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K-Beauty – Part 2: Key factors behind the success of Korean cosmetics




Korea is considered the forerunner of the beauty industry. Thorough face and body care is an integral part of many women’s and, increasingly, men’s daily lives. A uniform complexion with perfect, taut skin is a core beauty ideal in Korea and cosmetics are therefore abundant in the country. What are the factors behind the success of K-Beauty?

Following Part 1’s introduction to the Korean cosmetics market, we now continue into Part 2 of our K-Beauty article series, where we examine a number of factors that are responsible for the success of Korean cosmetics.

Fast Cosmetics

Korean consumers feel no particular loyalty to one cosmetics brand, and are generally open to changing from one brand of a care product to another. This lack of brand loyalty and the intensive use of all kinds of cosmetic products forces product cycles to be very short. New products come out with higher frequency, but with shelf lives averaging only 2–3 years. 

To remain innovative and to keep pace with the short development times, Korean cosmetics manufacturers often work with existing formulations, which they modify slightly or reposition by merely repackaging when the right occasion presents itself, say, for an event or a celebration. Every trend has to be answered with a rapid launch of a relevant, easy-to-use cosmetic product. 


Innovation à la hallyu

Hallyu essentially means “Korean wave” and refers to a phenomenon of Korean entertainment and pop culture that has spread throughout the world in the form of music, TV dramas and films. Little by little, this Korean wave has spilled over into other segments such as the beauty industry. 

Hallyu can be understood as the marketing of Korean culture and has a strong influence on the Korean economy. Quite often, a megahit in the cosmetics industry is created when an actor uses a product in a TV show. 

Korea has since established itself as a cultural centre and is used as a benchmark in the Asian region and increasingly in the West for many industries, including fashion, cosmetics, media and music. 

K-Beauty therefore not only stands for Korean skin care products and makeup, but rather embodies the Korean culture per se.


Price positioning and distribution

So, what about pricing? Who is K-Beauty aimed at? 

Given the high competition in the luxury segment, Korean cosmetics manufacturers position their products in the less saturated “masstige” market. This term is taken from mass and prestige, a concept of prestige for the masses. In other words, “masstige” products bridge the gap between low-end body care products and prestige products in the high-end category, and present good opportunities to operate in the middle-price segment. 

To boost their image, Korean cosmetics makers quite often prefer to sell their products primarily in a “standalone boutique” rather than through a department store or drugstore. Sales are also supported by intensive digital marketing. 


K-Beauty products – genuine eye catchers

Cute, pretty, extravagant and classy…

Korean cosmetics cover a very broad spectrum in terms of variety of packaging: a perfume might masquerade as a cute bunny, a nail polish might come in the shape of an ice cream cone, a BB cream might be packaged in pink and adorned with silver sparkling elements; the manufacturers in Korea know how to win their customers over. The packaging of many products follows the aesthetics of a cute animal or some other thing that brings joy to our heart. Admit it – we all love to have pretty things in our collections. Using these products should be a pleasure and not a chore. 

Nevertheless, behind this playful exterior is a solid core. There is strong focus on naturalness in Korean cosmetics. Synthetic chemicals are less often to be found among the ingredients than in western countries. 

Why Koreans have such flawless skin, and why they invest hours of each day in their beauty care, we will reveal in Part 3 of our K-Beauty series. 

Claudia Dür

Social Media Manager

Stories - Nature - Movement. These three words have the greatest meaning in my life.

As a passionate communicator, I am responsible for social media at IMPAG. In addition, I write various contents for our communication activities in the area of personal care. I love stories, constructive exchange, open discussions and teamwork. In my spare time you meet me and my family always in motion, be it biking, climbing and hiking in the mountains or surfing in the waves of the Atlantic.

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