World over, people admire Koreans for their age-defying beauty, porcelain-like skin and near-flawless complexion. As far as matters of beauty are concerned, Koreans have always been synonymous with skincare. Their innovative beauty products created from exotic and unusual ingredients are dominating the beauty industry in many countries today, including India.
While initially, Korean beauty or K-beauty was restricted to a few online portals in the country, today, it is slowly making its presence felt in many cities of the country in the form of physical stores. Nihir Parikh, chief business officer, Nykaa.com, explains, “The Indian consumer’s tastes are constantly evolving as they’re becoming more and more aware of brands and trends from across the world. Korean beauty has made its way into the Indian market in a big way and is in high demand for its excellent quality and innovative product lines.” Nihir reveals that some of the best-selling Korean beauty brands in India are The Faceshop, Innisfree, It’s Skin, Klairs and Dear Packer.
There are many reasons why Korean skincare is highly popular: it’s simple, creative, fun and effective. Koreans are known to spend half their salaries on cosmetics. They believe in preventive skin care, that is, they tackle problems even before they appear. So, you will find girls as young as 20 incorporating under-eye creams and anti-wrinkle serums into their beauty routine. Korean skincare is also revered for its high focus on hydration as they believe hydrated skin will translate into healthy skin.
Dr (Capt) Deepti Dhillon, celebrity dermatologist, Appleskin Clinic, New Delhi, explains, “Hydration is considered the main focus in Korean beauty regime. You will notice the emphasis on hydration in many Korean brands, especially with their toners, sheet masks, essences and sleeping masks. Hydration from masks makes your skin look younger, dewy and plump, leaving it supple and one that has elasticity.”
According to Nihir, K-beauty products are very different from skincare products Indian customers are accustomed to. He says, “They mainly focus on key ingredients, different textures, forms and formats that are easy to use. The appeal of K-beauty to Indian consumers lies in high-quality products at affordable prices.”
Name any ingredient and K-beauty will have a product with it. From ginseng, aloe vera, green tea to volcanic clay, bamboo, rice water, charcoal and even something as weird as snail slime, K-beauty completely believes in harnessing the magical powers of nature. These natural ingredients are known to tackle different skincare issues: for instance, ginseng is a powerful anti-ageing and lightening ingredient; snail slime is known to stimulate the production of elastin and collagen; volcanic clay is an effective acne solution; bamboo is an excellent moisturiser, and rice water is a great pore-minimiser.
Dr Deepti sheds light on the fact that K-beauty is also popular because of its layering technique. She says, “Korean skincare regime is all about layering. When you layer products in thin amounts from a lighter texture to heavy textures, it makes them more effective. As each layer penetrates the skin, there will be fewer chances of ending up with a greasy look. This is something that Indians generally need because they complain about a greasy effect post sunscreen and other products.”
However, one of the major questions that arise here is, do these foreign beauty ingredients suit the Indian skin. Dr Deepti explains, “Korean beauty is suitable for Indian skin. Since we live in cities with high pollution that affects our skin, it would make sense to add an extra cleansing step to our normal routines. According to the Korean beauty skin care regime, one cleansing can be mild and the other can be deeper. Koreans believe in starting early, hence use of sunscreens and moisturisers before fine lines and dark spots appear, thus making it suitable for Indian skin.”
Currently, the most popular categories of K-beauty products include face masks and serums. Nihir reveals that on Nykaa.com, “Sheet masks are the highest selling products followed by peels, serums, moisturisers and toners. K-beauty also has some innovative products like cushion foundation, clay masks, cleansing water, nose strips and mousse packs that are also popular.”
Talking about the popularity of serums, Dr Deepti says, “Serums form an important part of the Korean skincare regime and adding a good serum that works for our skin can help in a number of ways. Serums containing active ingredients have proved to deliver beautiful, bright and clear skin by tackling skin issues like fine lines and hyperpigmentation. Korean skincare regime focuses on getting to the root of skin problems. Serums work in the same way as essences or ampoules.”
Face masks are probably the most fun category in K-beauty, and these have also made their way to the local drugstores today. All one has to do is to unwrap these wet masks and put them on their face for about 20 minutes and wait for the magic to happen. They are hassle-free and require no elaborate cleaning up. Dr Deepti says, “As far as masks are considered, they are great for hydration and have been well adapted in India now.”
What also adds to the K-beauty fandom is their cute and innovative packaging. Serums, masks, creams and moisturisers are sold out of colourful containers in the shape of pandas, bears, eggs, avocados, wine bottles, and more.
K-beauty in a country that boasts of many traditional skincare secrets itself sounds ironic. But thanks to social media and globalisation, Korean beauty seems to be gaining a stronger foothold in the Indian beauty market today and is only expected to grow bigger and bigger.