Fast-paced innovation in facial skin care and make-up and highly engaged consumers drive growth of South Korea’s buoyant beauty market, estimated at just over US$13 billion in 2017. A new research from Mintel shines a spotlight on South Korea’s beauty market, the beauty trends impacting the global beauty industry and the latest innovations in textures, ingredients and product experience.

According to the market research firm, facial skincare accounts for more than half (51%) of the total market share with US$6.5 billion in retail sales and a projected 5.8% CAGR [1] over the next five years to reach US$7.2 billion by 2020. Much of the success of the facial skincare category is in part due to the abundance of new product development and the fact that more than two thirds (68%) of total skincare product launches in South Korea 2015-2016 [2] were facial skincare products, according to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD).

Following facial skincare, colour cosmetics makes up the second largest beauty category in the South Korean market, valued at US$2.3 billion in 2017. Mintel research indicates that the market is supported by an active and engaged consumer base with per capita spend on colour cosmetics in South Korea at US$45 in 2017, compared to US$43 in the UK and US$37 in the US [3], and more than double the global average per capita spend of US$21. With a projected CAGR of 8.1% over the next five years, the market is estimated to reach US$2.8 billion by 2020.

Facial skincare trends

According to Jane Jang, Senior Beauty Analyst at Mintel, 2017 will be the year of extreme segmentation for facial skincare and products will become increasingly targeted and multi-functional, responding to the needs of knowledgeable and demanding consumers.

As lines are blurring in every possible way to deliver new experiences and create continuous excitement around skincare, Mintel expects hybrid concoctions - such as daily exfoliating moisturisers, anti-wrinkle whitening tone-up creams and lightweight nourishing oil serums - to emerge, as well as transformative textures, like powder-to-serum, oil-to-foam and water-to-cream.

A strong focus on quality and safety supports a fascination for natural ingredients, in line with ‘hanbang’, the ancient Korean herbal medicine,” adds Jane Jang. According to Mintel GNPD, 69% of facial skincare launches in 2016 featured herbal/botanical claims in South Korea.

Furthermore, the sheet mask craze does not seem to be slowing down.Moving beyond basic hydrating benefits, sheet masks and patches are now designed for each part of the body and every member of the family, babies included, to target every possible need and to be used on the most specific occasions.

Makeup trends

As far as colour cosmetics are concerned, South Korea’s make-up rituals is focusing on lips and complexion. According to Mintel GNPD, lip colour launches accounted for 30% of all colour cosmetics launches in South Korea in 2016, compared to a global average of 27%. This is followed by foundations and fluid illuminators, which accounted for 16% of colour cosmetics launches in South Korea.

The boom of hybrid formats has spawned a variety of new lip products,like lip syrups, lip crayons, lip-quids and gel sticks,” says Jane Jang.

Furthermore, South Korean brands are increasingly focusing on gels, jellies, mousses and watery oils to enhance consumers’ sensorial experiences. Actually, the trend for hybrid and transforming textures and formats is borrowed from skincare.

Mintel, eventually notes that while cushion compacts have been a Korean success story for the past few years, they are increasingly becoming a trend in Western markets. From October 2013-September 2014, 80% of the global launches of cushion compacts took place in Asia Pacific, while 20% of launches occurred in Europe and the US. By October 2015-September 2016, the tables have turned and 46% of global cushion compacts launches were in Asia Pacific and 54% in Europe and the US. New launches in South Korea include multi-functional skincare claims (such as moisturising, anti-ageing, whitening and UV protection); foundation-like properties; and hygiene and application innovations.

The popularity of South Korean beauty products is due to their high performance combined with fun packaging and sensorial cues, as well as affordable prices. By gaining the attention of bloggers, vloggers and the media, the K-beauty wave is spreading to retailers outside of Asia. While colour cosmetics will be the active innovation area to cater to an increasing number of sophisticated beauty consumers, facial skincare remains the real powerhouse for K-beauty,” concluded Jane Jang.