Korean Beauty Products Hit US Shelves
Last month, CVS, an American pharmacy and health care retail company, introduced a wide range of products for K-beauty — an umbrella term for South Korean personal care and beauty. More than 100 new products from seven South Korean brands including Holika Holika, Tony Moly, and The Saem became available at “K-Beauty HQ,” located in 2,100 CVS stores across the United States. CVS partnered with Alicia Yoon, the founder of K-beauty e-commerce website Peach & Lily, to choose the products for its stores.
Characterized by unique and natural ingredients, multi-step skin care regimens, and frequent innovations, K-beauty products have grown in prominence in the US cosmetic sector. Before CVS launched its new K-beauty HQ Initiative, other mainstream US retailors such as Nordstrom, Sephora, Urban Outfitters, and Target had already brought this emerging trend to their shelves. In 2016, $347 million of Korean cosmetics were exported to the United States, a 45.73% rise from the previous year.
The US-Korea cosmetics relationship goes beyond simple US imports. One of the remarkable aspects of the US-Korean cosmetics exchange is the collaboration between companies. Korean cosmetic brands often release new makeup lines adorned with Disney or DreamWorks characters. In addition, the leading American cosmetic manufacturer Estee Lauder invested in Have & Be Co. Ltd. — a South Korean cosmetic company — in 2015.
Moreover, American brands are creating a new breed of K-beauty products that were previously unheard of in the US market. Well-known brands like MAC, Bobbi Brown, and Estee Lauder launched “cushion foundation” lines, inspired by Korean cosmetic brands.
South Korea is among the top 10 global beauty markets, with a $13 billion market in 2017. KCON, the world’s largest Korean culture convention and music festival — held in Los Angeles and New York — will expand its content to Korean cosmetics, food, and movies. The events attracted more than 100,000 attendees in total last year.
Jaichung Lee is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and an Asan Washington young Fellow with the Asan Academy in Seoul.