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Korean Beauty & The Search For Innovation

There’s no shortage of beauty products to choose from, so why do we again and again choose from the Korean cannon?

Innovation.

Beauty companies in Korea are pushed to create the new “it” product, packaging, and ingredient by a demanding and beauty savvy population. There’s no compromise - either create something that meets their high beauty standards or face the consequence of becoming irrelevant.

Remember when BB creams came stateside and there was a mad wave of BB products hitting drugstore, department and luxury shelves? That was 2011. BB creams were taking over Korea back in 2005. That’s right - we missed out on the blessing that is BB cream for years!

Blemish balms were the all-in-one product that beauty addicts around the world didn’t know they were missing. What do you get when you mix a serum, moisturizer, primer, foundation & sunscreen? A beauty blowout, oops, we mean a blemish balm (wink wink).

Also, don’t write off those cushion compacts you see advertised everywhere. This time, Western companies caught onto a Korean trend much quicker. Nicknamed the “six second compact” because one of these bad boys gets bought every six seconds, cushion compacts have been Korean women’s secret to flawless makeup on-the-go. 

You have to admit. The packaging innovation is designed to go where you go. There’s no foundation leaking out the sides because the product is soaked up (read: locked up) in a sponge. There’s no lugging around an extra foundation brush or getting your fingers dirty because of it’s anti-bacterial puff applicator. There’s no “don’t look at me moments” because your skin is always glowing with it’s seamless coverage.

Beauty culture in Korea is, metaphorically speaking, like the Kardashian culture we have stateside. Kendall or Kylie posts a new photo? Yeah, we’ve seen it. IOPE Air Cushions back in stock? Already ordered it. 

Another pressure on Korean companies come from the beauty culture that focuses more on glowing skin from within rather than from makeup. That’s not to say Korean women don’t love makeup innovations or techniques - hello, strobing - but makeup is always preceded by an impressive, all-encompassing skincare regimen. 

Effective skincare and ingredient innovation is the driving force behind intense R&D teams. Mad beauty scientists are constantly pushing the boundaries, just look at the success of snail mucin, syn-ake, donkey milk, and bee venom to name a few. There’s no “fake it till you make it” here. Consumers are so savvy and connected via social media that when new products hit the shelves, they are bought and judgement is passed within hours.

Florence Bernardin of Information & Inspiration, a market research firm that focuses on the Asian cosmetic market, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Korean beauty companies launch around 20-30 products per month compared to Western companies that launch 10-30 new products per year. Makes you wonder if those research and development teams are even sleeping.

According to Bernardin, “so many new innovation are coming from South Korea because it’s a young country with many young consumers who are beauty-obsessed.” That hits the mark.

With perfect skin on the mind - and within reach - it’s no wonder that Korean beauty churns out new innovations with a blink of the eye, and we’re reaping the beauty benefits.

Posted on September 01, 2015
by Alicia Yoon