K-beauty continues to build momentum in the US market

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

Florence Bernardin (left), Eber Bodmer, Charlotte Cho, DK Tché, and Leila Rochet Podvin
Florence Bernardin (left), Eber Bodmer, Charlotte Cho, DK Tché, and Leila Rochet Podvin

Related tags Cosmetics

A panel of experts speaking at last week’s MakeUp in New York color cosmetics trade show shared data, insights, and anecdotes explaining why and how the Korean beauty trend is growing in the States.

Karen Young, founder of the beauty, health, and wellness marketing firm known at The Young Group, and Leila Rochet Podvin, founder of the beauty trends and consulting company Cosmetics Inspiration & Creation, opened the discussion.

Young shared data indicating that “Korean women spend more time and money per capita on beauty than US women do,” ​which suggests K-beauty could boost the size and value of the US beauty business overall. And, she explains that a handful of factors make K-beauty intriguing to consumers in this country: “the skin care ritual, product quality, product texture change, whimsical packaging, and K-pop music.”

Podvin added perspective to the discussion, noting that “in retail, K-beauty is now its own segment, with a dedicated area.” ​And she emphasized the number of product formats that have been inspired by K-beauty already, including “BB creams, masks, cushion compacts, powder lipsticks, fermented beauty products, [and items like] the Water Droplet Balm from e.l.f. cosmetics.”

Beauty discovery

In the US, brands and retailers alike are focused on helping consumers discover not only the concept of K-beauty but also the full array of product formats, brands, and options on the market.

For instance Charlotte Cho, along with David Cho, co-founded SoKoGlam in 2012 as an online marketplace for K-Beauty. And AmorePacific’s Aritaum stores showcase that company’s K-beauty brands and their full product lines. Panelist Eber Bodmer recently joined the company as Aritaum’s head of US marketing.  

Consumers in Korea always have something new to discover and try, and often very affordably, according to Charlotte Cho, who takes several trips there each year for business and recounted how she’s always met with new and inexpensive finds in the beauty isle.

Panelist DK Tché, creative director of Milimage, says this is possible because of fast-paced innovation.  The K-beuaty business is moving toward “same-day formulation,” ​he says, and in the future, cosmetics and personal care product development in Korea will be even faster in part because formulation facilities, packaging facilities, etc. will all be adjacent to one another.

At the same time, he believes, the industry will see an increase in the “speed of consumer adoption.”

Research and innovation and delivery

Behind the K-beauty phenomenon is a well-orchestrated government initiative to make certain that South Korean beauty products are a significant source of global commerce for the country.

“The Korean government wants beauty to be a big part of the economy,” ​says panelist Florence Bernardin, founder of the beauty consulting firm Information & Inspiration. She goes on to point out that the government backs up cosmetics and personal care R&D work with funding. And, she notes that K-beauty as it is now known came into being at the same time as the internet—a coincidence that K-beauty stakeholders took full advantage of.

Inspired by Korea beauty

Ingredients, formulations, and brands that are fully inspired by K-beauty already exist. Going forward, the trend will have an even larger influence in the US market, believes Cho. She says that soon “innovation that occurs in Korea will go straight to a brand that is not a K-beauty brand.” ​And, she expects to see more K-beauty manufactured in the US.

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