Korea's beauty products have been categorized by trends like 'K-Pop' where products are heavily influenced by flamboyant male pop icons, the alphabet craze known as 'BB' (et al) creams, and more generally 'K-Beauty' which refers to Korea's influence on the West's skin care developments.
This overseas demand is giving even the smallest of players a voice where they might be struggling to be heard in their competitive domestic market.
Take for example; the Elisha Koy brand first launched in 2007, which got major coverage for its BB cream in the West and now exports to over 20 countries and accounts 60 per cent of its sales from overseas demand.
Korea's cosmetics: 'a cut above the rest'
Korea’s commitment to beauty is a cut above the rest in Asia where it is leading the way with some serious brainpower and cool technology.
According to OECD statistics, market-leading scientific research is the foundation of Korea’s top industries. Indeed, the country is world champion when it comes to R&D investment (4.4% of GDP in 2012).
In fact, trends analyst Nica Lewis says that thanks to a surge in patent registration in 2013, South Korea is now among the top five in the world for trademarks.
And when it comes to personal care and beauty, this hefty R&D spend yields cutting-edge advances in ingredients and formulation – from nanotechnology to stem-cell related actives and growth factors.
The report appears on in-cosmetics Korea’s blog page, a new personal care ingredients show which kicked off in Seoul in June of this year, where 100+ international suppliers will showcase their products to Korean cosmetic manufacturers and distributors.
Korean exports on the rise
According to South Korea’s customs office, cosmetic exports rose by 50% to US$1.92 bn, exceeding imports of USD 0.99 bn after experiencing a bad spell where consumers preferred established imported brands from the US, France and Japan.
Toners, moisturizers and essences took the largest proportion of cosmetic exports, which accounted for more than 49% of total exports.
Key destinations included China, Hong Kong, Japan, the U.S. and Southeast Asian countries. Other Asian countries, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and elsewhere (excluding the U.S.) made up the rest of the top ten export destinations list.