The K-beauty is the craze in Japan, the world’s third largest cosmetics market after the United States and China.
According to the data from Cosmetic Importers Association of Japan (CIAJ), the imports of South Korean make-up cosmetics totaled 2.68 billion yen (US$23.88 million or 25.98 billion won), from January to September this year, up 10.5 percent from a year earlier, while that of skincare products amounted to 10 billion yen (US$89.09 million or 96.93 billion won), up 14.6 percent. The imports reached the highest ever with US$182.65 million (198.72 billion won) last year. When the current trend continues, however, it will hit another record high this year again.
Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun called this phenomenon “the third wave of Hallyu.” It reported that the first Hallyu appeared when the Korean drama Winter Sonata was aired on NHK satellite channel in 2003 and the second wave of Hallyu blew hard as girl group Girls’ Generation and boy band Big Bang made their debut in 2010. It also added that the third Hallyu is a Korean cosmetics boom among the younger generation.
Low-priced makeup brands, such as MISSHA and Peripera, are leading the K-beauty Hallyu in Japan. “Korean-style ulzzang (best face in Korean) makeup, which makes the skin whiter and the lip brighter, is in the fashion of the moment among young Japanese women.
Able C&C, which operates cosmetic brand MISSHA, announced on November 29 that the cumulative sales of M Magic Cushion released in April 2015 passed the 5 million mark. A cushion compact diffuses watery creams through a special sponge, providing a thin veil of color as well as convenience. As Peripera, a brand launched by CLIO, has sold its lip tints through thousands of stores, it leads the lip tint boom in Japan. A lip tint is a cosmetic product applied to lips to give them color with dye.
Skinfood saw its sales in Japan see a double-digit growth in the first quarter this year compared to a year ago. The sales of Isa Knox’s Micro Foam Cushion in Japan have also tripled compared to the previous year. AmorePacific Group opened a store of its low-priced makeup brand Etude House in Harajuku, the center of Tokyo fashion, at the end of last year. The Nikkei MJ, a Japanese distribution and retail market journal, reported that female teenagers, who visited the store, said in an interview, “I am impressed with the products that haven’t never existed before, including eyebrow tint” and “I like Korean cosmetics products because they can help me express my individuality more clearly than Japanese pastel-toned cosmetics.”
Females in Teens and 20s Spread K-beauty through Social Media
The current K-beauty Hallyu is spread by females in teens and 20s through social media services such as Instagram and YouTube. According to a survey conducted in June, about half of teenage women responded that they refer to the South Korean fashion trend.
They are not only the driving force of consumption in the future but also are relatively unaffected by the political issues between South Korea and Japan. An official from the Japanese industry said, “Younger Japanese are following the Korean cosmetics trend because they simply think that it is cool.”
In addition, the Japanese cosmetics industry said Korean cosmetics are popular as they open up a niche market through creative products. In short, Japanese consumers choose Korean cosmetics because they are interesting and innovative products. All the cushion compacts and tints that are popular in Japan are developed by South Korean companies.
Japanese cosmetics magazine Weekly Startup said, “South Korea has a very fast cycle of cosmetics development. It seems that the motive power of Korean cosmetics that aggressively creates a new market will have a considerable effect on the Japanese cosmetics market.”