Ask anyone to name one country obsessed with skincare routines and beauty products; South Korea will always top the list.
Except if you live in a cave, we are sure you must have come across the term K-beauty which has taken the Indian and the global beauty and cosmetic industry by storm. Millions of people, especially Millennials and Gen Z, are going gaga over Korean beauty routines and products readily available in the market, all thanks to ecommerce.
If you believe that K-beauty is one of those hits that creates a buzz to die down eventually with no trace of existence, we are sorry to say that it does not seem to be the case. Over the past few years, the Korean beauty and cosmetic industry have expanded its horizons while also affecting the sales of many local brands.
Several Indian brands were compelled to introduce products according to the Korean beauty domain in a similar price range to keep up with the competition.
This article talks about K-beauty, why it is on a roll, and how you can leverage the trend.
K-Beauty Stats Look Pretty Solid
As per Statista, Korea is among the top ten beauty markets globally (1), leading to unique and sophisticated trends creation in the country’s cosmetics industry (2). From synthetic snake venom to snail slime, the South Indian nation uses weird combinations for beauty.
South Korea introduced the world to BB and CC creams, face masks, pimple patches, and cushion technology. K-beauty companies are tapping big markets aggressively worldwide. It seems that it has gained a strong foothold in India.
According to a Deccan Herald report (3), over 10% raise on exports from South Korea earlier this year, compared to the same months in 2020 before the pandemic. Interestingly, the consumption of Korean dramas on streaming platforms has also increased since last year, with several Korean titles featuring on Netflix India’s top ten trending list (Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha anyone?).
A Market Data Forecast (4) report suggests that the K-beauty market worldwide would be valued at over 10 billion USD this year and reach more than 20 billion USD by 2026, with an 11.3% CAGR. And the Asia Pacific nations, including India, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Taiwan, make up about 70% of its total market share (apart from South Korea itself).
According to the Indian national importance of cosmetics (HS Code 3304.99), Korea is on the fourth rank, about 11.544 million USD, after China, the US, UK, and France from the seventh rank in 2017 (5).
Starting with Amore Pacific Group’s Innisfree, which first came to India in 2013 (6), multiple Korean brands like LG Household Health’s The Face Shop (7) have forayed into the Indian beauty market. While these brands have offline channels, most K-beauty brands make about 50% of their sales on ecommerce websites. The majority of their Indian consumers include people in their 20s and 30s (8).
The main reason behind the popularity of K-beauty worldwide is its focus on preventive care instead of reactive care. It means that K-beauty products focus on nourishment, enhancing skin health, minimizing skin issues, and help to keep a youthful complexion. In contrast to our usual products focusing on combating issues after they arise.
Since the key to healthy skin is hydration, you may notice most Korean skincare brands offer an extensive range of nourishing and moisturizing products like sheet masks, pressed serums, sleeping masks, essences, and other similar products.
Their Unique Natural Ingredients
The Indian skincare market has a huge range of products formulated using traditional Ayurvedic ingredients like tulsi, lemon, neem, honey, etc. So, K-beauty’s strong focus on natural ingredients pretty much resonates with Indian consumers. Moreover, the new-age consumers are also excited to try products infused with globally popular ingredients, which are usually uncommon in India.
Besides, Indians, like most other people, also look for products that offer lasting results. And that is what K-beauty is all about!
Korean skincare products are made with a unique combination of natural ingredients like ginseng, chia seeds, rice water, avocado, bamboo, volcanic ash, and potent actives like AHAs, hyaluronic acid, retinol, BHAs, and niacinamide to make products that are highly effective yet gentle on skin (9).
K-Pop and K-Drama Culture
Be it BTS, Black Pink, Han Hyo Ju, Lee Jong Suk, or Park Min Young, we could not help but notice their radiant and flawless skin. It led us to experiment with a huge range of Korean beauty products (10).
It is also worth noting the rising interest in other Korean products, not limited to K-beauty alone. The overall Korean culture has started influencing young people in India. There is an increased excitement and push towards other Korean products like Soju, Ramyeon, Kimchi, etc. In addition, since the gap in the Indian cosmetic industry is pretty much evident, there is no surprise if we see more Indians turning to Korean cosmetics and beauty brands.
Bloggers and Influencers
Bloggers and influencers have played a huge role in promoting K-beauty in India and across the world. They demonstrate and elaborate the Korean beauty products to achieve glass skin. Influencers are known to thoroughly cover the quality and efficacy of Korean skincare products and the benefits of ingredients of those products while also highlighting K-beauty’s attractive and adorable packaging.
Such content created a lot of consumer awareness, encouraging them to try new products, adopt different routines, and indulging in self-pampering via skincare.
Resonation Between Indians and Koreans
It is another factor leading K-beauty in a winning position in India (11, 12). Both Indian and Korean societies place a cultural emphasis on self-cultivation of self-respect and respect for others. It is also socially important to live up to certain physical expectations.
It is especially true for Korean women, who spend twice as much on skincare products compared to markets like the US. Even Korean men spend more on skincare than any other market.
It has made a strong domestic market for Korean beauty markets. However, it is a small one. And Korean companies are adventurous when moving overseas and tapping big markets like China and India.
Korea has a huge influence on Chinese consumers regarding beauty and fashion products like France has in the UK and US. (Notably, because of the political tension between China and Korea, they don’t find the Chinese market too reliable.)
Korean brands aggressively target markets like India. Since modern Indians are increasingly concerned about ingredients in their products and sustainability – a core of K-beauty, consumers have notoriously started adopting its regime.
Indian consumers also share a pale skin preference similar to Korean counterparts, and many products in both markets boast whitening properties. Indian society is already infamous for discriminating against darker skin people (Thankfully, the scenario is changing).
Like Korea, there is also a preference for having good skin and a natural look instead of using makeup to conceal flaws in India. Even though India already has its beauty culture with its ancient old Ayurveda, Koreans’ approach to beauty still resonates with Indians.
K-beauty Trends To Look Out For
Handbang ingredients are traditional herbal ingredients of Korean medicines such as ginseng root, sacred lotus, Rehmannia, which boast anti-inflammation, anti-aging, and regenerative properties (13).
Carrot seed oil is getting popular at the moment in K-beauty products, even though the industry has been using it for over a decade now. And as more people are looking to brighten up their skin, it has become a star because of its anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging properties (14).
Centella Asiatica or Cica
Circa, a herb abundantly found in Asia, known for its anti-inflammatory property, is huge right now. People are dealing with pandemic stress, leading to sore skin, making Cica a must ingredient in people’s skincare routine (15).
Microbiome-friendly Skincare with Consumable Supplements
Inner and outer wellness products and brands will gain popularity with people looking for pre-, pro-, and postbiotics skincare products and health supplements which benefit both the gut and the skin (16).
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K-beauty is shifting towards a holistic approach via linking internal health and skincare. This brand (17) offers fermented ingredients for their beauty products along with aged vinegar (about seven to ten years old) that promotes good gut health.
As we mentioned in our previous article, Rising Trends in Beauty Industry and How to Leverage Them, consumers are getting smart and show greater interest in the ingredients their products are infused with and whether the brand’s values are right.
According to a Statista survey (18), about 70% of Korean respondents stated that they would check ingredients before purchasing any cosmetics.
Hence, we are likely to see a high demand for plant-based beauty products that are not tested on animals (vegan beauty products) in the upcoming future. Moreover, there would also be higher growth for companies offering their products with eco-friendly container packaging. You can leverage these two main beauty trends to drive growth for your beauty brand.
In addition, there are certain drawbacks of K-beauty in India which would prevent its widespread adoption. That’s where you may intervene and compete for market share.
K-beauty Products Needs Tedious Skincare Routine
K-beauty consumers get the best results when they follow at least five to six steps of the tiresome beauty regime every day (19). However, not everyone can take so much time of their day to follow a skincare routine.
K-beauty comes with an elaborative procedure, and you will need to adhere to it for the best results. Working women, students, and new moms often don’t have redundant time to follow such a beauty regime every day. That’s when you can step in and offer a single-step solution that won’t require such a tedious skincare routine yet offers excellent results while being gentle on skin and pocket.
Some Korean Products Can Be Expensive
Some K-beauty products can be pretty expensive. For instance, this (20) Nature Republic Snail Solution Ampoule has excellent results. However, a single bottle of 30 ml solution costs anywhere from about 13k to 16k INR.
Even with face masks, which need to be a part of a daily routine, it costs about 100 to 500 INR for a single piece. It won’t be feasible for everyone. (A secret: on Amazon India, you can buy The Face Shop mask sheets for 50 INR/a piece on some special days). The story with cleaners, serums, and toners is no different.
It offers you another area to be competing for market share. You can take advantage of being a local brand and offer similar products, same quality, at a much lower price.
It is Near to Impossible to Find The Best K-beauty Products For Individuals
The biggest issue with K-beauty is finding the right range and the right brand that gives you an excellent result as per your skin type. There are several different brands with multiple ranges. It cannot be easy to find the right products for an individual without blowing their money on all the products.
This drawback also allows you to help people find the right product for their skin and get the best results. A business opportunity here includes niching down on a particular skin type or demographic like pregnant women, teenage girls (21), menopaused women (22). You can also offer products for people with extra sensitive skin, slacked skin, thinner skin, and other common or unusual skin conditions.
Suppose you are not looking to conduct a series of tests on your product offerings. In that case, you can also create a portal recommending the right product for people based on their age, skin type, preferred skincare routines, etc., using big data and collaborations with beauty bloggers influencers, analyzing product reviews, for instance.
You can also expand this business by partnering with brands that you recommend to your audience and start offering subscription boxes for a personalized assortment of products. Take it another step forward by creating a platform that tracks the result of your audience after taking your recommendations. Such an app will allow you to offer the entire process, from entering skin type and related details to placing orders, sharing results and reviews in a single place for your audience.
You can also become an influencer yourself and offer a newsletter, podcasts, blogs articles, etc., on different brands, beauty products, skincare routines for a niche audience. You can also consider building a community.