With a lot of science, and a little snail slime, Korean beauty products have moved on from flavor-of-the-month curiosity to indispensable skincare staple. Now, even more options are available in the Middle East
In doubt of how massive Korean beauty has become? If you have an essence, an ampoule, sheet mask, BB cream, or sleeping cream on your vanity, you’ve happily succumbed to the wildly popular K-beauty philosophy. Originally coming into prominence outside its homeland in the 2000s, the South Korean export has proven to have solid staying power in the international beauty industry. First trending for its multi-step routines and introducing at the time outrageous ideas of bee vomit serums and snail creams, K-beauty products have become wedged into the day-to-day routines of Middle Eastern women. While better-known brands such as The Face Shop and Dr Jart hold a hefty slice of the estimated US$10 billion K-beauty market, independent brands are steadily more coveted by those in the know. Retailers such as NOK, a newly opened K-beauty boutique in Abu Dhabi’s Yas Mall, are curating more niche releases, which made a name for themselves through innovative formulas.
Recognized for its focus on targeted treatments and problem-solving, K-beauty ties together resolving existing skin issues and warding off the signs of aging. NOK’s CEO Youna Jung says that this dual strategy is part of what makes K-beauty so appealing. “Korean skincare routines are designed to address specific concerns while also focusing on long-term skin health. This preventative approach is deeply rooted in the cultural belief that taking care of your skin consistently leads to better results over time,” she says. “The driving idea behind Korean skincare is a commitment to achieving and maintaining healthy, radiant skin through a multi-step regimen that prioritizes hydration, nourishment, and prevention.”
For example, K-beauty sunscreens combine sophisticated chemical sunblocks with physical zinc protectants, plus science-backed skincare that is emblematic of the K-beauty philosophy. Placing equal value on form and function, high- performance sun care from brands Suntique, AHC, and Innisfree tackles skin concerns such as oiliness, enlarged pores, and pigmentation, while leaving a pleasant, cast-free finish on the complexion. Available in the consumer’s preference of cream, gel, spray, powder, or stick, this genre of K-beauty can treat, protect, and prime skin in a single step.
To maximize impact, K-beauty doesn’t shy away from combining traditional remedies with the latest lab-developed molecules. Ingredients such as brightening fermented rice, deeply hydrating snow mushroom, and anti-inflammatory tiger grass are paired with anti-aging molecules like panthenol, exosomes, and alpha-arbuton. There’s also the more eyebrow-raising ingredients like snail secretions and placenta. “Many Korean beauty products incorporate traditional herbal ingredients and cutting-edge technology to create effective and gentle formulations,” explains Jung. “This blend of tradition and innovation appeals to consumers who seek products that are both rooted in heritage and backed by modern science.” The result is well-rounded skincare that is easy to tailor to an individual’s complexion needs, with or without the placenta.
Your K-Beauty address book
Presenting a huge range of K-beauty skincare, haircare, and makeup, Watsons covers everything from bubbling sheet masks to purifying ampoules for Qatar, KSA, and UAE customers. Watsons.ae
This Abu Dhabi boutique offers one- on-one consultations, which are ideal for those new to the K-beauty niche or for skincare aficionados wanting to expand their routine. Nokbeauty.ae
Curated by founder Kate Park, the Dubai boutique encourages shoppers to find the right K-beauty steps for their skin, with a focus on cult-favorite products from COSRX and Thank You Farmer. Lamisebeauty.com
The Face Shop
The popular brand is the perfect entry point for those new to Korean beauty. The natural-based products highlight ingredients such as aloe vera, pomegranate, and chia seeds. Thefaceshopuae.com
Originally published in the December 2023 issue of Vogue Arabia