If you’re new to Asian beauty brands, you might be making the mistake of grouping all of them together. Wait, aren’t “J-Beauty” and “K-Beauty” just buzzwords that mean the same thing? No, actually they’re not! Though they’ve been making headlines in the west only in recent years, J-Beauty and K-Beauty are far from passing trends. In fact, Asia as a whole has a rich skincare heritage steeped in local traditions, values and history. Over the years, each Asian country has emerged with its own distinct philosophy and approach to skincare. Today we’ll be exploring two major players - J-Beauty and K-Beauty.
Rather than size up J-Beauty and K-Beauty by their brands and products, we think a careful look at their consumers - and their expectations, habits, and choices - is much more telling.
Japanese Consumers vs. Korean Consumers
So. What if we take a peek at a Japanese woman’s skincare routine? First, you’re unlikely to find a huge assortment of skincare products on her bathroom countertop. She likely favors a minimalist skincare routine, with just 3-4 products that are multi-purpose. As with many aspects of Japanese culture, the mantra here is “less is more”. Plus, once she trusts a product and has seen its results, she’s likely to keep it on her countertop for the long-haul. Japanese consumers expect Japanese beauty brands to back up their promises with scientific research and technology. So they prefer tried-and-tested formulas, and opt for products they know deliver consistent quality. The appeal for them is just a few yet reliable products they know they can count on.
Unlike a Japanese woman’s countertop, you’re likely to find a plethora of products in a Korean woman’s bathroom! But make no mistake - she values each product as they serve specific purposes. The number of steps she takes may vary, though typically it is said to be 10. Her routine may seem lengthy, but she likely looks forward to her daily ritual, and often customizes it on the fly depending on her needs of the moment. She knows it need not be exactly 10 steps every time - she has the flexibility to change things up. It’s also common to see a colorful array of products adorning her counter! But these pastel pinks and bright yellows aren’t just for fun, though they certainly are trendy. They reflect deeper values of self-expression and innovation. The brands she chooses align with her choice to constantly reinvent herself, in playful and creative ways. Just like these brands, she seeks to push the envelope in her goals and dreams.
Please note that these insights aren’t meant to stereotype or polarize J-Beauty and K-Beauty consumers, but shed light on greater consumer trends.
While consumers in the west typically look for products to solve skin problems, both Japanese and Korean consumers have a mentality of preventative skincare. Rather than try to reverse the effects of sun damage or skin aging after-the-fact, one consistently hydrates, nourishes and protects their skin early on. Skincare isn’t something Asian women start considering in their 20s or 30s, but they are taught rituals and age-old practices from a young age. It is for this reason that Asian products are designed to be gentle yet effective, but certainly not harsh.
Both J-Beauty and K-Beauty consumers are drawn to products with local ingredients, be it snail oil or green tea. In this sense, skincare is one part of a holistic lifestyle. We can see this deeply-rooted in their cuisine, such as the nutrient-dense Japanese seaweed dishes and the collagen-rich Korean stews. Even when it comes to sun protection, it is very common to see women of either country wearing loose long-sleeves in the summer and using UV-ray blocking parasols to ward off excess skin damage.
Is one better than the other?
Certainly not! Both J-Beauty and K-Beauty draw upon rich cultural heritage and wisdom, and they’ve ultimately emerged into two equally respectable yet different approaches to skincare. It’s up to you to choose - what works for your skin needs and lifestyle? Are you a minimalist who prefers the simple yet effective approach of J-Beauty? Or do you vibe with the pioneering and innovative, yet equally efficacious K-Beauty? Neither is replacing the other anytime soon, so we hope this helps you in your decision!