea.