On Monday the nice mail man dropped a large beauty parcel to my workplace. That warm burst of excitement came over me. You know, the one you get when you buy something new? I went Hulk on it. Carving through the box with zero care, I emptied the contents in front of my Korean co-workers. And their reaction lead me to conclude that we have been lied to, totally f**king played. By ‘we’ I mean us Western girls who spend heap loads on what is marketed to us as K-beauty. The products Korean women supposedly use to gain their flawless, filtered-like, dewy skin. Right?
‘What is that?’ My 8 female coworkers range from around 24- 50 ish in age and not one recognised or knew any of the brands I pulled out from my delivery. Then I tried to explain that ‘it’s Kbeauty.’ And that within the last few years the 10 step routine has gathered a large following among Westerners. My explanation was met with a few smiles, nods of acknowledgement and puzzled faces. Until a friend of mine was brave enough to pipe up and ask ‘Really? You do know most Korean women have never heard of or use these, right?’
Surely, if you are a brand who is marketing products as the reason for Koreans blemish free skin, these products should be available to purchase in the country. From what I’ve observed, Korean women put time, energy and money into their skin. And while products are big business so is cosmetic surgery and dermatology treatments.
‘You’re lucky! You live in Seoul, you have access to ALL the brands.’ That’s a negative! The K-beauty Industry is predicted to exceed $13 billion dollars according to Euromonitor International by 2020. And hence the main brands owned by larger companies such as Innisfree, Nature Republic, Hera, Laneige and so on can be found EVERYWHERE. Like Mcdonalds, there is one, (sometimes two) on every corner. However, newer contemporary brands that have garnered cult following from the foreign masses, are harder to locate. If they can be located they are usually in one chain, store or online; they don’t always sell the full range.
Having used many of the popular online sites to purchase my own K-beauty stash, I was slightly disheartened by my coworkers responses. I started researching, asking more Korean women and noted that….
-Sites I relied on back home like StyleKorean.com don’t deliver to Korea or have a Korean website equivalent.
– Products such as Glow recipes Watermelon Mask are unheard of here.*
*(outside of beauty editors, beauty fanatics, influencers)
-Cult ‘K beauty’ favourites such as Cosrx don’t stock fully in Korean stores.
-And the markup on sites such as Soko Glam is ridiculous.
– Many brands are working from the outside in. Starting with the foreign market only and selling later within Korea.
10 Step this. ..Sheet mask that….
And then I started asking questions. How can it be peddled as Kbeauty but not sold to the women who apparently swear by these methods? Ultimately, What defines it as Kbeauty? Is it because its manufactured in Korea? If that’s the case, L’oreal products should be considered Indonesian beauty, as they opened their largest factory just outside of Jakarta earlier this year.
Is it because it’s being produced using Asian beauty innovation? Or possibly because the CEO of the brand is Korean? Korean American? Likes Korean beauty?..
Consumer demand must play a large factor. But still begs the question, are we being had? How Korean is your ‘Kbeauty’?