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The Rise of K-Beauty in the Western Market

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By Nicollette Samuels

Over the last five years, Korea has had an influence on the United States’ beauty market. Products such as sheet masks, BB creams, and sheer lipsticks are all items that were inspired by Korea and can be found in any drugstore today.The years 2014 and 2015 were noteworthy for K-Beauty as it was the beginning of their widespread popularity in the United States. American consumers were influenced by the new trends that kept emerging over the years, such as the glass skin and “no-makeup” makeup trends, and the skin first beauty philosophy that originated in South Korea, where skincare and makeup are a part of the culture.

Many South Koreans have their first encounter with beauty products at a very young age, as they are taught to take care of their skin. While beauty products are mostly geared towards women in the U.S., in South Korea it is normal for both women and men to take care of their skin and use makeup. Many male K-pop stars do not mind wearing a little foundation or eyeliner, as long as they look flawless. The K-Beauty industry is heavily supported by the Korean government. Cosmetics is a billion-dollar industry, and as K-Beauty’s popularity across the globe continues to rise, the Korean government sees it as a dynamic export.

Korean makeup has influenced the U.S. beauty scene over the years with its very well-known fresh faced, lightweight look. Many American beauty brands have taken notice of this trend which has inspired their own versions of Korea’s most popular products.

It all started with the BB cream craze in 2012 when it seemed like every brand on the market was making their own. Korean BB creams were this all-in-one product made to cover and treat blemishes, sunspots, and wrinkles. They also included ingredients like Vitamin C and Hyaluronic acid. However, American BB creams were glorified tinted moisturizers. As time passed and K-Beauty continued making a name for themselves in cosmetics, western brands noticed and followed suit in creating their own inspired cushion foundations and blushes, sheer liquid lipsticks, and peel off brow and lip tints.

Although Korea has had a big impact on makeup in the U.S., their influence on skincare is huge. One of the pioneers who introduced Korean skincare to the United States is Charlotte Cho, the co-founder of Soko Glam, an online marketplace that curates Korean skincare, haircare, and makeup. Cho is also the author of The Little Book of Skincare: Korean Beauty Secrets for Healthy, Glowing Skin, a book that explains the beloved 10 step Korean skincare routine. She is also the owner of her own premium skincare line called Then I Met You.

Another popular e-commerce site is Wishtrend, a beauty commerce company that develops multiple skincare brands such as Klairs, By Wishtrend, and Jungle Botanics, and sells other outside brands that coincide with their philosophy of restoring the skin’s natural beauty by providing their customers effective skincare solutions.

What makes Korean skincare so desirable is their innovative products, ingredients, affordability, and results. K-skincare has some of the most unique products that were never heard of in the States before their rise to fame. Items like cleansing balms, sheet masks, essences, and ampoules were unfamiliar territory that had people intrigued. The selling points of most skincare are the ingredients and how they help the skin. K-skincare is known for having some of the most quality ingredients in their products in a high quantity. Ingredients include snail mucin, honey, centella asiatica, mugwort, green tea, and so much more.

Many western drugstores and luxury brands heavily advertise their star ingredients on their products, which usually contain the least amount of these ingredients with the majority being filler. Since K-skincare has such large amounts of their star ingredients, they generally lead to the results customers are looking for at a low cost. The price for a single product can range from $2 to $70 on Soko Glam, most being within mid-range, so there is something for every budget. As with Korean makeup, skincare brands started to ride the K-Beauty wave by making their own inspired versions, making Korean beauty products much more accessible.

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