How K-Beauty conquered the West

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Kimchi, K-pop, and K-dramas. Welcome to Hallyu 2.0, in which everyone in the West is losing their minds over all things Korean.

Playing a starring role is a glorious onslaught of Korean beauty products, with the K-Beauty market now valued at over $13 billion, and $7.2 billion of which is from facial skin care alone. Serums, acids, oils, cushion compacts, CC creams, BB creams, masks that bubble on your face, masks to sleep in, volcanic clay, and snail slime are seeing improbably explosive popularity, and they’ve done so with accessible pricing and cute packaging that has grown women reaching for panda face masks.

“What people don’t see is the amount of government support and PR that drives interest.”

Jude Chao, director of marketing for BeautyTap and somewhat of an oracle on K-Beauty (who also happens to have excellent skin) believes in empowering the masses with education on K-Beauty ingredients. (Her blog, Fifty Shades of Snail, is a solid starting point if you’re overwhelmed by the 12,000 active brands on the market, the proliferation of which Chao believes is no coincidence.)

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Lipstick in kindergarten? South Korea’s K-beauty industry now targets those barely able to read.

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PriPara Kids Cafe is one of the many beauty parlors in South Korea that cater to young girls. (Jean Chung/For The Washington Post)

Last year in kindergarten, Yang Hye-ji developed her morning routine. Uniform? Check. Homework? Check.

Makeup? Definitely.

“Makeup makes me look pretty,” the 7-year-old said on her second visit to the ShuShu & Sassy beauty spa in Seoul.

She was wrapped in a child-size pink robe and wearing a bunny hairband. Her face was gently touched up with a puff. Her lips got a swipe of pink gloss.

South Korea’s cosmetics industry, known as K-beauty, has become an Asian powerhouse and global phenomenon for its rigorous step-by-step regimens.

But exacting beauty norms also put enormous pressure on South Korean women, making the country one of the world’s centers for plastic surgery. And increasingly, the beauty industry is looking at younger and younger girls.

Continue reading… “Lipstick in kindergarten? South Korea’s K-beauty industry now targets those barely able to read.”

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