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How to Break Into the Korean Beauty Market

September 12, 2023

How to Break Into the Korean Beauty Market

How to Break Into the Korean Beauty Market 


On episode 217 of the Korean Beauty Show podcast, Lauren runs through some tips and challenges for breaking into the Korean beauty market. Plus, what should you do if all the usual barrier repair products are not working to repair skin damage? In addition, we look at the top 5 best-selling products for August 2023 and real customers review products from  Mary & May, Tosowoong, Skin79and Subi.


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K-Beauty News

I recently spoke to Cosmetics Design Asia for their piece "How to Win Over the Rapidly Transforming K-Beauty Market". Some of the points we touched on include: 

 The Korean beauty consumer

  • Korean beauty consumers in Korea are usually separated into generations by marketers - MZ (Millennials and Gen Z) vs the older generations. In general, the MZ generation is very discerning and trend focused.
  • They are always on the lookout for the latest and most innovative products in terms of packaging, ingredients and results. They are influenced by celebrities, idols and popular culture so it is not uncommon for particular beauty items to sell out after being featured in a local drama or by a local celebrity on social media. 

How to Break into the Korean Beauty Market


How do you break into the Korean market?

  • Breaking into the Korean market requires an understanding of the relevant target consumer and where /how they tend to make purchasing decisions.
  • For younger generations that are more trend focused, it is important to analyze any current trends and popular celebrities in their age group and where they hang out both digitally and offline, as well as the media they consume.
  • Pop-ups in "핫플" (hot places) around Seoul and marketing campaigns across SNS (social network services) tend to work well for this age group, as do collaborations with Youtubers and celebrities. Product placement in dramas is another popular local marketing strategy. For older generations, home shopping remains popular and can be a good place to concentrate on for marketing activities.

How to Break Into the Korean Beauty Market

How can a foreign brand win over a market with such a strong local showing?

  • It's not easy for a foreign brand to win in the Korean market. Foreign beauty brands that do well in Korea tend to already be famous overseas, with a well-known hero product or brand founder (like a celebrity). They also tend to already have multi-national distribution channels in place with global retailers like Sephora. It would be unusual for a foreign indie brand to take off in Korea. 

What are the major trends within the Korean beauty market today?

  • At the moment, the key trends are vegan beauty, sustainability, probiotic skincare (microbiome), clean beauty and a focus on ingredients that calm / soothe the skin. In makeup, cushion foundations and BB Creams remain very popular, as do lip tints and eyeshadow palettes in neutral and peach tones 


Emerging K-Beauty trends?

  • Clean beauty is expected to continue growing as a popular category over the next few years.
  • Sun sticks are currently emerging as a new trend
  • The edible beauty category is on the rise (like probiotics, collagen etc).
  • Anti-aging hair care is also showing signs of growth, including shampoos designed to cover grey hairs and stop hair loss. 


Question of the Week: What should I do if none of the regular barrier repair products and tricks are working?


Most Popular K-Beauty Products in August 

  • Subi Perfect Pimple Patch- sales are up 72%
  • Dr Jart Cicapair Color Correcting Cream
  • Jelly Ko Bubble Tea Steam Cream- sales are up 7% 
  • Subi Bare Skin Balm- sales up 75% 
  • Jelly Ko Dewy Glaze Toner- sales up 133% 


    New K-Beauty Reviews

    Skin79 Orange BB Cream 

    "Beautiful product, works extremely well on my oily skin. It is a thick consistency but applies smooth and doesn’t look cakey at all. It is a perfect blend between foundation, moisturiser and sunscreen. So much better than trying to apply moisturiser, sunscreen and foundation separately and dealing with stickiness, product incompatibilities and pilling. I am fair/light neutral and wear NARS Mont Blanc, this shade was a perfect match for me, I don’t even think I will use foundation anymore. I highly recommend!"

    Holo Dream Mask

    "I got this at the ekka and was surprised by just how good it is. Not only is the packaging *chefs kiss* but the product actually works it smooths skin and minimizes pores just like it said it would. Couldn’t recommend more."

    Mary & May Vegan Cica Toner

    I just love this toner after using Innisfree Green Tea foam wash. My skin feels smooth and refreshed."

    Tosowoong SOS Ovalicin Cream 

    "Very effective
    I have been using this cream about a month now and its great. Its super effective against surface level pimples and rashy, bumpy acne- calms everything down significantly and makes a huge difference overnight. Does not seem to do anything for deep blind pimples but they are hard to treat.
    My skin also had a major freakout this month to a new product I tried out which would usually take a good week or more to recover from. Using this cream it was almost back to normal in a few days. Will definitely keep a tube handy now!"

    Recommendation of the Week - UV Hat

    Excellent for long walks, people who do a lot of driving or anytime you’re spending time outside when a regular hat won’t cut it. 

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