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 person’s skincare routine? First, you’re unlikely to find a huge assortment of skincare products on their bathroom countertops. They likely favor 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 they trust a product and have seen its results, they’re likely to keep it on their countertop for the long-haul. Japanese consumers expect Japanese skincare 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. Japanese skincare routines also tend to be centered around Suhada. Literally translated as one’s “bare skin,” Suhada is a skin-first approach that stresses the importance of creating a healthy skin base prior to make-up application. Whether you’re going minimalist or glam with your make-up routine, the final look should bring out your natural glow. If you ever ask a red-carpet makeup artist, they’ll likely spill that properly hydrated, prepped, and primed skin is the key to a baby smooth finish. This is pretty much the cornerstone of the Suhada philosophy, even if you’re just staying at home.
Unlike a Japanese person’s countertop, you’re likely to find a plethora of skincare products in a Korean person’s bathroom! But make no mistake – they value each product as they serve specific purposes. The number of steps they take may vary, though typically it is said to be 10. Their routine may seem lengthy, but they likely look forward to their daily ritual, and often customize it on the fly depending on their needs of the moment. They know it need not be exactly 10 steps every time – they have the flexibility to change things up. It’s also common to see a colorful array of products adorning their counters! 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 they choose align with their choices to constantly reinvent themselves, in playful and creative ways. Just like these brands, they seek to push the envelope in their 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 people 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!
For those of you that vibe with J-Beauty, we’re offering a limited-time introductory set to one of J-Beauty’s cutting-edge brands, EDOBIO. The EDOBIO Essential Beauty Box contains minis of the brand’s hottest essentials to form a complete J-Beauty skincare routine. Get the full foam cleansing experience with bestselling Floradiance Moisturizing Souffle Soap and foaming net, balance and hydrate your skin with the Fresh Balancing Toner and Intensive Hydration Serum, and seal the deal with the Glowing Night Gel Mask, an overnight mask that doubles as a moisturizer. For an instant skin rescue, try the rinse-off Radiance Booster Mask for brightening and repair. Available at The JBeauty Collection while supplies last.