South Korea’s beauty market continues to make quite an impact on the global beauty industry with the latest innovations in textures, ingredients, and product experience.
Mintel research shows South Korea is among the top 10 global beauty markets, estimated at just over US$13 billion in 2017. Jane Jang, senior beauty analyst at Mintel, notes Western brands are constantly looking to South Korea for their next inspiration, seeking to adapt popular South Korean beauty formats for Western consumers.
“The popularity of South Korean beauty products is due to their high performance combined with fun packaging and sensorial cues, as well as affordable prices,” she says. “By gaining the attention of bloggers, vloggers, and the media, the K-beauty wave is spreading to retailers outside of Asia.”
While color cosmetics will be the active innovation area to cater to an increasing number of sophisticated beauty consumers, facial skincare remains the real powerhouse for K-beauty, Jang explains.
Mintel research shows facial skincare accounts for more than half (51%) of the total market share with $6.5 billion in retail sales and a projected 5.8% CAGR over the next five years to reach $7.2 billion by 2020.
South Korea is among the top 10 global beauty markets. The popularity is due to high performance combined with fun packaging and sensorial cues, as well as affordable prices. By gaining the attention of bloggers, vloggers, and the media, the K-beauty wave is spreading to retailers outside of Asia. The market continues to remain buoyant thanks to fast-paced innovations and highly engaged consumers who don’t hesitate to adopt novel products delivering new beauty experiences.
Much of the success of the facial skincare category is in part due to the abundance of new product development and the fact that more than two-thirds (68%) of total skincare product launches in South Korea 2015-2016 were facial skincare products, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD). Following facial skincare, color cosmetics are the second largest beauty category in the South Korean market, valued at $2.3 billion in 2017. With a projected CAGR of 8.1% over the next five years, the market is estimated to reach $2.8 billion by 2020, according to Mintel.
In discussing South Korean beauty and personal care trends that are set to impact global beauty markets moving forward, Jang notes facial skincare in 2017 will be the year of extreme segmentation. Products will become increasingly targeted and multi-functional, responding to the needs of knowledgeable and demanding consumers.
South Korean Beauty routines can consist of up to 10 steps, and a common obsession for specific claims — especially moisturizing, brightening, whitening and anti-aging — means that most products combine multiple functions. The goal is to achieve the so-called ‘chok-chok’ skin, which is supposed to look bright, fair, plump, dewy and youthful.
Expect to see hybrid concoctions, such as daily exfoliating moisturizers, anti-wrinkle whitening tone-up creams and lightweight nourishing oil serums, but also transformative textures, like powder-to-serum, oil-to-foam and water-to-cream. Overall, lines are blurring in every possible way to deliver new experiences and create continuous excitement around skincare, Jang adds.
Additionally, a strong focus on quality and safety supports a fascination for natural ingredients, in line with ‘hanbang’, the ancient Korean herbal medicine,” she says.
Tradition is taken to the next level through scientific improvements, and 69% of facial skincare launches in 2016 featured herbal/botanical claims in South Korea, according to Mintel GNPD. Within the category, varieties of plants, flowers, herbs and superfoods are spreading. Jeju Island represents a pristine source of natural ingredients, especially green tea, volcanic ash and thermal water. Other popular natural components include centella asiatica, to soothe sensitive skin and protect it from stress, fermented tea, packed with antioxidants, and black ingredients, from charcoal to black olives, according to Mintel.
The sheet mask craze also does not seem to be slowing down. Moving beyond basic hydrating benefits, sheet masks and patches are now designed for each part of the body and every member of the family, babies included, to target every possible need and to be used on the most specific occasions. Some interesting examples include masks inspired by oriental acupressure massage techniques and injection treatments at clinics, featuring micro-needles and pressure points, and sauna-effect masks that lock in moisture while trapping body heat, Jang says.
Diversity of shades
In 2017, South Korea’s make-up rituals focus greatly on lips and complexion and utilize products that embrace a diversity of shades and variety of contouring techniques. As such, the number of lip color and face make-up product launches tend to be higher than the global average.
According to Mintel GNPD, lip color launches accounted for 30% of all color cosmetics launches in South Korea in 2016, compared to a global average of 27%. This is followed by foundations and fluid illuminators, which accounted for 16% of color cosmetics launches in South Korea.
“The boom of hybrid formats has spawned a variety of new lip products, like lip syrups, lip crayons, lip-quids and gel sticks,” Jang says. “Lip tints are also widely diffused, but contrary to their potentially drying Western counterparts, South Korean products are lightweight and glossy, and often come as oils.”
K-Drama and K-Pop play a significant role in creating hype around lip products, leveraging product placements and celebrity endorsements as a powerful marketing tool, she adds.
Cushions compacts have also been a Korean success story for the past few years, breaking through the Western market in 2016. From October 2013-September 2014, 80% of the global launches of cushion compacts took place in Asia Pacific, while 20% of launches occurred in Europe and the U.S. By October 2015-September 2016, the tables have turned and 46% of global cushion compacts launches were in Asia-Pacific and 54% in Europe and the U.S.
“The Korean beauty market remains buoyant thanks to fast-paced innovations and highly engaged consumers who don’t hesitate to adopt novel products delivering new beauty experiences,” Jang explains. “The success of the market has been heavily driven by the boom of facial skincare, but is also highlighted by the impressive per capita spend on color cosmetics which is more than double the global average.”