Beauty trends in Asia: Korea and beyond

Beauty trends in Asia: Korea and beyond

Fast-paced innovation and diversity of ingredients, textures, experiences and packaging are the hallmark of Korean (K-Beauty) products. Up to now, Japanese beauty has played a lower key role, but the spotlight has now moved onto this vibrant and sophisticated market, providing another new and exciting focus for brands and consumers.

Evolution of K-Beauty

Korean consumers enjoy novelty and seeking out new products for better benefits and results. According to Mintel, consumers in their 20s and 30s are the most vibrant group who adopt and spread new trends while actively engaging with brands.

The Korean beauty routine is famous for its many and elaborate steps based around adding multiple layers for perfect dewy-looking skin. “Chok chok” is the term used to describe a radiant glowing complexion that is the goal of Korean consumers, especially those in their teens and 20s. Like all Korean inventions, it is changing and becoming multi-faceted. “In addition to dewy skin, consumers pay attention to a healthy skin barrier as well as good oil and water balance in the skin, which gives a glow from within,” comments Sharon Kwek, senior innovation and insights analyst (beauty & personal care), Mintel, who notes that consumers increasingly think that their skin has become more sensitive and look for safe and simple solutions in skincare.

Mintel identifies the most recent K-Beauty skincare trends:

  • Oil serums: these serum-like facial oils have a watery and lightweight texture and absorb quickly while locking in moisture without leaving a sticky residue. Used instead of serums, they come in varying formats, such as on-the-go mists, or mixed into foundation to increase natural glow. An example is Laneige Water Bank Double Layering Oil.
  • Tone up creams: Mintel introduced this concept with physical examples at in-cosmetics Global London, 2017. Tone up creams give an instant whitening effect on the skin and are popular with young Korean and Chinese consumers. Used to give a “no make-up” look, the current launches have pink hues to brighten the complexion, such as A’Pieu Baby Tone Up Cream.
  • Cica Creams: These products use centella asiatica, a medicinal herb used in treating and healing wounds. The soothing and moisturizing gel-type balm is good for sensitive skin, such as Innisfree Bija Cica Balm.
  • Peeling pads: Gentle exfoliation is an integral part of Korean’s regular skincare routine and products such as serums and toners include gentle exfoliating ingredients like AHA, BHA and PHA. Apart from serums and toners, pad formats are becoming more popular, such as BRTC Multi-Vital Peeling Pad.

Focus on Japanese beauty

Japan has suffered from an economic downturn, aging population and market saturation causing the beauty market to stagnate. Yet, Japan is the most developed and advanced beauty market in Asia with a steady stream of innovation coming from Japanese companies. Areas that global beauty companies should keep a close watch on include senior beauty, time saving products and protection beauty.

However, Japanese beauty has been outshone by K-beauty and pushed out of the spotlight by the never-ending stream of new textures, formats and packaging concepts emanating from the hyperactive Korean beauty industry. “That’s unfair, because anyone lucky enough to go to beauty stores in Japan are wowed by highly effective innovative skincare, haircare and colour cosmetics,” argues Vivienne Rudd, director of global innovation and insight, beauty & personal care, Mintel. She has noted the emergence of J-beauty, calling it “a confident, expressive form of beauty that blends technical expertise, traditional ingredients with a sense of fun and experimentation.” She adds: “If I’m looking for cleansing products, and, above all, haircare products that offer something new and interesting, Japan is where I look first.”

For many years, Japan has been going through extensive segmentation, so is more fragmented than any other beauty market, including South Korea. “Japanese consumers have sophisticated attitudes towards beauty, but they tend to stick to the products they are satisfied with or that have been popular for a while,” comments Jane Jang, senior beauty analyst, Mintel. Japanese consumers are therefore less likely to jump on every new trend and it takes them time to try and adopt new product formats.

Japanese beauty brands are therefore more circumspect in their launch programmes as they are not under the same pressure to churn out new products at highly competitive price points, points out Rudd. However, this is not to say that Japan does not innovate: probiotic skincare first started in Japan and Yakult, best known for its probiotic drinks, has been selling prestige probiotic facial skincare for years. Other ground-breaking beauty innovations that started in Japan include hair treatments with camellia oils, and make-up for women in their 50s and 60s from Kanebo’s Chicca and Shiseido’s Prior.

Japanese skincare routines have been changing from the lengthy ones in the past towards shorter, more focused regimes comprising only the essential steps with multi-functional benefits. Jang describes the average evening routine, which includes double cleansing (make-up remover and face wash), toner (called lotion in Japan), serum and moisturizer, with the addition of a sheet mask once or twice a week. “New extreme all-in-one products help create a very simple routine of cleansing and moisturizing,” she says, citing Senka Perfect Gel Night, combining lotion, emulsion, serum, cream and pack in one.

Beyond Korea and Japan

Korea and Japan are by no means the only Asian countries making waves in beauty. Thailand has a vibrant beauty business with local brands that meet the demands of its consumers. These include the leading cosmetic brand Mistine, which is heavily marketed; Namu Life, best known for its snail white cream and Gla Nature, made from Asian herbs and essential oils.

My Beauty Diary masks are huge in Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia, among others, where there is a strong culture of local brands. For example, in Taiwan, celebrities, bloggers and dermatologists create their own lines in partnership with locally manufactured brands.

Mintel presented at the Marketing Trends presentations at in-cosmetics Global, 17-19 April 2018.
For more Martketing Trends presentations, visit in-cosmetics Global

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