What qualities do the most popular K-beauty brands share?
They have a strong story and usually a hero product or two. They leverage fun and whimsical packaging that stands out on social media. A lot of the popular ones in the US have been picked up by curators like Soko Glam, Glow Recipe, or Peach & Lily.
What epitomises a K-beauty brand?
The K-Beauty boom in the US has unfortunately led to a dilution of what defines a K-Beauty brand. You see American brands like Julep that has a Korean American founder play into the K-Beauty trend. You see retailers like Sephora group Japanese brands like SKII under the K-Beauty section and Western brands like Glam Glow create “Korean-inspired” products. Do they qualify as K-Beauty? I say no. Part of the problem is that there is no definition or standard for what makes a K-Beauty brand. Below, I list 4 criteria in order to qualify to be K-Beauty:
- To be a legitimate K-Beauty brand, your brand must originate from Korea and be manufactured by a Korean company and Korean manufacturer
- A legitimate K-Beauty brand will leverage and incorporate packaging, ingredient and product category innovations from Korea and popularised in Korea. Your K-Beauty brand may involve packaging design that can be kitschy, whimsical and fun
- Your K-Beauty brand appeals to the senses through emotive descriptors, sensorial textures and eye-catching visual cues
- It must leverage ingredients that originate in Korea
Has this changed at all since its entry into the market?
Yes, I think the lines have become very blurry and now there are many Western brands are seeking to play into the K-Beauty trend in some way. Now Japanese brands are looking to steal the spotlight away from K-Beauty.
Would you call K-beauty a phenomenon?
Yes, K-Beauty has absolutely become a phenomenon in the US in the past few years. Every publication has talked about it and every retailer has a K-Beauty curation. It has inspired copycat strategies and products from the likes of L’Oreal and Estee Lauder brands. I personally think it has also helped grow the skincare category faster than make-up for the first time in years, as cited by The NPD Group.
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