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[Weekender] Korean makeup companies paint new face of beauty

Korean cosmetic firms jump into global makeup market following k-beauty trend

For beauty-trend followers around the world, “glass skin” has become a buzzword in recent years, as Korean skin care and makeup trends took social media by storm.

Glass skin, a term used to describe crystal-clear, flawless, almost transparent skin has been a sought-after beauty ideal in Korea and fans of Korean tyle trends.

Korean makeup is having its moment in the sun. What began as a skin care sheet mask has now expanded into a 10 step Korean beauty regimen, commonly known as the “glass skin routine,” explained through tutorial videos uploaded by beauty YouTubers and content creators.

“What I like about Korean cosmetics is that there are so many all-you-can-find health and beauty drug stores like Olive Young and Chicor where a different variety of cosmetics can be tried on,” said Angela Zhang, who recently visited Korea to purchase cosmetics. 

The overall popularity of Korean makeup is encouraging more brands to expand their businesses internationally.

Influencers try out cosmetics on
Influencers try out cosmetics on "Kaja" launching day at Sephora. (Memebox)

Last month, Sephora, a French multinational chain of beauty stores, unveiled its first-ever Korean color cosmetics collaboration in partnership with Memebox. The retailer has teamed up with the platform on product lineup Kaja which was designed for girls on the go.

Kaja, which means “let’s go” in Korean, features 47 different products for eyes, lips and face, incorporating Korean technology and formulations, and playful, stackable packaging. 

Among others, affordable and trendy cosmetics brands are especially enjoying explosive popularity.

3CE, a cult makeup brand under the successful fashion brand Style Nanda which has grown from its online clothing website, owns stores in number of overseas countries including Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. The firm was acquired by French cosmetics giant L’Oreal in July. 

Some of its best-selling products consists of eye shadow palettes, nude matte lip sticks, dark blush and lip tints which have taken the Korean make-up industry storm.

“3CE has quickly gained popularity with their fun trendy styled photos and fashionable posts they post on their website. Their stores area also incredibly adorable and chic, it’s worth to go for a cool high-end-Sephora-type experience,” wrote a beauty blogger Judy Kim. 

Vely Vely, a cosmetics line launched under online clothing store Imvely run by social media star Im Ji-hyun, who promotes her own products on her Instagram account, followed by 785,000 people. The shopping mall has opened 10 offline branches since its 2013 launch, including in crowded shopping districts in Myeong-dong and Hongdae. The shopping mall boasts yearly sales of 66.2 billion won. 

Vely Vely (Imvely)
Vely Vely (Imvely)

“(Unlike existing cosmetic brands,) these boutique cosmetics create truly unique color cosmetics collections featuring new textures and formulas never seen or felt before,” said makeup artist Kim Ji-hyun who runs a shop in Apgujeong.

Amorepacific’s Etude House store in Dubai (Amorepacific)
Amorepacific’s Etude House store in Dubai (Amorepacific)

Cosmetics conglomerates are also getting in on the action. 

After making successful inroads to Southeast Asian countries, cosmetics giant Amorepacific entered the Australian market last month, by launching its skin care and makeup brand Laneige in Sephora. Its other brand Amorepacific and Innisfree will be launched as well, the company said. 

Mammonde, another brand run by Amorepacific, has also made a successful entrance to the US market, following its 2015 debut in China, and Thailand and Malaysia in 2016, and Singapore in the following year. Budget cosmetics brand Etude House also opened its first stores in Kuwait and in Dubai in March. 

LG Household and Healthcare’s Belief in Australia (LG Household and Healthcare)
LG Household and Healthcare’s Belief in Australia (LG Household and Healthcare)

LG Household and Healthcare’s skin care brand Belif has been launched in European market in April, where global consumers can find its product at 600 Sephora stores across Europe. 

“The combined market of China and Japan is about eight times larger than the domestic market. We want to focus on the Asian market and gradually expand our business toward US and European markets,” said Cha Seok-yong, vice chairman of LG Household and Healthcare.