Demystifying K-Beauty

5 fascinating facts about the worldwide beauty phenomenon

Korean-Beauty (K-Beauty) has spread to Europe and America. This latest South Korean export comes on the back of the 1990s-started “hallyu” wave of style, culture, diet and pop music propagated today by social media and online platforms. Recall the flawless glamor of PSY’s 2012 “Gangnam Style” and you capture the essence of the fun, sophistication and all-important beautiful skin believed to epitomize Korean urban culture.

Part of what makes K-Beauty fascinating is the country’s commitment to it. It’s a philosophy based on a dedication to well-being, taking the time to focus on self-care for a moment of the day. Good skincare and feeding your skin with wonderful ingredients is an enormous part of this, instilled from a young age. Rather than a luxury, in Korea it’s an integral aspect of life made affordable and accessible to everyone. And global consumers want in on the act.

With K-Beauty set to influence the West for the foreseeable future, here are a few key facts about this increasingly popular phenomenon.

1. Routines are the name of the game.

As for much of life, you don’t get far without discipline and effort. K-Beauty is based on multiple step skincare routines – usually 8 steps in the morning; 10 every evening. They cover everything from washing to integrating hydrating essences, serums and sunscreens into the standard cleanser/toner/moisturizer regime. While at first glance such dedication might be off-putting, K-Beauty enthusiasts claim to see the benefits.

2. K-Beauty aims to keep the skin neat without any defect.

That means preventing the apparition of wrinkles and signs of aging, redness and pigmentation. Unlike the Western tendency to use make-up to enhance features and cover up skin problems, Koreans believe that beauty comes from inside the skin. To achieve the “make-up look without make-up”, K-Beauty cosmetics focus on long-term activity, with hydration and nourishment absorbed one gentle layer at a time.

Customization is key, so you find ingredients that work for your skin and its unique needs. For a healthy skin, you must choose those that address the underlying tissues. Finally, the whole experience should be enjoyable – use products with sensorial textures, perhaps stored in quirky packaging that appeals to your inner child.

3. Korea is one of few countries that categorizes cosmetics into “functional” or “general”.

K-Beauty relies on “functional cosmetics” where the efficacy of specific claims, such as anti-wrinkles, lightening/whitening, UV protection, is supported by significant scientific research on the ingredients. They feature only those registered on a positive list, explaining the wide use of key ingredients such as niacinamide (vitamin B3), used for lightening claims, and adenosine, used for anti-wrinkle claims. General cosmetics are all those that don’t claim the properties of functional cosmetics.

4. K-Beauty products are no longer the domain of Korean brands.

To follow the trend, non-Korean cosmetic manufacturers are purchasing Korean brands. But they are also launching their own based on K-Beauty characteristics. For example cartoon-styled packaging and ingredients commonly used in K-Beauty, while also advocating a better lifestyle. In contrast, local brands promote the natural benefits from the unique Jeju Island, Korea’s largest island containing a designated UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.

5. New trend: “cloudless skin”.

With Korean-Beauty inspired BB, CC and DD creams well-established on global beauty routines, the media is pushing “cloudless skin” as the latest K-Beauty craze to filter its way to our shores. Not only based on cosmetics, the trend proposes a way to take care of your body and have a better lifestyle, fostering healthy food, sleep and a reduction in stress.

To achieve cloudless skin you need to minimize pores, prevent fine lines, remove hyperpigmentation, fight pigmentation apparition, and hydrate to have a glowing “glass-like” skin. Clariant Active Ingredients offers a host of actives, including active plant extracts from the paradise of Jeju Island, which address the trend’s individual priorities and support the development of innovative cosmetics. For example, the powerful lightening and dark spot remover WhiteTen SL, made from 10 lightening agents including niacinamide carefully selected to target the global melanin synthesis mechanism and more. And NLT AdenoSphere 2.0, based on adenoside for wrinkle control, which promotes a visible reduction in aging signs with a stimulation of collagen content and increase in fibroblast proliferation.

To find out more about our “cloudless skin”-relevant actives and other natural-inspired solutions for K-Beauty visit clariant.com/activeingredients. 

Alexandre Lapeyre

Alexandre Lapeyre

Global Technical Marketing Manager

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