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The BB cream was popular in South Korea long before it hit the western cosmetics world by storm in 2012. The same can be said for cushion compacts and sheet masks which quickly followed and pretty soon, K-beauty trends, aka products and trends that originate in South Korea, were revolutionising the global skincare and cosmetics market.
A proliferation of new products, research and innovations inspired by K-beauty trends are now hitting global retail shelves every year. As a result, fashion magazine Marie Claire has dubbed South Korea the new skincare superpower.
Skin and facial care have always been popular in South Korea, one of the top ten global beauty and personal care markets. According to research by Mintel, Koreans spend USD 45 per capita on colour cosmetics which is more than double the global average. The majority of Korean women follow a ten-step beauty regime daily, compared to the three-step routine of most Europeans or Americans.
Is it any wonder then, that the Korean skincare and colour cosmetics market is chock a block with innovative and novel product launches, each one promising to be even better than the next?
Revolutionising Global Skincare & Cosmetics Market
The BB cream, which stands for beauty balm or blemish balm, is a dual action moisturiser and foundation, which the Koreans had been using for years before it became popular in western markets. When the global cosmetics giants saw how popular it was becoming in other markets they started launching their own BB creams tailored to suit differing skin types. Practically overnight it became a must-have sensation in the global skincare and cosmetics market.
By 2014, the US market for BB creams was worth USD 164 million – not bad for a product that was virtually unknown only two years prior to this.
South Korea is at the forefront of innovation and research into skincare and cosmetics products. The Koreans are known for adopting innovative formulas for their beauty regime and for using unique and natural ingredients. Skin creams composed of snail mucus or bee venom are not uncommon and these unique ingredients, growing in popularity amongst Korean consumers, promise results like never before. It surely won’t be long before this too catches on in global markets.
Sheet masks and cushion compacts have been considered essential items in the Korean beauty regime for years, but are now also becoming beauty staples for discerning consumers the world over. This is proving to be an exciting time for the Korean players, offering a host of new business and export opportunities. Global cosmetics powerhouse Amore Pacific, headquartered in Seoul, for example, has partnered with Christian Dior to bring more cushion products to the global market. Names such as La Neige, Innis Free and Etude House, all brands under its portfolio are now becoming more familiar to western audiences – K-beauty trends that are now shaping the global skincare and cosmetics market.
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K-Beauty Trends – An Export Market
According to Korea Customs Service, as reported by the BBC, South Korea exported USD 1 billion (bn) worth of cosmetics goods in 2012. This had increased nearly three-fold by 2015 to USD 2.64 bn, indicating the rapid growth in demand for Korean beauty products in other shores.
CVS Pharmacy, a leading beauty retailer in America has just launched (April 2017) a curated K-beauty headquarters, meaning Korean beauty products are now available in over 2,000 of their stores nationwide. Prestige beauty retailer Sephora also stocks a wide range of Korean beauty products across its US stores and Macy’s New York has launched a K-beauty in-shop concept in partnership with popular Korean e-commerce site Peach and Lily.
Further popularised by media and bloggers and by the launch of Korean websites such as sokoglam.com, peachandlily.com and memebox.com, the K-beauty trend is only just beginning and is sure to continue to revolutionise the global skincare and cosmetics market.