Minimalism momentum: South Korean consumers turning their back on complex beauty routines

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

The rise of minimalism is creating opportunities for beauty companies. ©GettyImages
The rise of minimalism is creating opportunities for beauty companies. ©GettyImages
The rise of minimalism is creating opportunities for beauty companies to create simple products to cater to South Korean consumers that are looking for more straightforward beauty routines.

The minimalist trend is driven by young urbanites who are beginning to embrace a simpler lifestyle to combat everyday stress.

“A growing number of younger consumers have started to embrace a minimalist lifestyle to give themselves space to breathe as well as take a rest from anything that may be pressurising, even if just slightly,” ​said Hwa Jun Lee, senior beauty and personal care analyst at Mintel.

These consumers, he continues, are happier when buying ‘just the essentials’.

“Instead of purchasing many products at once, they tend to buy small, portable and easy-to-use products with reasonable price tags.”

Lee also attributes the rise of the minimalist lifestyle to the Honjok or ‘loner’ tribe.

He explained that a Honjok was a person who preferred to work, eat and enjoy leisurely activities alone.

“More South Koreans think it is better to enjoy life alone than to be stressed out by other people,” ​Lee added.

Beauty backlash

Partly fuelled by South Korea’s #escapethecorset movement, Lee believes this lifestyle change is a backlash against the complex beauty routines that are characteristic of the K-beauty industry.

These beauty minimalists believe the traditional South Korean routine of layering multiple products negatively affects skin health.

According to Lee, they are now reducing the number of beauty products they use daily, resulting in the ‘skip care’ trend where consumers deliberately skip care steps.

This is creating an opportunity for personal care companies to create products that cater to minimalist and Honjoks.

“There are now opportunities for beauty brands to establish new presence and positioning in light of the consumers moving towards minimalist lifestyles,”​ said Lee.

Some examples of brands that are catering to these consumers are Hyggee, Lagome and Dr. Jart, which advocate a ‘less is more’ approach to beauty.

Lee highlighted that Dr. Jart is a brand that was particularly good at educating consumers on minimising their skin care routines.

“With the minimalism trend growing, it is important that brands communicate how beauty consumers can reduce their daily skincare routines and highlight the products essential for simplifying their skincare routines.”

Global brands such as Laneige have capitalised on the trend successfully with its Cream Skin Refiner, a toner-cream hybrid.

Minimalism goes mainstream

However, the minimalism trend has not gone mainstream yet and Lee expects it to keep growing.

Already the trend is impacting the beauty device category, where all-in-one devices are gaining in popularity as they are convenient, easy-to-use and reasonably priced, said Lee.

Eventually, he believes the trend will shift from skin care and move into the make-up category.

“We are starting to see minimalistic colour cosmetics products out in the beauty marketplace. However, the minimalism trend is not yet mainstream and currently has no significant impact on the colour cosmetics category so far.

“In the near future, we can expect the minimalism trend to grow in three different areas: the simplification of makeup routines; multi-purpose makeup products; and smaller packaging. These same shifts will also be seen in skincare,”​ said Lee.

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