South Korea is one of the top 10 beauty markets in the world, known for innovation, gentle ingredients, and pleasing packaging.
in-cosmetics Korea will hold a session with Mintel in the Marketing Trends Theatre to discuss in person the latest innovation trends hitting the South Korean market. Make sure you register to attend to get these insights directly from the source.
In the meantime, we will share our views on innovative trends in skincare, colour cosmetics and hair care products in the following sections.
South Korean Colour Cosmetics
Lead the vegan makeup trend in South
Vegan makeup products are seeing growth as consumers’ interest increases. In addition, the vegan movement has potential to grow even more in the South Korean colour cosmetic market, considering current ethical and health trends and the consolidated success of vegan launches in Western markets. South Korean beauty trends resonate well with global markets.
It’s time to offer new products and brands to conscious consumers, and brands need to suggest vegan alternatives across subcategories, including tools.
Embrace eco-packaging as the norm
Although Western markets like the US and UK are leading in eco-friendly colour cosmetics packaging, South Korea showed strong growth between August 2021 and July 2022, compared to the previous year. The eco-friendly makeup trend in the South Korean market is rapidly catching up with Western markets.
Brands cannot afford to delay with packaging innovation and materials, as sustainability will become a must-have in the next couple of years; this will start with packaging.
Brands need to display their eco-friendliness with certifications or by applying new technologies.
Drive visibility and impulse lip colour purchases
Even during the pandemic, limited edition lip colour launches have shown steady growth and are positioned as an item that provides ‘sohwakhaeng’*.
Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) shows that 14% of lip colour launches between Aug 2021-Jul 2022 carried a limited edition claim – up from 8% in the 2018-19 period in South Korea market.
Actually, Sohwakhaeng is a trending term in South Korea. Meaning “a small but certain happiness”, it describes how a small piece of happiness can be found in daily life. A unique and collectable lip colour can bring sohwakhaeng to South Koreans.
Brands need to offer unique limited editions inspired by legendary products, collaborations with artists, and charities.
South Korean Skincare
Enhance the skin barrier
South Korean consumers want to protect or enhance the skin’s barrier, and skin barrier claims are mainstreaming in the skincare market.
Mintel Global New Products Database(GNPD) reveals that there has been a notable rise in the use of microbiome technology and pre/probiotics in facial care launches which claim to care for the skin’s barrier, and such innovation is expected to continue growing in South Korea’s skincare market.
Innovate new active ingredients and/or technologies, including microbiome care, to lead the market.
Go beyond just UV screening
In fact, sun care NPD with anti-ageing, whitening and reduction of fine line/wrinkles claims is increasing. New protective claims are also being added, eg blue light, IR and pollution. Plus, 8% of new sun care launches in 2021 in South Korea carried a blue light claim, a doubling compared to 2019 (4%). It is time to develop new protection claims, eg blue light, and propose these to sun care consumers.
Advance with hero ingredients
Although South Korea’s body care category is small in size, high growth is expected as body care transforms into an ingredient-driven market, similar to facial care
Body care is evolving into an ingredient-led category similar to facial care in South Korea. Hero Ingredients including sodium hyaluronate, panthenol, ceramide and niacinamide, amongst others, and their use is growing rapidly in body care launches.
Ingredients that are currently trending in facial care are highly likely to gain imminent popularity in body care. It is essential to pay attention to the on-trend ingredients appearing in facial care and quickly incorporate these into body care NPD.
South Korean Haircare
Cover grey hair with innovative shampoo
Shampoos that cover grey hair are buzzing in South Korea. They claim to cover grey hair gradually and safely after a few weeks of use. There is an opportunity to explore this newly growing market and promote the safe and efficacious formulation of these products.
Some consumers have concerns about the safety of hair colourants, such as skin irritation, and have been looking for a safe way to cover their grey hair.
Since 2021, grey hair-covering shampoos have been highlighted, appealing to consumers who have concerns about irritation from dye products on the market.
Lead the waterless movement in SK
Mintel’s 2025 BPC Trend Water – the new luxury outlines the importance of water-free haircare options due to global climate concerns.
The recent surge of waterless formats like bar and solid in the South Korean haircare market is outstanding and waterless haircare is expected to grow further in every haircare segment.
37% of South Korean women* would be willing to spend more on a beauty or grooming product that is environmentally friendly. Meanwhile, eco-minded solid formats are also rising and evolving in global market, as described in the Mintel Report, A year of innovation in haircare, styling & colour, 2021.
It’s time to offer a variety of waterless haircare to engage with eco-conscious South Korean consumers.
Focus on customisation
Customisation in haircare is not so active in South Korea, as brands tend to start offering customisable beauty in bigger categories like skincare. But high consumer interest will lead to growth in this category.
49% of South Korean women are interested in BPC product concepts that have custom formulas suitable for their skin/hair type*.
Brands need to explore customisable haircare, including addressing different hair types, bespoke hair colourants, etc, while to utilise up-to-date technologies to lead the future of haircare.
Register your interest to come to in-cosmetics Korea and see these products for yourself.
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