K-Beauty is Taking Over the Global Skin Care Industry

Korean Beauty (K-Beauty) started the “skincare wave” and since then has taken over the global skincare industry. Much of the growth of K-Beauty comes from the Korean wave (Hallyu). Hallyu is the term used to describe the export of Korean content such as movies, music, cosmetics, and fashion to the world. As Korean culture continues to grow, more and more Korean beauty products get exported globally. Add to the fact that because of the coronavirus pandemic, more consumers are purchasing beauty products online and are getting exposed to K-beauty. This results in a rise in competition in Korea to be the most innovative K-Beauty brand. Therefore as more and more Korean beauty startups and brands continue to push the envelope, the quality of the products also continues to rise. Korean beauty is now the leader in the global skincare industry.

K-Beauty Innovations

K-Beauty Snail SlimeWhat kind of innovation has Korean beauty brought to skincare? Any new and interesting skincare treatment probably will have originated from Korea. Products such as donkey milk, bee venom, snail slime, and pigskin collagen just to name a few. The latest skincare innovations are made in Korea as well as the majority of the manufacturing.

However, the biggest innovation Korean beauty brought to the global skincare market is the Korean 10-step skincare routine, made famous by Korean beauty startup Soko Glam. A quick breakdown goes like this:

The K-Beauty 10-Step Skincare Routine

  1. Oil cleaner
  2. Foaming cleanser
  3. Exfoliant
  4. Toner
  5. Essence
  6. Serum or Ampoule
  7. Sheet mask
  8. Eye cream
  9. Moisturizer
  10. Sunscreen or Night Cream

The 10-Step Skincare Routine can be done in the morning or night. People have adapted the 10-step skincare routine to what works best for them. Here I will explain MY ROUTINE which is different from most. The first step for me is to clean my face using only water. Then I use a toner so my face does not become too dehydrated. I wait a minute to let the toner get soaked into the skin. Then I apply the essence to give that added layer of hydration. I skip serums and Ampoule and go straight to the eye cream. I put the eye cream across both the brow and socket bone. Then I apply a sheet mask for 10 minutes. Finally, I put on my moisturizer and then let it dry. I only use the Sunscreen if I will be outside for an extended period of time.

The Global Beauty Industry

Global BeautyThe global beauty industry makes a lot of money. When we speak about the beauty industry, this includes shampoo, makeup, perfume, cologne, deodorant, soap, and skincare. Industry experts predict that by 2024 the industry’s revenue will grow to more than $800 billion. However, when you break down the number it is skincare that is driving much of the growth and it is not slowing down anytime soon.

In 2019 skincare products are the hot item in the cosmetics industry. A typical moisturizer or essence can cost around $50 with high-end products going upwards of $250. Skincare products are an increasingly lucrative business for cosmetics companies because there is a higher margin for the products making it more profitable for beauty companies.

Many global companies are strategically acquiring K-Beauty startups and brands to stay on top of the latest beauty market trends. In addition, brands that were never a part of the skincare market are looking to cash in on the skincare craze. Big companies like Amazon and big social media influencers like the Kardashians have launched their own brand of skincare products. Amazon recently launched its skincare brand Belei while Kylie Jenner launched her own skincare product Kylie skin.

The Global Beauty Industry by Product Category

  • Haircare products – 20%
  • Cosmetics -19%
  • Skincare products -25%
  • Perfumes/Colognes -10%
  • Other- 26%

The K-Beauty Industry

K-BeautyThe Korean beauty industry has seen a huge rise in product exports over the last 5 years. Korean beauty startups have been able to break into the global market because the demand for K-beauty products was high.

In 2018, Korean cosmetics exports rose 110% in Indonesia and overall 65% in Southeast Asia. In the UK it rose 70%, Russia rose to 65%, France rose to 47%, and in the U.S it rose 31%. However, in terms of total consumption, China came in at #1 with over $26 billion. Hong Kong was second at $14.4 billion and the US came in third at a little under $6 billion.

K- Beauty focuses on skincare above all while also making their products cool and affordable. K-beauty products have been so successful globally that many global brands have started to copy Korean brands. The Beauty industry is expected to reach close to $200 billion by 2024 making it one-quarter of the world’s total beauty market.

So why are K-beauty products so popular?

Korean beauty products focus a lot on wellness and health. Wellness and health do not just mean being healthy. It is a way of life. This includes eating well, having an exercise routine, and aiming for a more natural look. Furthermore, Korean beauty products tend to use natural ingredients that are labeled clearly on their packaging. Speaking of their packaging, K-beauty products use vivid colors and cute characters to promote their products. This is why K-beauty is especially popular with the younger generation. Many brands market directly to this target audience so most of the K-beauty products are affordable while also keep the quality.

K-Beauty products offer skincare items for all types of skins. They offer a variety of choices in all areas from toners to serums. People can test and try out different products to see which works best for their skin. There are new products that come out every week. Korean beauty brands are constantly coming up with new and innovative products that other more traditional global beauty brands can’t offer.

K-Beauty Influencers

K-beauty Youtuber PonyEducation also plays a big factor. On social media sites like Youtube and Instagram, there are thousands of videos on how to better care for your skin. As more and more consumers started to use these social media channels and the rise of selfie pictures, consumers focused a lot on how their faces looked on camera. Now there are skincare gurus and makeup artists that have become huge stars on these social media channels.

K-Beauty products are becoming so popular that South Korea has now become the top manufacturing hub for beauty products. Even American and European brands are formulating their products with Korean R&D chemists and manufacturing plants.

It really took influencers explaining to their followers and their community why certain products were incorporated into their routine and what impact they had on their skin. They were able to show step-by-step how a skincare routine was done from start to finish. Some of these skincare tutorials are big hits on YouTube because these kinds of videos can be viewed over and over again.

K-Beauty Culture

Skincare is a part of the culture of South Korea. Therefore women, as well as some men in Korea, really know how to take care of their skin at a very early age. This is how Korean women have a global perception of having perfect and flawless skin. Therefore in Korea, sadly, beauty is used to assign value to a woman. Many have to live up to impossible beauty standards set by Korean advertising companies and Korean entertainment companies. Therefore beauty for Korean women is an expectation for those looking to seek professional and social status.

Korean Beauty for Women a Requirement than a Choice

Korean Beauty SurgeryThere is a great expectation that Korean women need to care about their beauty/appearance. If you have ever been to the Seoul metro you will probably have seen plastic surgery advertisements in and around the subway. The plastic surgery industry has grown tremendously over the last 5 years as more and more women invest their money into their bodies. Plastic surgery in Korea is a $6 billion industry and will only continue to grow with the popularity of K-pop and K-dramas.

South Korea is not even in the top 100 in regards to wage equality. They even require all job applicants to attach a picture of themselves. Furthermore, there are horror stories of women being sent home from the office for not wearing enough makeup. Therefore women in Korea need to do whatever they can to compete.

The Future of K-Beauty

The good news is that there seems to be a movement to move away from these unrealistic K-beauty standards. Korean women now have more power than ever before. They have both social power and buying power. They can decide what beauty trends will look like in 2020, they have to power to change the Beauty industry for the better. Signs show that clean and sustainable beauty products should be a huge trend in 2020 because of the rise in air pollution in Korea. There will be more and more products going away from chemicals and focusing more on natural, organic, and vegan ingredients.

In addition to the rise in clean and sustainable beauty, look for K-beauty products to use eco-friendly materials for their packages. These packaging could even be customized with the latest advancement in technology. 3D printing and big data can create personalized K-beauty products for each individual. K-Beauty products could be based on the consumer’s personal data. If a K-Beauty startup can succeed in creating this personal experience for the consumer, they have the potential to lead the K-Beauty evolution.


Sue is the Co-Founder of Seoulz. She is the mind behind all of Seoulz' creative direction and visuals.

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