If you’re selling beauty and cosmetics products, you need to know your stuff. Typically, K-Beauty fans have a good grasp of what’s in and what’s not, and are willing to ask questions and chase recommendations. Consequently, you’ll have to prove your expertise by demonstrating a thorough understanding of popular Korean cosmetics brands.
With this in mind, we thought we would talk you through a few of the top K-Beauty brands, explaining why they’re loved and what they specialise in.
Top K-Beauty Brands In Recent Years
If you’re looking for the top K-Beauty brands that have defined the industry in recent years, there are more than a few to mention. While the brands below each have unique qualities that have helped them to stand out, they share several common characteristics that have guaranteed their success. For instance, all of the brands below are well-known for their ability to produce high-quality products at an affordable rate. Similarly, they’ve all shifted towards a focus on natural ingredients in an attempt to improve the quality of skincare customers enjoy.
Even if you’re not that into K-Beauty, you will probably have heard of Innisfree. Founded in 2000, the brand is one of the most famous Korean skincare brands globally, and made a name for itself by being the country’s first natural skincare company. Their products are manufactured with at least 70% natural ingredients, sourced from the volcanic Jeju Island.
The brand has also won the hearts and minds of many K-Beauty fans with their attempt to tackle as wide a variety of skin conditions as possible. Currently, they have products that address eight different concerns, from pore purification to anti-aging Innisfree’s Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask and Green Tea Seed Serum are two of the company’s top sellers, and have become cult favourites amongst K-Beauty devotees.
THE FACE SHOP
A lot of K-Beauty fans sat up and took notice when THE FACE SHOP launched in 2003, with their pioneering ‘Natural Story’ tagline and marketing campaign. Today, the brand has grown to encompass more than 3,000 stores spread across 35 nations, making it one of the most commercially successful K-Beauty brands in history.
As a natural beauty brand, THE FACE SHOP manufactures their products from a selection of approximately 600 natural ingredients. These include flowers, grains, plants, fruits and mineral waters. Modern science is applied in combination with traditional medicinal techniques, resulting in products that bring together the past and present to soothe and nourish the skin.
While K-Beauty lovers appreciate a bargain, they typically have little time for products that don’t meet expectations or fail to achieve results. Missha has managed to strike the perfect balance between cost and quality, earning itself a reputation for making affordable, everyday makeup and skincare products that really work.
Founded in 2000, the popular Korean cosmetic brand became a cult phenomenon with the release of its Time Revolution First Treatment Essence. Designed to hydrate, brighten and firm the skin, its fermented yeast solution is much-loved for its ability to moisturise without leaving the face oily.
Amongst Missha’s makeup range, the M Magic Cushion is especially popular. Consumers love this cushion foundation because they can top up their makeup on the go, with light, buildable coverage that protects and moisturises the skin. Plus, there are two options available: ‘Moist Up’ and ‘Cover Lasting.’ Both are popular, but each provides a slightly different finish; the former creates a dewy look, whilst the latter has a more matte finish.
COSRX is well-known for its no-nonsense packaging and affordable, high-quality products. In a market in which consumers have a good understanding of what they should expect at particular price points, COSRX is repeatedly praised for providing premium skincare at an accessible cost.
The brand is perhaps best-known for its range of products targeted at oily and acne-prone skin. This includes their Acne Pimple Master Patch and Two in One Poreless Power Liquid, which sold out in just a few hours when it first launched in the Philippines.
Playful, colourful and highly regarded in the K-Beauty community, Dr Jart+ markets itself as being ‘Powered by science [and] inspired by art.’ Established in 2004 by dermatologist Dr Sung Jae Jung, Dr Jart+ uses cutting-edge science to develop products that tackle almost any skincare problem you can imagine. They then bundle their innovative products into some of the coolest packaging on the market.
This top K-Beauty brand is also respected for its pioneering formulation of BB cream. Dr Jart+ was the first company to bring this now ubiquitous product to the US market. More recently, the brand has achieved acclaim for its Cicapair line. Their Cicapair Cream (or Tiger Grass Cream, as it’s also known), is favoured for its ability to soothe and repair dry complexions, whilst strengthening the skin’s barrier.
If you’re looking for a popular Korean cosmetic brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously, check out Etude. Renowned for its playful packaging, and diverse and extensive product range, both Etude’s skincare and makeup collections are highly valued by K-Beauty customers.
In the past, Etude has also attracted attention thanks to its high profile collaborations with big-name brands operating in other industries. Both its Disney and Hershey’s Chocolate collaborations have proven exceptionally successful, and are highly sought after by customers who appreciate both the brand aesthetic, and the quality of these products.
Which Korean Beauty Brands Are Tapping Into Current Trends?
While all K-Beauty skincare brands have to move with the times, and most are capable of identifying and profiting from the latest consumer trends, some brands are considered real trend-setters. Below, we take a look at a few of the businesses that are pushing the industry forward and capturing the imagination of in-the-know K-Beauty customers.
Clean Beauty: Benton, Purito, Pyunkang Yul
One of the biggest consumer-driven beauty trends of the last few years has been an increased focus on understanding what ingredients go into your cosmetics products. This is reflected in the rise of the ‘clean beauty’ movement.
Clean beauty can be best described as an attempt to promote skin care and makeup products which don’t contain ingredients that are harmful, or potentially harmful. In reality, this often means avoiding products that contain artificial fragrance, mineral oil, parabens, sulfates and artificial colouring.
The issue of micro dust has also boosted the clean beauty movement. In South Korea, air pollution is considered a serious problem. A particular type of pollution – micro-dust – is held responsible for an increase in general health problems, and is a key culprit when it comes to skin concerns. As a result, many South Korean customers look for ‘clean’ products that don’t contain ingredients which may cause further irritation to their skin.
As a K-Beauty retailer, it’s essential to understand that every customer will have a different perception of what constitutes a ‘clean’ product. It’s your responsibility to know what’s in each of your products, and to be able to recommend suitable skincare solutions.
Taking its name from the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ – a story about a man who ages in reverse – Benton focuses on safe, skin-friendly beauty products. As you can probably guess by the reference to Benjamin Button, Benton also specialises in anti-aging products that smooth, soothe and hydrate the skin.
The brand’s clean beauty credentials come from the fact that it utilises ECOCERT Raw Material-approved ingredients. Its cruelty-free ethos also sits nicely with the image of Benton as a business that understands what’s ethically right.
Purito manufactures skincare and makeup products that contain high-quality, natural ingredients that are EWG Green-Level certified. However, the brand’s focus on nature doesn’t end there. Purito ensures that all of their packaging is made from recycled materials, and that animal testing is not a part of their product development process. Additionally, the business donates a percentage of its profits to the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM).
At the heart of the Purito product range is the Centella collection. Popular amongst those with sensitive and delicate skin, these products contain Centella Asiatica extract – a traditional herbal remedy for skin irritation.
Established by the Pyunkang Oriental Medicine Clinic – a centre that specialises in the treatment of topical skin disorders – Pyunkang Yul takes a minimalist approach to skincare. While their products are packed full of naturally nutrient-rich ingredients, they try to eliminate any unnecessary or unnatural substances.
Consequently, the business has become a popular Korean cosmetic brand amongst those interested in clean beauty. In particular, Pyunkang Yul’s Essence Toner is highly valued for its ability to hydrate, moisturise and leave you with soft, dewy skin.
Natural Ingredients: Skin1004, Some By Mi
Products containing natural ingredients have played an important role in the increasingly-influential clean beauty movement. Several brands have capitalised on this, and have become forerunners in Korean skincare as a result.
Skin1004 is interested in identifying, sourcing and using the finest raw materials on the planet to create genuinely spectacular skincare products. In the process, SKIN1004 researchers have searched deserts, oceans and rainforests, bringing back substances that they believe could revolutionize the K-Beauty industry.
Their formulations use high-percentage extracts of natural, active ingredients and focus on efficacy – treating and soothing irritated skin naturally. Skin1004’s dedication to sourcing the best ingredients for healthy complexions has made them a cult favourite amongst K-Beauty fans. Its Madagascar Centella products – which contain soothing Centella Asiatica extract – are some of their most popular to date.
Some By Mi
A contraction of ‘Something’ and ‘By a Miracle,’ SOME BY MI (‘mi’ also translates as ‘beauty’ in Korean) focuses primarily on natural skincare solutions. Most famous for its AHA-BHA-PHA30 Days Miracle Serum, the company has won numerous awards over the years, including the Korean ‘Star Brand Award’ in 2017. All of its products utilise mild and skin-friendly ingredients, and contain no harsh or harmful substances.
Minimalist Skincare: Commonlabs, Celimax
Minimalist skincare is orientated towards the treatment of specific skincare problems through the use of products that contain high percentages of one or two key ingredients. The focus here is providing consumers with products that soothe the skin effectively, without including any unnecessary additives.
Commonlabs believes that true beauty is tied to the broader idea of ‘wellbeing.’ Emphasizing that a healthy body is the best way to achieve healthy-looking skin, this famous Korean skincare brand takes a minimalist approach to target specific skin concerns.
By studying the root cause of certain skin conditions, then developing products that only contain ingredients to help resolve the issue, Commonlabs has built a popular brand whose vitamin-rich formulas are now a must-have in any K-Beauty collection.
Celimax is respected for its ability to develop efficient skincare solutions that contain high percentages of key ingredients, allowing you to target any one of several skin conditions. With the motto ‘Cosmetics do not make miracles. But we give you an honest promise of better skin,’ the brand is most famous for its Real Noni Energy Ampoule, which has recently become something of a cult favourite.
The Noni Ampoule is the perfect example of the minimalist skincare philosophy in action. Containing 71.77% noni extract – which is derived from the noni fruit and contains more than 200 skin-loving nutrients, vitamins and minerals– it’s loved for its capacity to soothe and revitalise irritated skin.
Skincare With Makeup In Mind: Banila Co., Laneige
Many Korean skincare brands have developed products that improve the appearance of the skin, while helping to remove makeup. But some K-Beauty brands understand the specific needs of makeup lovers, and have developed products that not only care for the skin, but ultimately support it to look its best when makeup is applied. By focusing on skincare solutions that improve the appearance and condition of the skin, these brands are manufacturing products that improve the application and removal of makeup.
Banila co. has established itself as a top K-Beauty brand for those who want to simplify their skincare routine, and utilise products that work together in total synergy. Launched in 2006, Banila co. is most famous for developing skincare products that remove makeup with minimum fuss while revitalising the skin.
Its iconic Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm is extremely effective in removing waterproof or tint makeup, whilst cleansing, gently exfoliating and moisturising the skin – no wonder a jar is purchased once every 3.1 seconds!
Laneige markets itself as the hydration experts in skincare. Utilising their own trademarked Water Science techniques, the brand has created Advanced Water Complexes and applied them to a range of products that hydrate, while also supporting the smooth application of makeup. Thanks to their various water recipes, which range from hydro-ionised mineral water to white leaf tea water, they’ve become a cult favourite across the globe and have now expanded to incorporate a highly successful makeup collection.
Korean Makeup Brands Making Waves: Rom&Nd, Peripera
While much of this article has focused on skincare products, many top K-Beauty brands are well-known for their makeup. Both brands mentioned below are at the forefront of the industry, continuing to push bright and bold makeup products that are in line with some of the biggest cosmetics trends right now.
Founded by high-profile K-Beauty influencer, Saerom Min (better known by her pseudonym, Gaeko), Rom&nd is beloved by K-Beauty fans for its riotous use of colour. Its extensive product range is designed to complement all skin tones, ensuring it appeals to the entire K-Beauty audience.
If you want to check out a few of Rom&nd’s biggest sellers, we’d recommend taking a look at the Zero Gram Matte Lipstick, Zero Velvet Tint, Zero Cushion and the Better Than Cheek Blusher.
Peripera is a popular choice amongst K-Beauty followers because it focuses on producing makeup using strong and bright colour palettes. Both the brand’s lip and eye makeup products typically fly off the shelves, and the Ink The Velvet Lip Tints are particularly popular amongst those looking to achieve the bold, colourful look that’s in keeping with the latest K-Beauty trends. Launched in 2006, the brand has proven to be a big hit with younger K-Beauty fans.
As you can see, there are more than a few top Korean skincare brands to keep track of. The industry moves at such a pace, and is continually innovating and reinventing itself. That’s why retailers need to stay abreast of the latest developments if they’re to meet consumer demand. Fortunately, this ability to change and innovate is also what makes the market so profitable. K-Beauty consumers are always looking for the next big trend, and there’s always a new product, serum or skincare treatment to try out.
If you want to keep track of the latest trends and cult favourites, and source products from these top-selling brands at competitive, wholesale prices, simply sign up with UMMA today!