K-beauty's worldwide surge

Too Cool For School, Sulwhasoo, Tony Moly and Dr. Jart: in the last few years, Korean cosmetics brands have carved a niche for themselves on French beauty aisles, as retailers like Sephora and Monoprix have devoted a growing amount of shelf and merchandising space to K-beauty.


Fabric beauty masks by Tony Moly

On Friday 22nd September, the increasingly influential Korean cosmetics industry showcased its products in a consumer show organised in Paris at the Tapis Rouge venue by Kotra, the South Korean government's foreign trade promotion agency, attached to the South Korea Economic Ministry. K-Beauty's popularity extends well beyond the French borders though: for example, US retailer Target is featuring a section dedicated to Korean beauty products both online and in-store.

"Korean beauty brands offer cutting-edge products high in R&D content, yet also with a fun, quirky side. This combination is highly attractive to French and European consumers," said Charlotte Boisdron, in charge of beauty at creative agency NellyRodi.  

Korean cosmetics such as BB and CC creams have already won over a large number of consumers worldwide, and fabric beauty masks are about to do the same. According to Transparency Market Research (TMR), the market was worth $160.4 million (€155 million) in 2015, and is forecast to reach $336.7 million (€325.3 million) by 2024, with booming growth rates in the Middle East and Africa in particular.

K-Beauty's recipe for success rests on its world-renowned beauty expertise, on innovative products and on fun packaging and formulations. South Korea currently ranks ninth among beauty markets worldwide, with a revenue of $12 billion and exports growing by 44% in 2016. The K-beauty phenomenon is here to stay, according to Charlotte Boisdron: "The beauty market is changing, it is becoming more fragmented with the arrival of indie brands on the scene. International beauty aficionados are in search of a new outlook on cosmetics, and Korean brands have indeed marked their territory."

The only shadow in this buoyant picture is cast by geopolitics, as relations between South Korea and its neighbour China are tense, due to the deployment in the country of the US anti-missile system known as THAAD (Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense). But China is reportedly the main export destination for South Korean cosmetics products, which rank second in this market behind those coming from France.

Translated by Nicola Mira

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