Visit in-cosmetics Korea on 12-14 July to get more insights into K-Beauty, formulations and technology, with the K-Beauty Inspiration Zone.
There are more than six million Instagram posts alone tagged #kbeauty…and that’s not counting all the variations on the theme. South Korean brands, ingredients and beauty routines have caught the imaginations of beauty shoppers the world over – particularly those of what’s been coined the MZ Generation – Millennials now in their late 20s and 30s, and Gen Z, in their teens and early 20s – helped by the reach social media offers.
And while K-Beauty isn’t new, it’s still growing rapidly – a sign that it’s still a long way from being a mature sector. In fact, researchers expect it to grow at a CAGR [compound annual growth rate] of 9.2% until 2030 to reach US$18.32 billion.
When it comes to why K-Beauty products are so popular, it’s not only down to their efficacy; a unique combination of innovative ingredients and formulations, a commitment to natural and cruelty-free ethos, and a willingness to embrace technology, are all underpinned by South Korea’s long tradition of skincare understanding. That is also driven by the fact that South Korea is also considered the “capital” of both skincare and plastic surgery, and with an emphasis on beautiful skin, South Koreans learn about effective skincare from a very early age.
To find out more about why K-Beauty is at the forefront of the skincare industry and what this year’s in-cosmetics Korea holds for attendees this year, three key exhibitors in the K-Beauty Inspiration Zone shared their take on the market.
Rachel Kim, who heads up the overseas market for ingredients specialist, Daebong Life Science, explained some of the biggest trends right now. She said that the pandemic increased the importance of beauty and has since seen more consumers eager to embrace skincare, because prolonged mask-wearing had detrimental effects on their skin. “Cosmetics that protect and sooth irritated skin have become trending items in the skincare market.”
She added that environmental and hygiene issues are also now more significant to beauty buyers, meaning ‘clean’ beauty – both ethical and environment-friendly – are becoming major focus areas.
“Clean beauty has become a mega-trend, a culture and behaviour pursued by Korean consumers,” she said, adding: “20.8% of Korean skincare launches in 2022 were vegan cosmetics and this has continued to increase its market share. At the same 35% of South Koreans are willing to spend more on eco-friendly products…As the MZ generation, the main consumer group, values ethical consumption, clean beauty has become a major marketing keyword for most brands.”
Kim’s comments chime with McKinsey & Co. insight that states Gen Z consumers do their research before making a purchase. Nearly half of Gen Z survey respondents said they did “extensive research on product ingredients and their benefits before purchase, similar to Millennials”. McKinsey’s report also states that beyond product efficacy, younger consumers expect brands to stand for something, have an “authentic and approachable image” and a story that transcends the products. All attributes that K-Beauty players have embraced.
Adèle Nowak, Account Manager at plant enzyme specialist, Enzybel, and Monika Buchholz, Scientific Marketing Specialist of plant bio-product specialist, Vytrus Biotech, both agree with Kim that ‘conscious’ beauty products are growing in importance. Nowak said: “As consumers are getting more and more conscious about their health and their environmental impact, we see growth in sustainable and natural products that are made with non-toxic ingredients.”
And Buchholz added: “Latest emerging developments and shifts in consumer preferences could accurately outline the future of K-beauty over the next five to 10 years. These would be along the lines of the concepts of sustainability and clean beauty, as well as innovation in lab-grown ingredients (biotechnology) due to the benefits of efficacy, sustainability, and possibility to work with plants without harming nature. Those may play an important role in the integration of advanced personalized skincare solutions.”
All three pointed to social media as a key to K-Beauty’s success, with products and techniques booming in popularity, not only in Asia-Pacific, but also globally. Nowak referenced the success of Korean influencers in raising the profile of products’ efficacy to drive the popularity of K-Beauty, and Kim points to the MZ Generation’s social media use.
“The younger generation is more proficient in the use of social media and influenced by influencer celebrities,” she said, adding: “Overall, the rise in popularity of K-Beauty across social media can be attributed to a combination of innovative products, skincare emphasis, natural ingredients, appealing packaging influencer marketing, cultural influence and increased accessibility.” She also pointed to the wider global interest in all things South Korean, from K-Pop to Korean television dramas and films.
Buchholz added that the popularity of K-beauty across social media could be attributed to its innovative products, skincare-focused philosophy, cultural fascinations and the emphasis on inclusivity and customisation.
Brands are already scrambling to meet the demands of the MZ Generation for clean, ethical products, according to Kim, but she also stressed that consumers also expect products to be effective. “Brands recognise that consumers want to see results, as well as ingredients they consider to be ‘safe’. This means ‘Cleanical’ skincare is the future of clean beauty with ingredients that are clinically proven. Even now most of the raw ingredients companies and brands are moving in that direction.” She said more brands will look to ingredients, such as marine algae, to protect the skin’s microbiome and bio-cellulose forming film as a replacement for silicon. Nowak also underlined sustainable, natural products at the forefront of future developments.
It’s important to remember that South Korean brands have helped to drive the use of technology in skincare – from smart beauty devices to virtual skincare consultations, and this is likely to become more sophisticated. Tech, including AI skin analysis tools, work with mobile phones to analyse a consumer’s skin condition or enable virtual make-up try-on and then recommend the correct products and routines. Using AI to recommend specific ingredients also enables brands to create products tailored for individual consumers’ needs.
Ingredients to watch
With younger consumers incorporating active ingredients in their skincare routines, Kim says there’s now a large number of ingredients coming to market that help to balance and strengthen the skin barrier with the most frequently used ingredients, according to data from South Korean health and beauty retailer Olive Young, being Ceramides, Hyaluronic Acid, and Centella Asiatica. She added that while these might be familiar ingredients, already listed in many products, ingredients suppliers are working to upgrade their efficacy by varying molecule sizes according to how they will be used.
Trending ingredients highlighted by exhibitor are:
- Centella Asiatica – an Asian herb used to treat skin conditions for millennia
- Houttuynia Cordata – anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial
- Propolis is a compound created by bees to hold the hive together, which when used in skincare can help diminish wrinkles and smooth skin
- Snail mucin, or snail secretion filtrate is known for its hydrating properties
- Fermented extracts, which might be of fruit, herbs or yeast, are added to skincare to help maintain the microbiome
- Adaptogens are herbal compounds that can help stressed skin
K-Beauty Inspiration Zone
More than 280 cosmetics and personal care ingredients suppliers are set to exhibit in the K-Beauty Inspiration Zone at this year’s event, all demonstrating the very latest in ingredient innovation.
Daebong Life Science will showcase Jeju Centella Asiatica Extract. “Although Centella is already famous in the Korean Beauty market, we differentiate by selecting just four types, all of which have a higher triterpene content of more than 100ppm (parts per million) in total and is only grown in the clean area Jeju. We then apply GreenDiol, a 100% natural humectant and the only polyol in the human body to the triterpene extraction process, which results in higher active ingredients when compared to using other solvent, such as ethanol for the extraction process,” said Kim.
In line with recent skincare trends across TikTok, namely ‘SkinTok’, Enzybel will exhibit HELISKIN, a snail secretion filtrate that Nowak said has the “highest concentration of natural active ingredients, such as Allantoin, Collagen, Elastin and Hyaluronic Acid”.
Nowak explained: “One of our main features is to have direct access to regions where snails live naturally. This snail secretion filtrate is a sustainable product, as it is naturally produced by the snails. We can collect massive volumes of mucin without hurting the snails; the mucin is then refined and concentrated at our facility in Belgium.”
For Vytrus Biotech the focus at the event will be on a new concept, the Photobiome Factor and how the skin microbiota interacts with the sun to trigger a new microbiota pathway to fight skin photoaging. The award-winning Photobiome, which is based on sustainable plant biotechnology opens the door to a new category of microbial antioxidants by helping skin microbiota photoprotect itself by protecting and nourishing bacteria, modulating the release of its own natural photo-defence molecules to improve the signs of the photoaging process on the skin, said Buchholz.
The three said they were expecting strong interest at this year’s show. “We know our snail mucin is the highest quality on the market and expect it to be used in some of the most prestigious Korean skincare brands,” said Nowak, with Kim adding: “We want to be recognised by our customers as an active, professional company that is capable of not only developing Jeju and plants that are native to South Korea and active raw materials from marine products, but also pharmaceutical-level, high-purity or green bio-synthetic raw materials.”
“We want to continue to raise awareness of the potential of nature-inspired solutions and biotechnology that helps us to create skin and hair care actives based on innovation and sustainability.”
in-cosmetics Korea will take place from 12-14 July 2023 at the Coex Convention & Exhibition Center in Seoul, South Korea. For more information and to register to attend, visit here.
 Daebong Life Science internal market trend stats
 Daebong Life Science internal market trend stats
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