updated 9 Mar 2014, 17:53
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Mon, Feb 24, 2014
Urban, The Straits Times
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Hallyu beauty storm
by Gladys Chung

First, they invaded our television screens with their dramas, then our music players with their pop hits.

Now, the South Koreans have found their way into our make-up pouches and skincare regimens.

The Korean beauty wave has hit Singapore and shows no signs of stopping.

Ten years ago, there were just a handful of South Korean brands here, namely Laneige, Thefaceshop and Missha.

Today, there are more than 20, seven of which entered the market with stand-alone stores or counters at department stores, in the last four years.

Among the new-to-market brands that launched stand-alone shops last year was Innisfree, known for its skincare that is formulated with natural ingredients from Jeju island. It opened its first store at Takashimaya Shopping Centre last November and flew in its ambassador, K-drama heart-throb Lee Min Ho, to create hype for the 1,370 sq ft store's launch. Two more Innisfree stores will open by the end of this year.

Too Cool For School - known for its cute packaging and innovative formulas such as its rice wine and yogurt smoothie mask - opened its first store here last September at Far East Plaza. It has since opened another two outlets at Westgate and VivoCity, and has up to five more planned for next year.

Last July, VDL launched its brand of fun colour cosmetics at Suntec City, before rolling out another three outlets at Bugis Junction, Jurong Point and Bedok Mall.

Aside from department store counters, South Korean brands are also increasingly making their presence felt at personal-care stores and multi-brand beauty supermarts such as Sasa and Sephora, which have traditionally been dominated by American, French and Japanese brands.

For example, until 2012, Guardian did not carry any Korean brands apart from a range of face masks. But it now stocks popular labels such as Yadah, Skin Watchers, skinfactory and Dr. Jart+.

On why Guardian introduced Korean brands to its line-up of skincare and cosmetics, a spokesman says: "The demand for Korean beauty products has grown over the years as the flawless and natural look sported by Korean celebrities is highly coveted by many here."

She added that the products have been "well-received in the local market".

In October, South Korean travel vendor Shilla Travel Retail will take over the 19 perfume and cosmetics stores covering about 5,500 sq m in Changi Airport's Terminals 1 to 3 from its current tenant Nuance-Watson. It will also occupy about 1,800 sq m of space in the soon-to-be-built Terminal 4.

There are no details on how many brands will be Korean, but those that are already available here, such as Missha, Etude House and Thefaceshop, will have a presence at the airport for the first time, says a Changi Airport spokesman.

Currently, the only South Korean brands that are stocked at Nuance-Watson are Sulwhasoo and Laneige.


So what has given rise to this Korean beauty boom, not just in Singapore, but all over Asia?

Most brands that Urban spoke to point to the Hallyu craze. And with many of them using K-pop and K-drama stars to front their brands - for example, Innisfree has Lee, Etude House has boyband Shinee, cosmetics label Clio has Sandara Park of girl group 2NE1 - it is no wonder that K-mad fans are rushing to stock up.

Laneige's brand manager, Ms Doreen Chia, reveals: "Laneige's year-on-year sales figures have been on a double-digit percentage growth for the last three years, due to the increasing popularity of the Korean wave."


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