- Korean cosmetics are trending towards sustainability and natural products.
- Use of innovative ingredients is a key driver of consumer demand and product differentiation.
- Marketing strategies are increasingly reliant on key opinion leaders and online influencers.
- Multinationals are increasingly leveraging new technologies like AI to create smart diagnostics and tailored skin care solutions and AR (augmented reality) to create immersive marketing strategies.
2019 In-cosmetics Exhibition was held in South Korea from June 26-28. The Exhibition brings together over 250 exhibitors of ingredients, fragrance, lab equipment, testing and regulatory solutions, as well as over 9,000 cosmetic manufacturers. During the exhibition ChemLinked interviewed Hwa Jun Lee, senior beauty and personal care analyst at Mintel and Sharon Kwek, senior innovation and insight analyst at Mintel beauty and personal care Asia Pacific about K-Beauty and sensitive skin care products.
K-Beauty is known in the global market for its technological innovation, unique ingredients, trend-setting formula, and the interesting packaging.
Characteristics of K-Beauty
|A wide variety of special ingredients|
|Combination of Eastern and Western elements|
|Complex sales channels|
|Popular makeups driven by trends|
Popular ingredient in South Korean Cosmetics – Cica
At the In-cosmetics Exhibition, Hwa Jun Lee, senior beauty and personal care analyst at Mintel, told ChemLinked, Cica Product is one of the most important trends in the South Korean beauty industry and its function gradually extended to anti-aging from anti-allergy and skin repair.
The main ingredient of cica product is Centella asiatica, which has previously been used as a traditional herbal ointment. According to Mintel Global New Product Database, “Over a fifth of new anti-aging skincare products that launched in South Korea in 2018 contained Centella asiatica, double that of 2015. And while Centella asiatica started out as soothing and wound care active ingredient, it has risen in importance as an anti-aging ingredient.”
Mintel also added that, “Traditionally, dermacosmetics cater to sensitive skin by touting soothing benefits. Now, South Korean dermacosmetics brands are using Cica to broaden their consumer base. Claims have stretched to cover more comprehensive skin benefits, such as anti-aging and whitening, among others.”
The first phase of South Korea’s cosmetics industry has benefited from technological innovation and price competitiveness, while the second phase has been influenced by South Korean stars marketing.
Andrew McDougall, the Global Beauty Analyst at Mintel, has said that the rise of South Korean beauty is largely due to social media . One of the most popular marketing methods for South Korean brands is to cooperate with their K-pop stars to increase their exposure through pop star endorsements, product placement, and joint ventures. Cultural elements such as Korean dramas and Korean pop are the main methods for brands to achieve output and expand their influence.
Cooperation between Mediheal and BTS Joint Cooperation between Fila and Innisfree
K-Beauty Development Trend – Ecofriendly
South Korea has strictly restricted the use of controversial ingredients such as alcohol, and consumers are pursuing pure natural, organic and vegan products. MFDS also consulted on standards for natural and organic cosmetics, which clearly define the definition and criteria of natural and organic cosmetics.
2. Sensitive Skin Care Products
Living with skin sensitivities is an everyday reality for many Asian consumers. Research from Mintel reveals that 44% of female facial skincare users in China say that having sensitive skin causes them to change or upgrade the skincare products that they use. Meanwhile, 34% of Chinese consumers who use sheet masks will pay more for a sheet mask that’s suitable for sensitive skin.
Sharon Kwek, Senior Innovation & Insights Analyst, Mintel Beauty & Personal Care, said, “It is imperative that beauty and personal care players in Asia understand the nature of Asian skin and that it is more prone to sensitivity due to a thinner stratum corneum. In this light, Asian consumers are on the lookout for effective solutions that help relieve or resolve issues caused by skin sensitivity. Companies, brands, manufacturers and retailers should support consumers in choosing the skincare that will work best for them—and this encompasses all consumer touchpoints, be in through an official brand website, advertising, in-store shopping experience or social channels.” 
Artificial Intelligence redefines the future of the beauty industry: the era of precision skin care is coming
Sharon also pointed that AI technology can help develop a tailored skin care solution for sensitive skin types. The White Paper on the Consumption of Generation Z  released by Kantar pointed out that Generation Z's interest in technology such as AI and AR is double that of their post 90s peer group.
In the past years, large multinationals are also leveraging new tech like AI, 3D printing and other technologies to develop customized personal skin care solutions for users. For example, the French beauty giant L'Oreal has developed an AI-driven digital skin diagnostic technology that uses a self-portrait and historical database to accurately assess the health of the user's skin and provide tailored skin care advice to meet consumers’ specific needs.