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Elli Hilario
English 115 Honors
Professor Lawson
10 December 2016
Research Paper for Portfolio
Word Count: 2708 words
The Rise of Korean Cosmetics
Many women in the United States have heard about various South Korean beauty
products or services whether it is makeup, skincare or plastic surgery but not everyone has
realized that they might be using products from South Korean beauty companies, and/or Koreaninspired western makeup. Korean celebrities are admired for their seemingly effortless beauty
and clear, radiant skin, with barely there make-up (Arirang News), and there are a lot of
people who are very interested in Korean culture around the world, most of which are also
interested on how Korean celebrities keep their good-looking appeal. South Koreans took
advantage of consumer interests and started the trend of using products such as BB creams and
cushion foundations as a new make-up format (Kim, Minji); and these products are now
widely used by Americans as they became available in stores nationwide. South Korean brands
play a big role in todays makeup and skincare industry globally, and especially within Southeast
Asian countries. The rise of the South Korean beauty industry in the global market throughout
the years caused many more international investors to plan on taking over the Korean cosmetic
market in order to raise profits by globalizing Korean beauty products, especially in the United
States and in Europe, while matching its growing popularity especially with South Korean
entertainment and YouTube beauty vloggers.

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As South Korea is setting a foundation with their culture through dramas, music along
with cosmetics, many western companies try to invest in leading Korean brands, with the
increase on consumers of Korean cosmetics. It is noticeable that the rise in popularity of K-pop
culture and soap opera across Asia Pacific has [also] helped South Korean brands expand beyond
their home market (Kim). One of the famous actresses in South Korea, Jeon Ji Hyun sparked a
buying craze after her drama My Love From Another Star with a lip oil that is said to deepen
the bitten-lip look during the year of 2014 (Chu). With that said, it is true that cosmetic
companies market their products through dramas, especially Laneige. One example where
Laneige involved marketing in dramas, was with the actress Song Hye Kyo from the drama
Descendants of the Sun, wherein she used Laneiges BB cushion, and two-toned lipstick.
Another example would be with Lee Sung Kyung from the drama Cheese in a Trap using a
similar color of the aforementioned lipstick that Song Hye Kyo used in her drama. And ever
since, Laneiges sales has been increasing, making big cosmetic makers such as AmorePacific
Corp., owner of the Innisfree brand and Laneige as well, experience a fourfold increase in market
capitalization since the beginning of 2014 (Cheng). However it is not until mid-2016 when
investment companies Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bain Capital Private Equity announced to
have agreed to acquire a majority stake in [Carver Korea] from existing shareholders. Carver, a
Korean cosmetic company, has exceeded total sales of [approximately one hundred thirty US
dollars] recorded for 2015, representing a more than two hundred percent sales growth over a
year (Bain Capital). This recent boom on Korean cosmetic sales became a goal for a lot of
investment companies to make business with, since sales forecasts leads into a much larger profit
incentive for major stakeholders. Especially that Korean cosmetics exports has been increasing
on a 36.9 percent average since 2011, many Korean companies are getting a lot more

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international businesses and relationships, such as Dr. Jart+, whose international sales account
for around thirty percent of their overall sales (Arirang News). Certain products, including Dr.
Jart+, such as Too Cool For School, AmorePacific and Tony Moly, are sold in Sephora as a
section in their skincare aisles. Sephora is a big retail store known to have thousands of
customers testing out and buying expensive skincare and makeup products. People are assured
that Sephora presents legitimate and working cosmetic products needless to know where those
cosmetic products came from. As a matter of fact, it was not until recently that Sephora has
finally added a K-beauty section on their website; and this is a sure sign of the increasing
import of Korean cosmetics into the United States.
A lot of Americans and Europeans use BB creams on a daily casual basis. It is known that
South Korea originated the wide use of BB creams. BB creams are like tinted moisturizers with
SPF, and other added product properties, ranging from primers to serums. Although BB creams
were first developed in Germany, years later, Korea made BB creams a big deal throughout Asia,
until it spread it popularity to the United States market. But before its release to the US, BB
creams had to go under several changes before it can make its appeal to Western consumers
(Beautilish). South Korea appeals to people with light Asian skin tones rather than including
those people with darker complexions. Therefore, companies such as Garnier and Maybelline,
needed to develop more shades in order for BB creams to have market value in other countries.
Similarly, the cushion compact foundation has the same issue as BB creams; both of the products
were limited to light Asian skin tones before its spread in popularity within Western nations. In
brands such as: Etude House, Missha, Hera, The Face Shop, Clio, etc., people can still see how
limited the foundation shades sold are. The scarcity of different shades discourages its appeal to
the women in the western countries. Noticeably, big beauty companies like Chanel, Lancme,

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and LOral, started launching cushion compact foundation in American markets. Meaning, both
the cushion compact foundation and the BB creams has proved its relevance in the western
cosmetic industry, as observation between the Korean and other East Asian markets, as it makes
way into the Western market. Both of the products are convenient to use and are deemed perfect
on busy young women, however during the initial release of the cushion foundation, users in
Korea and some of Asia still use this trend despite a hygiene issue about the applicator of the
foundation, which was later solved by Korean beauty experts on YouTube. This makeup trend
has been in the US market for over a year now, and sites like Teen Vogue has been encouraging
women to use cushion compacts as part of their beauty routine. Its popular use and expansion all
over the world has encouraged other large international cosmetic companies create shades that
will sell on western markets, and some eastern markets. Ever since, the market for cushion
compacts has been implemented on a lot of American stores since its release in Korea, as more
people find interest and use for the product.
Koreas pop culture is also at a [set] pace for global beauty (Cosgrove). In recent years,
the United States has been slowly adapting into more than just Korean cosmetic products, but
also Korean cosmetic preferences such as having, flawless, dewy skin, and the just-bitten lip
look (Bae). Last year, New York Mag, posted an article about How to Get Shower-Radiant,
Dewy Skin inspired by Korean celebrities who used the dewy look to look radiant all day as if
they were not wearing makeup (Hou). Unlike the American counterpart of having matte skin,
Koreans wear their makeup keeping in mind that they should look as natural and radiant as
possible, without giving the idea that they are totally made-up. The just-bitten or gradient lip
make-up look was made to prevent Korean celebrities from looking too bold in dramas. This
particular lip look is used to make lips appear smaller, or just give a touch of color to the lips

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without looking too fierce for the day. Drugstore brands like Maybelline, Revlon and LOral,
along with BB creams and cushion foundations, also created just-bitten lip products. They are
trying to promote the product with American consumers as a new trend that people are beginning
to explore and slightly popularize. Even larger companies like Estee Lauder, Lancme and
Laneige are now offering, although more on the skincare side, products like sheet masks, and
fermented products, since many Korean companies like Tony Moly, Etude House and Holika
Holika are gaining global recognition, they must keep up with the pace (Marie Claire). Western
companies are trying to recreate popular Korean items in order to divert some of the attention of
modern consumers to their brand, making equal competition between both in the western and
eastern market.
Many of the large cosmetic companies such as Maybelline and LOral, are adapting into
the new influence that Korean beauty products is having around the world. Maybelline has a
product called Color Blur, which is used to create a gradient lip effect a very popular trend in
South Korea. As well as LOral which included cushion compacts into their True Match line. All
international companies share a large global market, and they have noticed Koreas wave on the
cosmetic industry and how consumers are beginning to use Korean-made beauty products on a
daily or preferred basis. Korea and Japan, being the two East Asian countries that share similar
ideas towards skincare, has shown their growing dominance in the global skincare industry
through marketing exotic Asian products and trends. Although Japan has established brands like
Shiseido [to help] popularize anti-aging ingredients, South Korea is now seen as a fastemerging center for innovation in the [skincare] industry, approaching half of all global
skincare sales (Chu). Based on this statistic, many of the Western cosmetic companies have
launched products with east Asian-based ingredients. For example, The Body Shop has an

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extensive collection of products based on Asian ingredients such as green tea, lotus, cherry
blossoms and satsuma mandarin. Along with careful marketing and packaging of each of the
products, these companies are actually getting a profit by emphasizing the Asian origin of these
ingredients, which attracts customers that are beginning to incline towards Asian beauty
products. There are also companies that are inspired by South Korean trends, such as Lisa
Eldridge, the creative director of Lancme, who was blown away by the technology and
enhancements in makeup [in Seoul], and brought back the idea of cushion compacts for
Lancme to release in the Western market (Chitrakorn). Not only investors are putting their
money into the Korean cosmetic industry, but even the western cosmetic companies are
fascinated with Korean makeup trends and technology. However, it also does not mean that
Korean companies are falling behind in the race of marketing their own products.
YouTube can be seen as one of the primary marketing platforms that newly-debuted
Korean cosmetic companies are using in order to catch some customers. Many Koreans use
YouTube as their primary source of business through showcasing different Korean skincare and
makeup products to viewers and followers. YouTubers like PONY, bubzbeauty, heyitsfeii and
meejmuse, to name a few, are people who started with Korean-style-makeup how-to videos and
other similar tutorials, until to such a point where companies send them products to review on,
just like what Michelle Phan did before she started her own makeup line. These YouTube people
got really famous in the Korean makeup industry, they are associated with companies based here
in the United States that sell Korean products. Memebox, a company headquartered in San
Francisco, makes Korean cosmetics readily available in boxes containing various products,
whether it may be skincare, makeup or both, are sold for less than the total cost of the combined
products. In addition, the rise of Korean pop culture in Los Angeles has been growing immensely

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over the past few years. PONY, a Korean makeup artist, made almost two million subscribers
after going independent from OnStyle, a Korean YouTube channel that presented PONYs
tutorials, and then developing her own makeup line under Memebox, being sold out within two
days of sale in KCON 2016 held in the Los Angeles Convention Center. Different YouTubers
who widely use Korean cosmetics are invited to KCON to meet fans and give live tutorials; they
are invited by companies who represent Korean pop culture like Memebox and Soompi. KCON
holds different cosmetic booths within the convention, making way for profit, with the thousands
of people lining up to get their hands on readily available and within-reach Korean cosmetics.
And this encourages more investors of the Western market to make business with Korean
companies to gain profit in the United States, also in Europe.
Different western beauty companies needed to make changes with to match the use of
cushion compacts and BB creams in western countries. The cushion compact for example, the
variety of shades has drastically increased over the past years since its release in Korea in order
to increase its market to consumers with different skin tones. The Korean market only sold
shades for lighter skins, since they value pale, but somewhat healthy-looking skin in their
culture. This culture, however, had a popular expansion all over the world that has encouraged
change in other large international beauty companies for western markets. K-pop has a
tremendous influence on makeup users, they are a major influence in the use of Korean
cosmetics aside from other Korean celebrities. Korean pop music artists are known for their
flawless, fair skin, and eye-catching nature. A lot of people in the United States are getting into
K-pop, as seen in KCON New York and Los Angeles, as well as in YouTube, where views on
Korean pop bands have large amounts of viewers. It was recently known that the aforementioned
makeup artist, PONY, was the makeup artist of CL, a Korean singer making her way to debut in

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the United States. However, there are still a little number of Korean products that are sold in the
United States, partly because Korean beauty is not for everyone. Since many South Koreans
value light skin, most of the shades are limited to those with fair skin to begin with. Not all of the
women in the market have very light skin, especially in the west, where not all consumers would
not prefer super lightened skin. Koreans still stand strong on their skin-lightening products for
Asian women in general in order to match their skin tone with the shades of foundation or BB
cream available in the market. The western beauty culture contrasts the Asian culture of valuing
lighter skin, which does not work for American values. People in the United States are very
diverse in skin tones. Women in the United States vary in the tone of shade that they need for
their makeup routine, so Korean face base products that are narrowed down to a specific group
will not benefit the market of the United States beauty culture, making it harder for Korean
beauty culture to fully immerse in the western beauty industry, since makeup users need to match
their skin tone to their base makeup. But even though it is hard for Koreans to completely
dominate the cosmetic industry, they still managed to get their products in the market of the
United States, by either being an expensive product in Sephora, or being accessible through USbased companies such as Memebox; Koreans are still leading in the cosmetic industry.
The increasing global popularity of the Korean cosmetic industry has brought up
opportunities in investment with market growth rates that increase yearly. More and more
investment companies putting their money on Korean cosmetics, even other international beauty
companies started to adapt Korean cosmetic innovations to increase global competition in the
cosmetic industry. People worldwide who are beginning to use Korean cosmetics are increasing
yearly, as western beauty companies try to create their own version of products with Korean
cosmetic innovations in mind into their makeup or skincare line. On top of that, with the help of

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YouTube and marketing strategies, Korean cosmetic companies sponsor certain beauty vloggers
to test and review their product for their viewers, therefore increasing the number of potential
buyers of Korean cosmetics around the world. And every day, a lot more people are becoming
aware of this lead in the cosmetic industry, especially to those who are working as makeup
artists, or have their own cosmetic line. It does not mean that the US is becoming more
Korean, but the fact that Koreans are continually influencing the western market is proof
enough to say that Korean cosmetics is leading the worldwide beauty industry.

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Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
Chu, Kathy. "Cosmetics Industry Applies Asian Trends to West." Wall Street Journal. 05 May
2015. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
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16 Mar. 2016. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.
Hou, Kathleen. "How to Get Shower-Radiant, Dewy Skin." The Cut. NYMag, 06 Aug. 2014.
Web. 21 Nov. 2016.
Kim, Minji. "The Rising Wave of Korean Beauty." In-Cosmetics News. 25 June 2015. Web. 20
Nov. 2016.
Marie Claire. "Here's Why K-Beauty Is Killing It." Marie Claire. 09 June 2016. Web. 21 Nov.
2016.