The all-natural and biodegradable gel material is made out of agarose, a seaweed found off the shores of Spain and Morocco.
Under the brand Sea+, the company has created five proprietary blends that work best with the agarose gel that tackle concerns from anti-ageing to acne.
According to Jennifer Clancy, head of global marketing, Lonza is the largest supplier of agarose.
“Agarose is often challenging to use in personal care because it is a very expensive seaweed. It is important for us to introduce agarose to the market in a way that customers can afford and be disruptive in important categories like facial masks – using it as a delivery system, not just an ingredient.”
Clean and green solution
Clancy believes the demand for facial sheet mask will continue to rise, not just in APAC, but globally.
“You can deliver more efficacy with the active in a mask rather than diluting it down in a cream or a lotion. This is why everyone is moving to masks. They can get instant gratification because the product is penetrating into the skin faster than having to use a cream every day for 30 days to see some results,” she explained.
At the same time, however, Asian consumers are now more aware of their eco-responsibility and are looking for sustainable alternatives, she added.
“Asian consumers are looking for clean labelling. That means they want something that is truly all-natural and sustainable.”
She said it was just a matter of time before sheet masks, which are an integral part of the K-beauty routine, reached the same notoriety as other single-use disposable items like straws and baby wipes.
“Within the mask category, a lot of consumers are beginning to realise that it’s not very sustainable to put on something and throw it out shortly after. Right now, facial masks are synthetic, not biodegradable and not comfortable to use. Using agarose is a great sustainable alternative for the future.
Clancy is confident the new gel masks will disrupt the market with its new consumer experience.
“It is really an elevated technology for facial masks and patches. It’s been redesigned for a completely new consumer experience,” Clancy said.
She added: “This is certainly disruptive for the category. It’s the only sea plant-based gel in the mass category. It completely changes the delivery system. It’s crystal clear, cooling on the skin... After a few minutes, you don’t feel like you’re wearing it at all. And after you leave it on for 10 to 20 minutes and you will see immediate results. We're really excited about this technology.”
Racing to market
Creating innovative solutions, especially in a fast-moving market like South Korea, is becoming increasingly important for the firm.
“We're trying to be more proactive than reactive by offer this particular market something they don't even realise that they need but can be game-changing for their brand or category,” said Clancy.
With a market as saturated with brands and products like South Korea, she added, it is also important for the company to come up with formulation solutions.
“Especially here in Korea, there are more customers that are looking for formulations solutions rather than raw materials. This market is saturated with so many brands and products. The market is looking for newness and innovation. It’s all about speed to market, you can no longer wait 18 to 20 months.”
With ready-made formulations, Clancy said its customers could “pick and shop” and get products on the shelves in six to eight months.