Why the Asian skin care market is one to watch

The Korean beauty phenomenon is just the beginning!

marie claire Contributor / May 25 2017

When it comes to influence, innovation and invention, where the East goes the rest of the world follows.

Blame it on the BB. When a Korean brand launched BB cream in the US in 2011, its ensuing success turned the beauty world’s attention from Europe and the US – traditionally the homes of innovation and trends – to Asia. Since then, all eyes have been peeled on the East's beauty industry to see what cool, and often crazy, breakthrough beauty products will be the Next Big Thing.

Here's why you should be paying attention too, plus our favourite new (and coming soon) beauty obsessions.

Steeped in heritage

Beauty – and skin care in particular – is deeply ingrained in Asian culture: writings from around 700BC include notations on skin care, and in centuries past, noble class women hardly ventured outdoors and their skin remained fair, flawless and a visible symbol of their status, a perception that has endured until today. “Women around the world care about makeup, but we’re more concerned with having healthy, glowing and pure skin,” says Alice Han, regional manager for Dr.Jart+, the South Korean brand responsible for that initial launch of BB cream in the US.

Dr.Jart+ must-try products: Dr.Jart+ Ceramidin Cream; Dr.Jart+ Black Label Nourishing Beauty Balm SPF 30; Dr.Jart+ Dermaclear Micro Water

Dr.Jart+ Ceramidin Cream

Dr.Jart+ Black Label Nourishing Beauty Balm SPF 30

Dr.Jart+ Dermaclear Micro Water

South Korea loves skin 

And no Asian country is more invested in skin care than South Korea. It’s the epicentre of innovation thanks to a customer base happy to partake in a multi-layered skin care ritual, paired with the pali-pali culture. “It means ‘hurry up!’,” says Han. “Our fast-paced lifestyle saw Korea become a global leader in IT and mobile, and it’s the same in beauty; we absorb global beauty trends fast and we create the next trend.”

An extensive skin care routine

Despite their pali-pali culture, rumour has it many Korean women have 14-step skin care routines. But 14 is only for beauty addicts, says Han, who notes that most women have 10 (yes, 10!) steps including:

- Lip and eye makeup remover
- Cleansing oil or water
- Cleansing foam
- Exfoliator
- Essence
- Serum
- Mask
- Eye cream
- Moisturising emulsion
- Moisturising cream (with added benefits like anti-ageing or brightening).

The power of a face mask

While Western women are likely to indulge in a mask once a week, for Asian women, it’s a daily habit. “Using a mask daily has a much more positive effect than visiting a massage spa once a week,” explains Han. Japanese brand SK-II was one of the first brands to introduce sheet masks to the Western consumer, and they are now near ubiquitous, popping up everywhere from beauty counters to your Instagram feed, so naturally Asians have moved on to the next thing: sleeping masks. Lighter and tackier than night creams, a sleeping mask (or sleep pack, as they’re also known) creates a seal on the skin so that treatments underneath (like serum and moisturiser) penetrate deeper. Smooth one on as a final step in your PM skin routine (the better ones won’t mess up your pillowcase or hair) and rinse off in the morning. 

Masks to try: Tony Moly Kiss Kiss Lovely Lip Patchkaruna Hydrating+ Face Mask; SK-II Whitening Source Derm Revival Mask

Tony Moly Kiss Kiss Lovely Lip Patch

karuna Hydrating+ Face Mask

SK-II Whitening Source Derm Revival Mask

The next big things

You cant shop some of these innovations here just yet, but stay tuned for these revolutionary beauties.

Skin care trend #1: Body masks: for breasts and hips – said to reduce cellulite and improve elasticity.  

Skin care trend #2: Snail mucin: is secreted from the belly and quickly heals wounds, says Han (its in the Dr.Jart+ Time Returning range). Its what enables snails to crawl over blades while keeping their bodies moisturised. 

Skin care trend #3: Horse oil: is extracted from horse fat and utilised for its rich hydrating properties.

5 cutting edge skin care products 

It's not just Korea who are delivering breakthrough beauty - these other Asian markets are also leading the way.

Taiwan: karuna Exfoliating Face Mask deep cleans and brightens skin, while Su-Man Velvet Skin Brightening Serum utilises dragons blood (prized in Asia for its anti-inflammatory properties) to guard against pollutants.

Japan: Skin Inc allows you to mix and match formulas for a customised routine while Tatcha Aburatorigami Japanese Beauty Papers absorb excess oil without disturbing makeup.

China: Chinese women prize Tibetan safflower for its hydrating and balancing properties – find it in Wei Tibetan Safflower Age Defying Face Cream. 

karuna Exfoliating Face Mask

Su-Man Velvet Skin Brightening Serum

Tatcha Aburatorigami Japanese Beauty Papers

For more beauty tips from marie claire, head to marieclaire.com.au

Main image photography by: Edward Urrutia

A beauty editor and vitamin C fanatic who has worked across a range of print and digital publications, including Stellar, marie claire, Gritty Pretty and Badlands Journal.