Skin care and K-beauty are a growing part of the beauty industry even as color cosmetics slow. Influencers and social media have played a large role in the growth of K-beauty in the West and the proliferation of brands that have entered the market are creating a more crowded and competitive landscape for the big, established French and U.S. brands. Yet despite K-beauty’s growth, there is still a very large, untapped market as three-fourths of women over age 35 weren’t familiar with K-beauty in a recent study with Ipsos’ Syndicated Online Community.
With this in mind, what better place to understand more about the motivations and key associations beauty shoppers have linked to K-beauty than in the social conversation landscape? To do this, Ipsos’ Social Intelligence Analytics team analyzed conversations about the big French, U.S. and K-beauty brands using a brand association and perceptual mapping exercise.
The output was striking in how differentiated the motivations linked to K-beauty were compared to the landscape across U.S. and French brands. Most notable, and probably not surprising, is that consumers talking about K-beauty could be defined as skin care devotees.
They put their skin first—focusing on the ingredients, the nourishing elements, the importance of the routine. The data also revealed key K-beauty products that have staying power in the U.S. market like sheet masks and essence products—products that aren’t necessarily linked to a multi-step regimen and can easily be used on their own to elevate a skincare routine. This linkage to speed and ease of use seems to be the key to driving larger penetration in the U.S. market.
A closer look at K-beauty shoppers
Shoppers from Ipsos’ syndicated community say that K-beauty products are promising adds to their skincare routine, and reach for them to achieve a youthful, hydrated and radiant look. This is especially valuable for those looking to achieve results while avoiding harmful ingredients.
One beauty shopper in the community commented, “First K-beauty purchase and I am in love! I bought this toner a little over a month ago and I have been using it religiously for morning/evening for the past month. It has done wonders to my very sensitive hormonal acne-prone skin.”
Many shoppers say they first learned about K-beauty while browsing social media platforms, ranging from Reddit and Buzzfeed to Instagram and YouTube. This first discovery prompted many to do their own research, often within the same platform. They named top-trusted influencers or “beauty gurus” as Jeffree Star, Fiddysnails, and Nikkie Tutorials.
Others cited fashion magazines like Allure and Glamour as their first stop for all things K-beauty. Still other shoppers recall first learning about K-beauty while browsing their favorite skincare retailers on line and in store for new products. They mention Ulta, Sephora and CVS as their go-to stores for skincare. They value product reviews on retailer sites such as Amazon, Ulta, and Sephora when considering a new product.
Among their motivations for K-beauty, women want to achieve a youthful, glowing complexion and supple, “glass-like” skin, a term that has bubbled up from K-beauty. Some say they use a “less is more” approach in navigating their ingredient options. They value the familiarity and comfort provided by products formulated with natural and organic ingredients.
In their quest to achieve hydrated skin, women say they often reach for products containing peak-hydration ingredients, especially for sheet masks and moisturizers. The ingredients they mentioned most include hyaluronic acid, snail mucin, Kukui seed oil and vitamin c. To look youthful with radiant skin, shoppers often reach for products containing exfoliating and anti-inflammatory ingredients like retinol, lactic acid, glycolic acid, niacinamide, madecassoside, peptides and caffeine.
These insights signal that putting skincare first and making it fast and easy (and affordable!) is what will continue to push this exciting category forward.