Meet the complexion makeup users - Part 3

South Korea: “Socially sensitive”

South Korea is a world-renowned territory for cosmetic innovations. K-beauty is making waves abroad, Korean brands are now strongly established at chains like Sephora and Korean inventions such as BB creams or sheet masks have found their place in the western shopping bag.
But what about Korean native consumers? In this article, the third and last of our series dedicated to complexion makeup users, we focus on South Korean makeup practices.


Complex skin care routine, simpler makeup one


Make up korean

The layering tradition is characteristic of the South Korean approach of skin care. In the research, 4.8 different skin care products are reported to be used daily on average (2.5 in France).

Products dedicated to targeted applications (81% use a lip contour cream) are used in combination with preventive skin care products (76% use a SPF cream) and deep cleansing (65% use masks and scrubs several times a week vs. 40% in the US).

Coming right after skin care routine, makeup is much simpler in the South Korean approach. 3.5 different makeup product categories are used on a daily basis on average, in addition to a foundation or BB cream with a reported high use of lipstick (97% declare using one whenever they wear makeup).

Focusing on complexion, cushion compacts represent a South Korean specificity with 39% using this type of product most of the time (33% prefer BB creams and 28% liquid foundations). In comparison, only 1% and 2% of French and American women respectively declare using cushion compacts.


Makeup as a social “must do”


Golden Mask

An interesting differentiating aspect concerning South Korea is the link between makeup and social conventions.

If makeup is for all women a way to enhance their beauty, to look different and to gain self-confidence, the impact of social norms is even more important in South Korea.
The reasons expressed by South Koreans for wearing makeup are pervaded by a kind of social pressure.
Indeed, 68% wear complexion makeup to be self-confident, 19% as a sign of respect for others (10% in North America) and 25% because they think it is an obligation (14% in France, 13% in North America).
68% of women in South Korea finally feel more professional when they wear makeup.
They are also under influence for purchasing. Blogs, tutorials and peers’ advices are quoted as important, helping them to make their choice.

Thus, 29% quoted other consumers reviews as a criterion of choice (18% for French women), 26% quoted advices from family and friends (15% in the US). Finally, even if marginal, 7% of them show interest for products appreciated by celebrities (2% in France and US).

It seems that complexion makeup is kind of a mask you put on before showing up.

South Koreans are the only ones to consider thick textures as desirable. Almost half of them (47%) consider it as an important choice criterion to select a foundation (7% and 3% in France and US). Coverage is also reported as important (for 58% of them), more than in other countries.


Rational and critical approach of makeup


While American and French approaches are more about having fun with makeup and enjoy new experiments, we have seen that South Koreans adopt a much simpler and even rational usage. Only 25% of them declared they like testing new things (compared to 60% and 62% in France and US). Adapting the makeup style to a given occasion or season is not as primary as it is in other countries.
Besides, South Korean women expressed more negative opinions as regard foundations. Discomfort sensations when wearing complexion makeup are reported (26% feel uncomfortable, 13% dirty) which is not the case for their French or American peers.
Moreover, they are more likely to think that foundation may damage the skin or give imperfections, probably related to their increased perception that it could contain “bad ingredients” for the skin.
Consequently, 48% of them think that avoiding makeup is the solution to achieve a healthy skin and 63% complain about the difficulties to find healthy makeup products (vs. 36% in France, 25% in the US).

Nevertheless, the natural makeup market is still little developed in Asia. 64% of South Korean women don’t look at the composition of the product they buy, mentioning a lack of understanding or availability of these information.

Brands still have huge room for improvement to change the ambiguous relation South Korean women have with makeup.


About our study

  • 1rst step: qualitative research based on 2 focus groups with French women, all regular users of complexion makeup products such as liquid foundations, BB/CC creams, cushion compacts, tinted creams (at least 2 to 3 times per week), aged 20 to 55.

Group 1: users of mass market products or prestige brands

Group 2: users of organic products

  • 2nd step: online quantitative research in France, North America, South Korea on women from 18 to 65 years old, all regular users of complexion makeup products such as liquid foundations, BB/CC creams, cushions, tinted creams (at least 4 to 5 times per week).

Respondents number : 400 in France / 400 in the USA / 403 in South Korea