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K-Beauty - Part 1: Trends from South Korea



K-Beauty is a trend

As we observe the cosmetics market, we can’t fail to notice Korea and its strong influence on the beauty industry. The presence of Korean care products is revolutionizing our European beauty market. Why is K-Beauty so successful and how can you, the cosmetics producer, use this trend as inspiration for developing new products? Let us venture eastward together and discover the universe of Korean cosmetics. 

Korea has long been considered a hotspot for beauty and cosmetics, and for good reason: the Koreans are instrumental in creating new trends and innovations in the segments of skin care and beauty. The lovingly and playfully designed products include innovative serums, creams, cleansing fluids and much more, many of which are even made from natural ingredients. 

The range of cosmetics is different in South Korea from in Europe and the USA. The selection is vast, the ingredients are unique, the textures are innovative, and the look is cute and playful. It could hardly be otherwise, since the South Koreans will spare no effort for the beauty of their facial skin. 50% of the total turnover in the beauty market is generated through face care products. Cosmetics brands from South Korea are booming worldwide. Exports of cosmetics are leading ahead of all other industrial sectors in South Korea, at a two-figure growth rate which, experts claim, will continue to grow. 

Everything started with the BB creams. Did you know the first BB cream was invented by a German dermatologist? But only the Koreans really knew how to market it. If we had to mark a point in time when Korean cosmetics came under the international radar, at the latest it would be when the BB creams came from Korea, via North America, to Europe in 2011. 

A few figures on the Korean beauty market  

South Korea is one of the most internationally popular cosmetics markets and is in constant, rapid change. In spite of the global recession, the Korean cosmetics industry continues to grow at a rate of 9.2%. Statistics from KITA (the Korea International Trade Association) show that Korean exports from the cosmetics industry rose from USD 800 million in 2011 to USD 3.9 billion in 2016 (1). 

The Korean cosmetics market at a glance*

Industrial growth

  • Growth in production, 2016: 21.6%
  • Growth in sales, 2016: 17.0%
  • Growth in profit, 2016: 15.9%


Production capacity

  • Production, 2016: USD 10.876 million
  • Market size, 2016: USD 10.659 million
  • Number of companies, 2016: 4961 (production and marketing), 8175 (total)


Balance of trade

  • Export growth: 43.1% in 2016, average annual growth rate 43.4% from 2012–2016


Cosmetic Industry Analysis 2016, KHIDI (Korea Health Industry Development Institute)



Enthusiasm for K-Beauty has so far showed no signs of waning, and major Korean corporations and small businesses alike are working hard to expand their presence on the global market with high-quality products. Besides using innovative, exclusive and natural ingredients, they are placing increasing importance on developing unique packaging. According to Euromonitor (2), for the innovations in 2016, the K-Beauty industry concentrated more on emphasizing a product’s uniqueness than on advertising the new product technologies. 

Korean cosmetic products are known for offering “prestige quality” at “mass-market prices”. Despite the attractive prices, however, Korean women’s love of beauty care compels them to spend twice as much on cosmetic products as American women. This huge demand is a strong driver of research and development for Korean cosmetics manufacturers, who are therefore among the most innovative in the world. Snail filtrates and products from placenta, potatoes or gold are tested and integrated as effective actives into stable formulations (3). 

According to experts, Korean products are as much as 12 to 14 years ahead of American products thanks to this competitive atmosphere. The K-Beauty trend first reached the western cosmetics market with the BB creams. The Korean invention of cushion make-up and the trend in facial masks then struck in 2016, and there will be more trends to follow. 

You can gain a great deal of inspiration from this innovative and brisk Korean cosmetics market: from the trendy Korean lifestyle, the eastern care rituals, the practical and playfully presented products that are both affordable and highly effective… from modern developmental approaches and from products that are just plain fun to use.

Delve with us into the world of K-Beauty. In the following articles we explore the main factors behind the success of K-Beauty, we teach you about the multi-stage Korean care routine known as “layering”, and we present the most important Korean claims.



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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