Men’s grooming has been on the up for a while, but it is in fact the lesser associated men’s cosmetics that have seen a boost in South Korea, prompting some of the country’s biggest cosmetic companies to target this new market.
Last year, market researcher Euromonitor reported that South Korean men $495.4 million on skin care products representing 21 percent of global sales.
The market is expected to continue growing with traditional categories such as toiletries pitching in, but it is men’s skin care that has emerged as the best performing.
Indeed, face-creams, cleansers and foundation are among the products that men have been buying in large quantities, in recent months.
It is a trend that local player AmorePacific has ensured it is getting a slice of; having maintained the leading position with 18 percent value share thanks to the good performance of men’s skin care.
Euromonitor states that despite the global economic troubles, the market in South Korea's male skin care products grew 10 percent last year, although Amore Pacific estimates growth is now even higher than that at around 14 percent, due to a shift in men’s behaviour.
The country is now rife with products and advertising promoting a skin care regime to men, with national celebrities and pop groups signing lucrative deals with some of the country’s biggest players.
Amore Pacific's boss, Lim Jung-shik, estimates that 20 percent of young men now wear some kind of foundation occasionally, and that there is no conflict with Korea's macho, competitive culture.
"In the West, if a guy wore make-up or a group of men walked into a make-up store, people might think they were gay. But here in South Korea, things are different," he said.
"A few years ago, there was an advert which said, 'Your appearance is also your strategy,' meaning that grooming yourself is a reflection of your competency, part of your value as a complete package. It gives you a competitive edge."
Below is an Associated Press report on the changing attitudes to men’s make-up in South Korea.