10 Issues K-Beauty Brands Should Address to Survive in the West

Monday, August 07, 2017

A lot of ya'll ain't gonna like this... but I'm going to say it anyway.



Before you go any further, these are my thoughts and my experiences. Many of you will probably disagree with me for whatever your reasons are, but they are just that - your reasons just like I have mine. Also, this post is specific to skincare and not makeup and are issues I have been observing for sometime that I believe will lead to Kbeauty becoming just another fad.

I have used more K-Beauty products than I have reviewed, and I think I am well within my rights to write this post 😜. I am looking at this through the eyes of a westerner, identifying areas I think K-Beauty brands can improve.

In no particular order:

1. K-Beauty is getting expensive

We (I?) are too used to getting something for next to nothing. There is no incentive for me to spend $40 on a moisturizer shipping out of Korea. Am I just being cheap? I don't think so. I'm just not willing to get ripped off. I also feel some kind of way when I see a K-Beauty moisturizer sold here in the states being sold for $50. No thanks. Give me what I'm used to.

Now some folks are willing to shell out coins for History of Whoo, Sulwhasoo, and others and I get it! I like nice things too! They do a beautiful job on their packaging and their products may actually be good. So don't take this as you shouldn't spend a lot of money on any one product; spend your money on whatever you want! Hell, I bought that $50 AmorePacific Treatment Toner that was just ok. But overall, I get really annoyed after spending a ton of money on something that's not functional.


2. Staple brands aren't releasing new and interesting products

I swear every time three brands I won't name (this isn't about shade) release something, it's like


Same ol, same ol. While one would say, hey stick to what you know, not in this case. There's just too much competition out there for brands that want to stay current and mainstream to be complacent. The same old lip tint. The same old water-whatever moisturizer. The same old crappy eyeshadow. Get out of here. I'm really surprised the brands that have been out FOREVER aren't the leaders in this movement!

3. Too many randos

There are too many out-of-the-blue brands popping up with higher prices.... with higher prices is the key part here because that's the off-putting part. When I first became interested in K-Beauty, one of the main selling points was how cheap everything was. Now that it has gone mainstream, I see random "here today, gone tomorrow" brands from seemingly out of nowhere, trying to sell me something that sounds and looks like something I already have, something I tried ages ago, or something I've definitely seen before.


I'm not saying K-Beauty needs to reinvent the wheel; that wouldn't be fair. But where is the originality? It could also be the case that these new brands are actually sub-brands (look at how many brands LG Household & Health Care has under its name!), falling under the name of some well-known brand (if so, what a shame and a missed opportunity). I realize just because I haven't heard of something doesn't mean you (the reader) haven't; I'm often late to hear about things that are supposed to be trendy (Kanye shrug). I understand these things and am aware of that, but for so much oversaturation, those prices ain't right. I won't participate!


4. Too many one hit wonders

There are some K-Beauty brands that get one product right. Everyone loves it, and then... that's it! A good example of this is a brand that makes a sherbet-like cleansing balm. Everyone seems to love it (ok not everyone loves it but it's definitely the winner of the brand), but that's about all people seem to love from the brand. I know you can do this! Expanding is an important part of a stable brand. People have the attention span of an ant and they will forget about you! You have been noticed in this multi-billion dollar industry so do something to stay there! We're all rooting for you!

5. An increase of suspect reviews in return for free products

For me, it's easy to spot when a product has been given to a blogger or influencer (oh, how I hate that term but I suppose it's an accurate description) to review and it's even more apparent when they are just saying nice things about it to avoid the wrath of the brand. That's not a review to me - it's an ad. Now, I am not in any way knocking those that choose to accept products at no cost, as I am aware that time is money and in the end, it isn't free. But I have a hard time believing reviews from those that only give consistently positive reviews on items, especially if other people have reviewed it and found something reasonably critical to say about it.


Again, I am not bashing those that accept products at no cost - I do it too. And I've read that brands will ghost you if you say something bad about their product. I just hate feeling like bloggers have turned into the models from the mascara advertisements on TV. You know, the ones where they promise to give you 500X volume and length and you can plainly see that they are shamelessly wearing false lashes. It's just not real life! I promise I'm not being a hater I just feel like that defeats the purpose of reviewing a product. I would rather buy my own products than to compromise the integrity of my blog, and myself. I'm not sure what the answer is here. Being transparent (saying where you got it and if it was provided at no cost) isn't enough. Well, for me it isn't. Most products in the entire beauty market overall are crap so when I read reviews about products without one critical statement from a repeat offender... I just stop believing that person. I stop following their blog. I find this pattern mostly in the western makeup genre, but K-Beauty is certainly picking up some of this bad behavior.

6. These brands are doing too much 

There are many brands that are creating products that stand out and many of them also produce makeup. Maybe I am biased in this sense because I don't find Korean makeup that appealing, and also it just isn't generally marketed for dark skin. I think the makeup is a huge distraction from how good some of these brands can be. Remember the brand with the beloved cleansing balm? Almost everything else I see from them is makeup and I roll my eyes at it because in general, the only thing I think is worth me spending my coin on is an eyeliner or a lip product. I know this isn't the case for a lot of people, but a lot of brands can lose their identity this way. For this I say focus on your brand. Figure out your brand identity. I strongly believe that will result in longevity.

7. Too many gimmicky products.

I find myself constantly rolling my eyes at the new releases I do see. At first, I was excited about things popping up here and there; I loved seeing K-Beauty getting put on the map! Then it just got out of control. Brands need to focus less on pandering and more on the quality of the product. Here is an example of one of those products. Also, remember that Cirmage Lifting Stick people went nuts over? You rub it all over your face and all of your wrinkles magically disappear?


Some people describe this and other forms of gimmickry as skintertainment; I however call bullsh*t. And hey, K-Beauty brands aren't the only ones guilty of over-exaggerating claims; western brands are notorious for doing this. But you know what? K-Beauty was appealing to me because I found it to be ingredients-focused and inexpensive. I understand some people find the "fun" in it appealing, but I am not one of those people. I would much rather have a product I can use that does something that just some mask that makes fun little bubbles.

9. The websites selling K-Beauty are a huge contributor to the issues.

The websites/distributors, not the brands, appear to be in charge of general access to K-Beauty in the US. Perhaps it's time for brands to take control of their own products and getting them to the masses. Sell yourselves. They need their own active website. Depending on some other company to push your products for you is... careless. In the short-term, yes, you'll make money. But in the long-term, there's no stability, especially if your products don't sell. These distributors will cut. you. off if your products do not sell. So in addition to putting their products in third-party distributors, brands should also be sending people to their own website, just in case! I mean, IMHO.


Western brands are already ripping off K-Beauty products; maybe go to their websites and see what they are doing to drive traffic, interest, and sales to their site. On that note, I have also noticed an increase in stateside websites that sell a substantial amount of old, yawn products. I realize these products are generally the consumer's segue into K-Beauty, but you have got to keep your current audience interested, too!

10. Lack of store fronts

There is a disconnect in product use and presentation, and I feel like having an actual store would help with this problem. Now I know this can be problematic because of budget and funding issues, but I strongly feel that the best way to get your product into the hands of people, especially people not so knowledgeable about the giant industry that is K-Beauty is having a store front. New York is doing a great job at this! It's a great way to educate people and to get people in front of your products.


I'm no expert on this stuff, I'm just someone that spends thousands of dollars every year on beauty products and someone that's been blogging for six years.

Brands that are moving in the right direction:
CosRX - I mean, I feel like a lot of brands should be doing what they are doing. I just hope they don't start making makeup!
su:m 37 - some of their stuff is expensive, but definitely a brand that's got a handle on who it is.

Brands that have sooooo much potential and that I would like to see turn things around:
Benton
Mamonde
Hanyul
Zymogen
Jayjun
Nature Republic
Tosowoong

There are brands that bore the crap out of me. There are brands that make me feel like I'm getting ripped off. I won't name them... yet!

I'll give them a chance to get their act together 😊


-XX 
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