Trends and inspiration from the cosmetic capital of the world.

Trends and inspiration from the cosmetic capital of the world.

A scientist’s first-hand account of in-cosmetics Korea.

Senior exploration scientist, John Jimenez, takes us through his experience of the Korean edition of in-cosmetics. Korea is a leading country for trends in the cosmetics world and John uses his knowledge and insights of the industry to give an in-depth look at what trends and inspirations are coming up in 2023 and beyond.


This year I had the great opportunity to visit in-cosmetics Korea and participate as a jury for the innovation awards. I also had the opportunity to present the prizes to the winners in the functional ingredients category. It really was a wonderful experience.

This was the first time I visited this fair and it exceeded my expectations. I have had the opportunity to participate as a jury in other fairs, such as in-cosmetics Global, in-cosmetics Latin America and in-cosmetics Asia in different years and the truth is, this experience was very different.

To start off with, I want to say that I am Colombian and I am a lover of good coffee. I love discovering new coffees, new aromatic profiles and new textures, especially those related to high altitude varieties, which are specialty coffees produced in the green mountains deep in the Colombian Andes.

When coffee is grown above 2,000 meters, the metabolism of the plant changes and natural flavours and aromas of cocoa, chocolate and wood are created. When I arrived in Seoul and started walking around the city, I was surprised to find out that coffee has become one of the star businesses in South Korea.

Statistics indicate that per capita consumption is almost triple the world average, with each inhabitant consuming an average of 353 cups of coffee per year, which corresponds to 2.7 times more than the world average, well above Colombia. Coffee shop sales in Korea exceed $4.3 billion, the third largest turnover after coffee shops in the United States and China. So, it was really a great sensory experience to discover many specialty coffees in Seoul and precisely in places close to Coex, the place where the fair was held.

And just like coffee, cosmetics is also a sensory and trend-setting world. For cosmetics lovers, visiting Seoul is a great opportunity to learn about trends. I had the pleasure of visiting several places that are really fascinating due to the number of stores and the variety of formats, textures and brands.

To begin with, in the Gangnam district there are endless shopping malls, stores, and venues, including innovative flagship proposals where brands seek to surprise. We can find brands that offer free coffee, others are literally a coffee, like Skin Food, there are others that are a cinema like 3Ce and others that simulate art galleries. There are stores that are huge, like Olive Young, which can receive 10,000 people a day and with many references from different brands.

If we think of the equivalent of Times Square in New York, Shibuya in Tokyo, Gran Vía in Madrid or Calle 85 in Bogotá, without a doubt, it is Korea’s Myeongdong. It gave me the impression that all its streets were dedicated to cosmetics. In general, you can find three types of spaces: stores in the streets, which are of specific brands, shopping malls, in which we can find local and western stores, and multi-brand stores.

Technological development at the fair was impressive. I was struck by the presence of several suppliers that come from the pharmaceutical area. In other words, there is an increasingly thin line between the cosmetic and pharmaceutical and new technologies are on the border between these two worlds. This is something interesting, since, in the future, in other regions such as the West, legislation will also evolve to allow the use of ingredients with pharmaceutical technology and quality in cosmetic products, including new molecules and new anti-ageing release actives with drug-inspired concepts.

White and blue biotechnology are also a driver of innovation in the development of new products. Another technological trend that caught my attention were the actives for oral hygiene and cleaning. Globally, we are experiencing a boom in hyaluronic acid products and derivatives, and at the fair I was struck by the large number of suppliers that are working on this trend. Microbiome care is also a global trend and this is a category where suppliers came up with many innovations and new applications. We also saw new excipients, viscosity agents and film formers of natural origin, which allow the development of almost 100% natural emulsions. The fair also had a section developed with Mintel to illustrate the latest successful product launches on the market in K-Beauty concepts.

“Back to basics” is another of the trends that was all the rage at the fair and that have been prominent in product launches in the last six months. The objective is to bring back those ingredients that are traditional and known, but repowered, that is, with new efficacy tests, in new delivery systems and with new studies.

For this reason, we are now seeing ingredients such as panthenol, vitamin C, madecassoside and derivatives of Centella asiatica, ceramides, aloe vera, vegan collagen, glutathione, ferments, prebiotic, probiotic and postbiotic active ingredients, tea tree, charcoal, AHAs, niacinamide, tomato and chamomile. In the last six months we have also seen an increase in product concepts related to green, vegan, wellness, waterless and sustainability. Masks and especially sheet masks continue to specialize with a wide variety of textures and formats.

What does K-Beauty hold for us in the future? Intimate beauty is a cosmetic driver in Korea and it is starting to become so in the West as well. The mask and hyaluronic acid boom is increasingly present in the main regions of the world and we will see new applications and technologies in this category.

Back to basics is also a booming trend, driven by the pandemic and by the localism trend, so different regions are rescuing traditional ingredients known for their effectiveness. Healthy glow is a trending claim that we have already seen in recent months in many regions of the world. Multi-use products are also important because there’s a strong trend toward simplifying routines and we are seeing proposals and concepts of hybrid products in the main markets globally. Fermented beauty is another of the categories where we see a great opportunity for innovation and it is an area where suppliers will continue to present very interesting innovations at upcoming fairs.

In summary, I want to say that Seoul is the perfect destination for cosmetic lovers. The cosmetic capital of the world is the cradle of K-Beauty, a great source of trends and inspiration that are a fundamental factor for innovation in the new post-pandemic reality that we are experiencing.


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John Jiménez is a pharmacist from National University of Colombia with a master's in sustainable development and specialization studies in marketing, cosmetic science and neuromarketing. He has 30 publications in scientific journals and a book chapter in cosmetic formulation. He has been the recipient of the Maison G. de Navarre Prize (IFSCC USA 2004), Henry Maso Award (IFSCC USA 2016) and best scientific papers at Colamiqc Ecuador 2009, Colamiqc Brazil 2013 and Farmacosmética Colombia 2014. He also has been a speaker at various international conferences in Europe and Latin America. Since 2019, he has written a trends column for In-Cosmetics connect, Since 2013 a trends column for Cosmetics & Toiletries Brazil and since 2020, a column on neuromarketing for Eurocosmetics. He also has authored and co-authored articles and served on the Scientific Advisory Board for Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine. Jiménez additionally served as president of Accytec Bogotá (2017-2019). He joined Belcorp in 2005 and currently is Senior Researcher for skin care, suncare and personal care categories. Before joining Belcorp, he worked in Laboratorios Esko, Whitehall AH Robins and Fresenius Medical Care in Colombia.

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