THE BEAUTY OF SOUTH KOREA

It’s a hotspot for skin­care, makeup, aes­thetic pro­ce­dures and even hair prod­ucts. And women in SG just lap them all up. Here’s why they do, and why they love K-beauty so much.

Herworld (Singapore) - - NEWS -

What makes the coun­try’s beauty prod­ucts, aes­thetic pro­ce­dures and skin­care in­gre­di­ents so dif­fer­ent and ex­cit­ing to SG women?

I t started in the mid-2000s. Mass­mar­ket South Korean skin­care brands like The Face Shop and Laneige were in­stant hits. Sin­ga­pore women flocked to their stores, buy­ing up mois­turis­ers, cleansers, masks and more. That was the start of hal­lyu, the K-wave.

These days, you can’t walk into a shop­ping mall and not see a Korean beauty store.

There’s no stop­ping hal­lyu beauty. The bud­get-friendly as well as masstige brands soon paved the way for luxe names like Sul­wha­soo. And most re­cently, in May this year, Hera opened its first beauty counter in Sin­ga­pore at Takashimaya D.S.

Why is K-beauty so hip and hot? It’s be­cause K-pop is hip and hot in Korea and Sin­ga­pore. The two are in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked, with many K-beauty brands us­ing K-celebs to front their cam­paigns.

Hip fac­tor aside, the be­lief ex­ists among con­sumers that K-beauty brands are one step ahead of their com­peti­tors. The brands are seen as high on in­no­va­tion and at the fore­front of skin sci­ence and re­search. Prod­ucts also seem to be more com­pat­i­ble with Asian skin; women swear by the re­sults they see. That makes them more eager to try more K-beauty brands in Sin­ga­pore as well as when they travel to South Korea.

Its re­search is top-notch

Lux­ury skin­care brand Sul­wha­soo (owned by Korean beauty gi­ant Amorepa­cific) opened its first counter at Tangs at Tang Plaza in 2012. In the six years since then, it has opened six beauty coun­ters and three stand­alone bou­tiques, of­fer­ing fa­cial treat­ments on top of skin­care and makeup.

Says Doreen Chia, brand gen­eral man­ager of Sul­wha­soo: “Amorepa­cific has a strong global re­search and de­vel­op­ment team that does rig­or­ous and in-depth stud­ies to un­der­stand dif­fer­ent skin needs to en­sure our prod­ucts work.”

The com­mit­ment to R&D can also be seen in Su:m37, which uses nat­u­rally fer­mented in­gre­di­ents in its skin­care. It has its own Nat­u­ral Fer­men­ta­tion Re­search In­sti­tute, where it stud­ies

the op­ti­mal bal­ance of light, sound, tem­per­a­ture, wa­ter, soil and air for ef­fec­tive nat­u­ral fer­men­ta­tion.

Says Joyce Teh, pres­i­dent of The Face Shop Sin­ga­pore, which man­ages Su:m37: “Be­cause of their nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring detox­i­fi­ca­tion abil­ity, nat­u­rally fer­mented prod­ucts are hy­poal­ler­genic and safe, even for sen­si­tive skin types.”

Its fo­cus is clear

Women also ap­pre­ci­ate how each K-beauty brand is clearly dif­fer­en­ti­ated. Take Sul­wha­soo, which fo­cuses on gin­seng as a skin­care in­gre­di­ent. All its prod­ucts, in­clud­ing the new­est three – the Con­cen­trated Gin­seng Re­new­ing Serum, Wa­ter and Emul­sion – use dif­fer­ent parts of the gin­seng plant.

“Sin­ga­pore­ans are fa­mil­iar with herbs and their mul­ti­ple ben­e­fits to over­all health and well­ness. Hence, they trust beauty prod­ucts for­mu­lated with tra­di­tional herbal in­gre­di­ents, which Sul­wha­soo is known for,” says Chia.

Other brands have sim­i­lar strate­gies. In­n­is­free uses nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents like green tea and Jeju wa­ter. Laneige fo­cuses on hy­dra­tion and was the first to in­tro­duce sleep­ing masks here. Etude House is known for its huge se­lec­tion of af­ford­able makeup.

Ex­ec­u­tive Jaslyn Lim, 24, uses only mois­turis­ers from K-brands, say­ing that she finds their nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents hydrating yet gen­tle on her sen­si­tive skin. Those from non-Korean brands sting her skin be­cause of their po­tency or in­gre­di­ents, she adds.

Teo Yan Teng, 32, a se­nior ex­ec­u­tive and beauty in­flu­encer with an In­sta­gram (@tebisha) fol­low­ing of more than 9,000, says that eight in 10 of her skin­care and makeup prod­ucts are from K-beauty brands. “They fo­cus more on hy­dra­tion and bright­en­ing, which Sin­ga­pore­ans like, and are also more suit­able for Asian skin.”

It pushes bound­aries

For so­cial me­dia mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive Nerissa Lee, 23, K-beauty is cut­ting-edge and ex­cit­ing. “Ev­ery time the Kore­ans come up with new prod­ucts, like the splash mask (where you splash your face with essence), or a trend, like the sev­en­skin method (where you layer on your toner seven times), I’ll go, ‘Why didn’t I think of this?’ be­cause they work won­ders for my skin.”

Korean makeup, too, has a way of break­ing new ground. Ch­eryl Chio, a part-time beauty blog­ger and an avid K-beauty user, says the makeup looks are ef­fort­less, wear­able, and flat­ter her Asian fea­tures bet­ter. “The con­stant stream of dif­fer­ent looks in­spires me to ex­per­i­ment. Plus, in re­cent years, the for­mu­la­tions have be­come more suit­able for Sin­ga­pore’s hu­mid­ity, with long­wear­ing and matte fin­ishes.”

Teo adds that her K-beauty makeup posts garner more likes. “It’s be­cause the makeup has that nat­u­ral, porce­lain-type look that ev­ery­one wants to have.”

Cute looks, gra­di­ent lips and glowy skin are among the many trends K-beauty has brought – and the trends keep mov­ing for­ward. Just look at the suc­cess of Hera, a makeup and skin­care brand tar­get­ing ur­ban women.

Ac­cord­ing to Chia of Amorepa­cific, which owns Hera, open­ing sales hit the roof, even beat­ing fig­ures for the brand’s de­but in China. She says: “Hera ap­peals to Sin­ga­pore women be­cause they share the same traits as a ‘Seoulista’ in Korea – one who is trendy, pas­sion­ate about life, mod­ern, well-in­formed, and al­ways on the look­out for the lat­est prod­ucts and finer things.”

It’s moved into aes­thet­ics

The K-craze has gone be­yond skin­care and makeup. In aes­thetic pro­ce­dures, any­thing K-based has an edge. Says Dr Y.Z. Tan, founder and med­i­cal direc­tor of Mizu Aes­thetic Clinic: “Kore­ans have been at the fore­front of aes­thetic treat­ments be­cause of their wide­spread ac­cep­tance of such treat­ments. They also gen­er­ally have fewer man­u­fac­tur­ing scan­dals and higher qual­ity con­trol.

“I’ve had pa­tients mak­ing re­quests for pro­ce­dures their friends have tried in Korea – some­times even be­fore we of­fer them in Sin­ga­pore – be­cause they see the ef­fec­tive­ness of the treat­ments on their friends.”

One pop­u­lar treat­ment is Re­ju­ran Healer, a skin booster that is meant to help re­gen­er­ate and repair dam­aged skin cells. The key in­gre­di­ent used is polynu­cleotide (PN), a purer and more con­cen­trated form of poly­deoxyri­bonu­clotide (PDRN), ex­tracted from salmon DNA and known for its bio­com­pat­i­bil­ity with hu­man skin.

Peo­ple who are not into treat­ments that use nee­dles can turn to Kore­anstyle spas like Korea Beauty Cen­tre and Han­bang Skin So­lu­tions, which em­ploy tra­di­tional Korean skin­care ther­a­pies like mas­sages, and whose treat­ments use in­gre­di­ents rooted in ori­en­tal medicine.

Don’t for­get the hair trends

Be­fore you think the pop­u­lar­ity of K-beauty stops at skin­care and skin treat­ments, con­sider the en­try of Korean hair sa­lons in the last two years. Korean perms are of­fered by al­most all hair sa­lons in Sin­ga­pore, but few are as truly Korean as Leekaja Beauty Sa­lon.

The 46-year-old brand is one of the top hair sa­lons in Korea, and has more than 200 out­lets glob­ally. Its Sin­ga­pore flag­ship opened in end 2016 and is mostly staffed by Korean hair­styl­ists, some of whom have styled the hair of K-pop groups. It also pro­vides nail art, eye­lash ex­ten­sions and makeup pack­ages, and has an in-house cafe.

In July, Amorepa­cific launched pro­fes­sional hair­care brand Amos Pro­fes­sional, which is car­ried by more than 56,000 sa­lons in South Korea. Sin­ga­pore is the sa­lon brand’s first point of en­try into the East Asian mar­ket.

It’s prob­a­bly safe to say that the K-wave is here to stay – in Sin­ga­pore, and around the world. Go to our dig­i­tal edi­tion to read more about the many Korean beauty brands, sa­lons and aes­thetic clin­ics in Sin­ga­pore.

K-beauty and be­yond: (from top) 28-year-old Kim Tae Ri is the new face for Kenzo’s sig­na­ture fra­grance, Flower By Kenzo, an ex­am­ple of the ap­peal of Korean celebs even with non-Korean brands; Song Hye Kyo of Full House and De­scen­dants of the Sun fame is Sul­wha­soo’s lat­est am­bas­sador; Im Yoon Ah, bet­ter known as Yoona, and one-eighth of K-pop group Girls’ Gen­er­a­tion, has fresh­faced looks that make her per­fect as nat­u­ral­istin­spired brand In­n­is­free’s am­bas­sador.

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