Here’s why K-Beauty is killing it

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  • Cute cartoon graphics, counterintuitive packaging designs, future tech formulae, fun to use, non-mainstream – Korean Beauty, or K-Beauty as it’s known, is ruling the global market with clever products and a can-do approach to innovation.

    BB creams (and a host of other alphabetical additions), sheet masks, morphing masks, cushion compacts, sleeping packs, beauty waters, tinted lip oils, snail slime, pore masks, fringe stabilizers, waterless creams, multi-masking, fermented products – all leading trends in beauty and every one of them from South Korea. And it’s not just the products but what they look like that is so appealing – cartoon graphics, cute animals, primary colours and wacky names such as Magic Food Banana Sleeping Pack, a banana scented night cream in – you guessed it! – a banana shaped tube; and Cat’s Wink Clear Pact, a powder compact in the shape of a pink pussy cat. This barely scratches the surface of why we’re in love with K-Beauty – and why brands including Tony Moly, Etude House, Holika Holika and PeriPera are fast gaining global recognition – but it goes some way towards explaining why this magical fusion of fun and function wins every time.

    There once, western brands led the way, now the axis of influence has shifted and due to a combination of factors South Korea has become the global leader in beauty innovation in a relatively short period of time. The country’s strengths in digital technology plus significant government investment in R&D has led to a growing number of manufacturers (Samsung and LG have beauty divisions) highly responsive to trends and constantly creating globally influential products. Because of this, K-Beauty is believed to be at least 7-years ahead of the rest of the world in terms of innovation, which means western brands naturally seek SoKo’s lead on trends.

    Not only does the K-Beauty consumer, with their famed 15-step skincare regime, help to keep business buoyant, SoKo has an advantageous geographic location, close to China and its large population. With diplomatic and trade relations between China and Japan on the cool side, SoKo is happily fulfilling China’s beauty demands. Additionally, global locations with large indigenous Korean populations such as New York and LA, where annual K-Con events take place, help feed the K-Beauty phenomenon. The huge influence of K-Pop (remember Gangam style?) and Korean TV dramas, has led to strong celebrity influence via social media. Korean model and TV presenter, Irene Kim, who hosts the fashion TV show K-Style, has nearly a million Instagram followers and is signed to Estée Lauder as a Global Beauty Contributor. US website Refinery 29 recruited beauty correspondent Joyce Kong to chart the K-Beauty trends for their readers while Alicia Yoon’s influential Peach and Lily website (and bricks and mortar boutique in Koreatown, Flushing, New York), curates the latest must-haves from Korean brands.

    So how do you get in with the K-crowd? You need a cute lip balm, a matte lip stain, a perfect complexion and a sheet mask or two. Here’s what should be on your shopping list:


    Tony Moly’s Bbo Bbo Lip Balm

    Lip Balms
    The packaging counts more than the content: think cute animals, fruit shapes and lips. We love Tony Moly’s Bbo Bbo Lip Balm in a metallic lip shaped container.

    Starskin and Tony Moly Face Mask Sheets

    Sheet Masks
    These continue to evolve with clear gel masks, decorations (anything kawaii – cute animals, lace masks), and 3-steps with separate sachets of cleanser and serum to apply pre mask. Starskin uses Korean coco water fermentation technology; Tony Moly Face Mask Sheets come in brilliantly-designed packs – we love the Red Wine version

    Etude House Pink Vital Water Serum and Chanel Hydra Beauty Essence Mist

    Beauty Water
    Just another step to add to your skincare regime, beauty waters offer an additional level of hydration, post cleansing and toner, pre serum and moisturiser.

    Lancôme Miracle Cushion

    Cushion Compact
    A sponge impregnated with liquid foundation applied with another sponge. Leaves skin looking flawless. Lancôme’s Miracle Cushion brought the trend west and now cushion technology has been picked up by other brands and is being used for lip and cheek colours.

    Korean Magic Peeling Mitt

    Korean Spa Magic Peeling Mitt
    For the skin-polishing Korean spa experience at home.

    DHC Foaming Mesh

    Foam Nets
    The trend of cleaning the skin using the foam created by a product, rather than putting the product itself directly on the skin, has led to a demand for foam nets – little net bags that help to work up a rich later. Try DHC Foaming Mesh

    Bliss Triple Oxygen Instant Energizing Mask

    Morphing Masks
    Rubber masks, where you apply, leave to dry, then peel off in one go are the latest iteration in masks while morphing technology with bubbling/fizzing effects is a hot trend. 

    Korean Fringe Stabilizer

    Fringe Stabilizer
    Like Post-It notes for hair – Velcro hook pads that don’t crease the hair but hold it out of the way while you cleanse skin or apply make-up.

    YSL Volupte Tint-in-Oil and Romantic Bear

    Lip Stain
    Long-lasting stains are a big trend now. YSL Volupte Tint-in-Oil uses Korean technology or try Romantic Bear a thick gloss that once dry is peeled off to reveal a long-lasting stain.

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