Rise of K-Beauty in the West
Updated: Aug 11
With the growing popularity of Korean dramas and music (think worldwide superstars BTS), it is no wonder that the magic that keeps our favorite celebrities’ complexion crystal-clear is also gaining traction. That magic is Korean beauty, also known simply as K-beauty. Originating from South Korea, K-beauty has hit the globe by storm.
Ever since it entered the US market in 2011 with the arrival of Dr. Jart+, K-beauty has grown exponentially, the industry worth $10.2 billion in 2019. Since then, it has been joined by other brands, such as Peach & Lily, Innisfree, and online retailers such as Soko Glam. With the release of other companies and products, its popularity has only been increasing, Korea’s cosmetics imports rising 16% even during the pandemic.
So, why is K-beauty so popular in Western countries? While the rising recognition of K-dramas and K-pop is a factor, there are other reasons, the one being its innovation. Korean cosmetics encompasses some of the most effective products that the industry has seen yet. Whether it’s an egg white mask or a moisturizer made out of snail mucin, K-beauty utilizes unique formulas and ingredients unheard of in Western countries. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Korean skincare is the most advanced in the world, said to be at least ten years ahead of the United States. American consumers have since taken on an “If you can’t beat them, join them” mentality, looking to K-beauty to get the best skincare possible.
Another reason K-beauty is popular is because of the help it receives from its government. It isn’t a coincidence that Korean cosmetics are seen everywhere in the States. Whether it's at Target or Sephora, K-beauty products are readily available to American consumers. This is due to the Korean government choosing to prioritize cosmetics exports. In a peninsula where there are few natural resources, K-beauty became a way to boost exports and thus revenue for the country. There are many government incentives for Korean companies to export their goods, such as tax breaks for export-only companies and a fund to pay the legal fees for companies who may need to sue to protect their brand overseas. And, it worked, beauty becoming one of South Korea’s biggest export industries.
Since it first left the shores of Korea, the K-beauty industry has proven itself to be extremely versatile. From the global economy to everyday appearances, K-beauty has been contributing greatly to the world, and it only continues to expand.
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