Inside The Trend: The New Face of Korean Beauty

BY Emily PrichardJanuary 24, 2019

Woman in white shirt stands in front of green curtain

Snail mucin. Avocado. Green tea. Bee glue. Not your average go-tos for glowing skin… unless you’ve been seduced by the Korean beauty movement.

New to the trend? Beauty is one of Korea’s largest industries, rivaling technology with an estimated worth of $13.1billion in 2018 alone. Combining cosmetic and therapeutic know-how, its hugely innovative products have captured the imagination (and cash) of consumers in Asia and increasingly, the rest of the globe. In the past year, UK women’s usage of all cleaning products has increased, with experts crediting the influence of K-beauty’s famed ten step regime.

A thorough cleansing, toning and moisturising process designed to create a flawless complexion, it’s made must-haves of those rather unlikely ingredients. But with thousands of salves, masks and potions on the market, how can a K-Beauty newbie identify their perfect products?

INTRODUCING TONIC15

Meet your guru, Jin Kwon. Founder of Huckletree West-based business TONIC15, she’s introducing eager UK customers to the most innovative Korean beauty products on the market.

From Huxley’s cactus extract-infused sheet masks to Aromatica’s cleansing sherbet, it’s pretty clear that a package from TONIC15 isn’t your average haul. Every single brand you see on-site has been through an extensive curation process including rigorous product testing and trips to Korea to grill the founders. Jin explains:

“I find that the founders of these brands are often very curious. They’re always open to discover new trends and listen to feedback, and very quick on execution. Without truly believing in the company, and therefore sharing their values, it’s just so difficult to endorse the brand.

In addition, these companies are my closest business partners that I need to grow in the UK market along with TONIC15. Having partners whom I can exchange knowledge to bring innovation and grow together with is important.”

THE K-BEAUTY LOWDOWN

Jin’s dedication to finding the very best products mirrors that of K-beauty consumers. They’ve taken to vlogs, TV shows and apps to examine and discuss the thousands of skincare items on the market. Jin reflects on their passion:

“This environment made consumers incredibly well-educated and savvy when it comes to ingredients and formulations. The trend pushed Korean beauty brands to focus heavily on plant-based formulations and clean beauty without any harsh ingredients.”

This passion for ‘clean’ compositions looks set to carry over to the UK, too. Jin revealed she’s often surprised by the depth of her customers’ knowledge when discussing formulations. For those of us who are slightly less au fait, Jin will personally recommend a combination of products to get you started. 

Acne. Visible pores. Lack of glow. Whatever you want to tackle, she’s got the solution. For many of us, it’s riding out a chilly, dry January without becoming a fully dehydrated husk. In response to my desperate pleas for advice, Jin shared her top tips for feeling renewed and refreshed:

1. DOUBLE CLEANSING

“Cleansing is always the most important part of skincare. For a night routine, especially, if you are living in London, taking the tube and wearing makeup, I recommend to double cleanse with two products in particular. The  Aromatica Orange Cleansing Sherbet cleansing balm melts away makeup and grime very quickly, as well as smelling delicious! The Make P:rem’s pH-balancing foam cleanser is a great second-step because it removes any impurities (ensuring skin is thoroughly clean) without stripping the skin. The complexion is left hydrated and soft!”

2. EXFOLIATING

“During the winter, the skin cells get dehydrated, and thus, it is important to regularly exfoliate to reveal your skin’s radiance. I like using By Wishtrend’s Mandellic Acid 5% Prep Water – it’s a very gentle AHA liquid exfoliator filled with antioxidants that help reduce blemishes, as well as having an anti-aging effect. This exfoliating toner removes dead cells and impurities effectively and gently, and helps the skin absorb subsequent skincare products far better.”

3. MASKING

“Add an extra layer of moisture with sheet masking. It’s a great way to keep skin hydrated. My recent favourite masks are By Wishtrend’s Natural Vitaimin C Enhancing Mask, Huxley’s Oil & Extract mask, a dual-pouch sheet mask enriched with cactus extract and Prickly Pear Seed Oil. When my skin is in need of intense repair, I like to use Franz’ Dual Mask System.  The iontophoresis sheet mask solution uses micro-current to help the active ingredients get absorbed to the deepest layer of skin.”

FINDING BALANCE

Beauty isn’t simply skin deep. At Huckletree, we’re big believers in finding equilibrium between the demands of work and life. Similarly, Jin believes that dedicating even a little bit of time to yourself each day has huge benefits for wellness. Focusing on a 15 minute skincare regime can bring benefits beyond the visual.

When you’re building a startup, it’s important to nurture yourself for the good of your business. Jin reveals her philosophy:

“I like keeping balance between work and play in my life. I do always try to set my wellness as my top priority, then celebrate ‘us’ (TONIC15) as a whole and a community. I call this the ‘oxygen mask theory’ – when you’re on a plane, you need to put your oxygen mask on first before you can save others.”  

Expanding on this, Jin highlighted a very real issue facing founders. With an ever-growing list of demands, one can end up permanently ‘wired’ – and that has a knock-on impact on productivity.

Let’s be real here. In a world of #startuplife hashtags, it’s important to delve behind the #hustle and share the varied experience of being a founder: the highs and the lows. Jin is candid about mistakes she’s made on her entrepreneurial journey – and what they’ve taught her:

“As a startup, I am always conscious about cost, and one mistake that I made was that I forgot to take account of the real value of my time. I thought I could save the cost by doing all the storage management and fulfillment by myself.

When the order volume hiked up all of a sudden, it ended up taking most of my day to fulfill them, which is time I could have spent to make my business move forward. I realised that there are professional services that I can delegate to which helps the company run more efficiently.”

Putting yourself first means recognising that the seemingly most cost-effective way of doing things might actually have a hidden price: your time. However, it’s not the only obstacle facing founders.

FAIRER FUNDING NOW

Last year, we launched our campaign Fairer Funding Now, calling for greater diversity in the startups receiving funding. Our research found that only 10% of female founders believe there are equal investment opportunities for women.

As a passionate advocate for underrepresented founders, Jin is candid in her views on the current landscape:

“I haven’t raised funding yet, but I am aware that there are only very few female founders with startups that have raised several rounds. When it gets to Asian female founders, it gets so rare to find one. Ultimately, I hope that supporting all underrepresented founders will enable the funding landscape to change.

Funding should be awarded solely on the merits of each startup and its founder’s potential to create a successful, scalable business.”

The obstacles facing founders are far more nuanced than they may initially appear. Beyond race, age and gender, Jin also highlights a big issue facing many entrepreneurs:

“As an Asian female founder who may at some point become a parent, there are cultural considerations to navigate on a personal level whilst running the business too. That is why I love being part of Huckletree’s supportive community. I can share concerns and also support those experiencing similar challenges. Friendly, non-judgmental spaces are so important for all founders.”

THE NEXT EPISODE

So, what’s next for TONIC15? Major growth – with a signature TONIC15 twist. Jin’s strategy for building out her team comes back to those cultural considerations she highlighted above. First in her hiring sights: mothers. She’s homing in on entrepreneurs who have all the skills but paused their career due to parenting duties.

It’s a smart decision – and one we fully get behind. At Huckletree West, our Kids Studio is designed to support members who are balancing their parental responsibilities with those of their career. As more employers (of all sizes) recognise the value that parentrepreneurs can offer, more will offer those ‘friendly, non-judgemental’ workspaces. This brings greater diversity of perspectives in the workforce for employers and greater flexibility for employees. Everyone wins!

With the Korean beauty trend showing no signs of dying down and an innovative approach to scaling, Jin and TONIC15’s future is looking as bright as a glass complexion. Now, where did I put that white truffle sheet mask…?

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AUTHOR

Emily Prichard

Manager, Brand and Creative