Are Teenagers in Korea Determining What You're Buying Next Year?

It’s no secret that the K-Beauty trend is dominating U.S. markets (who doesn't love a hand cream shaped like a banana?). But who’s deciding which products make the cool list and which ones never leave store shelves? Leave it to the teens. They hold more power than you think when it comes to determining which Korean trends will make it into your favorite stores stateside.

“Korean teens are very savvy when it comes to beauty,” says Charlotte Cho, founder of Korean beauty e-tailer, Soko Glam. “They know how to take care of their skin and aren’t afraid to touch up their makeup throughout the day. Girls carry lip tints in their pencil cases and have face mists on their desks at school.” Nathalie Paiva, director of marketing and public relations for Korean beauty brand AmorePacific, adds that Korean teenagers are more avidly exploring and building their beauty routines than their American counterparts. “Skin care also carries more weight in Korean teenagers’ regimens than it does in the U.S.”

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Cho says that it’s not just teens who are responsible for discovering the next hit products. “Media dictates trends in Korea and then teens follow it religiously. They are top of beauty programs on TV and online (like Get It Beauty), and they get involved in Facebook communities that are dedicated to discussing the latest looks and products. When shopping, teens tend to seek out 'road shops' (places that carry brands that aren’t necessarily found at department stores, such as Missha, Tony Moly and Skinfood). They know they’re dependable and good quality products for affordable prices.”

Needless to say, Korean teenagers aren’t scared to experiment with anything and everything new. “Inspired by their favorite beauty programs and celebrities, teens in Korea are typically the first to hit the streets with vivid, eye-catching makeup looks,” says Cho. “Some of these you can now see taking off in the U.S.—gradient lips in bright pops of color and bold, straight brows, for example. Wherever you are across the globe, you’re often interested in what’s new and different. I think that’s part of the reason why certain trends have taken off here that originated in Korea. It’s especially powerful as people are increasingly globally aware.”

So how long are product types on shelves in Korea before landing in the U.S.? Paiva says the lag time has shortened significantly over the past few years, with products now arriving on American soil after just 6–12 months (it used to be about a year or 18 months). “It seems to be a function of the international spotlight on Korean beauty, which started driving U.S. competitive research teams to scout the Korean beauty market in advance, therefore shortening the delay for products to hit American shelves,” she adds.

Cho gives two good examples: “Oil cleansers have been available for generations in Korea, but it wasn’t until recently that they started to make their way to the U.S. market. But then you have cushion compacts, which exploded in Korea the last couple of years and came here shortly after.”

Wondering what the next big trend will be? Cho says Korean teenagers are currently obsessing over stackable lip tints that are multifunctional. “These tints can be used on the lips or cheeks, or even as eye shadows. The packaging makes it very fun to collect and stash them in your bag, and you can mix different colors together to create your own custom color.” Two other Korean beauty lines we will be seeing more of: Tony Moly (Cho says teens have led the way with this brand) and Son & Park, which has become a cult favorite among teen trendsetters.

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