Korean an article called, The Sephora effect:

Korean Beauty, also known as K-beauty, made its first appearance in the United States in 2011, when the Korean brand, Dr. Jart, partnered with Sephora and released two BB (Beauty Balm) creams.  The brand had already been well known and established in Korea for many years before it came to the United States.  The cream was so successful that many of the major beauty companies in the U.S. created versions of their own.  By doing so, they essentially paved the way for Korean Beauty to become popular in the United States.   In 2016, K-beauty started to trend again with many new beauty items from sheet masks to gel moisturizers.  K-beauty fans used to go to their local Koreatown or search on foreign websites in order to find the products they wanted.  Now all they have to do is visit their local drugstores or retail chains.  For example Sephora, which was founded in 1970, in France by LVMH  Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.  Sephora currently has over 430 stores across America and has about 2,300 stores total across 33 countries.  Sarah Halzack, a writer for The Washington Post, wrote an article called, The Sephora effect: How the cosmetics retailer transformed the beauty industry.  In this article, Hazack states, ” … millenials have flocked to these stores because their setup and merchandise assortment  is uniquely aligned with what research this generation of shoppers prefer.”  This goes to show that the K-beauty brand, Dr. Jart, knew what they were doing by partnering with Sephora for their first appearance in the American beauty industry.  K-beauty brands draw to your senses by using emotive text, sensorial textures and eye catching visuals (Rhyu).  Too cool for school Egg Mousse Soap, Gummy Sheet Masks and Jellies are product names and examples of descriptors that Korean beauty brands use to help their products stand out.  The fact that brands describe the different types of textures like cloud cream, gels, puddings and more, is one of the key characteristics of K-beauty.  Another key factor on how they gain and keep people’s interest, is how they are all about making skincare and cosmetics fun and accessible (Rhyu).In the book “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell, he talks about the three variables that cause the tipping point of an epidemic.  The first rule is called the Law of the Few, which means that a select group of people, either connectors, mavens and salesmen, are behind “the tipping” of almost all social epidemics.  The second rule is called the Stickiness Factor.  Gladwell defines the Stickiness Factor as being the quality that compels people to pay close attention to a product, concept, or an idea.  Power of Context is the third rule, which he defined as human behavior being sensitive to and strongly influenced by its environments.  Gladwell explains that, “Epidemics are sensitive to the conditions and circumstances of the times and places of which they occur.”Do Gladwell’s three rules for causing a tipping point, help to explain why K-beauty started to become so popular?  The Law of the Few does help to recognize some of the reasons behind the tipping of Korean Beauty.  In this case, the connectors would be well known celebrities in the United States posting pictures of themselves using K-beauty products, mainly masks.  For example, Supermodel Chrissy Teigen posted a selfie of herself wearing a sheet mask and Comedian Chelsea Handler did as well.  Even the well known singer, Madonna, posted a picture of herself using a charcoal mud mask, as well as Khloe Kardashian.  Each of these celebrities have a large following and are well known.  When they post pictures using K-beauty products, it causes the product to become well known, because many people to want to try them out for themselves, essentially causing the products to be in high demand.  Sephora is a connector for K-beauty as well because it was one of the first major beauty companies in the United States to carry a Korean beauty brand in their stores.  Sephora is popular with people of  diverse cultures and economic backgrounds, which helped to spark the phenomena.  These connectors play a big part in causing the tipping point since they know many people and are capable of easily spreading the word of the beauty products to others.   In addition to the free promotion received from celebrities posting pictures on Instagram and Tweeting about K-beauty products, a part of the Stickiness Factor is also the creative product and marketing designs.  As part of their marketing, they use attention grabbing colors and names on packaging.  For example, Gold and Rose Gold rubber masks, they even have  Watermelon sleeping masks.  They use product names like Tomato Jelly Lip Tint, Bling Bling Hydro Gel Mask, and I’m Sorry for My Skin Black Mud Mask.  Colette Bennett of The Daily Dot, mentions in her article about Korean Beauty sheet masks that a K-beauty brand had created a line of sheet masks that were designed as characters like Tigers, Pandas, Walrus’ and more.  Bennett goes on to say that, “There are several different kinds of fabrics (fiber, pulp, hydrogel, etc.) and different types of ingredients tailored to different skin challenges, like acne, dryness, aging and more.”  Which leads me to the next Stickiness Factor, K-beauty uses a lot of natural ingredients.  These include Bee Honey Extract, Green Tea, Cactus, Seaweed, Snail Slime, to mention just a few.  K-beauty incorporates natural ingredients that people would not normally think to use for skin care but they claim have been proven to work.  Lastly, a major Stickiness Factor for Korean Beauty is that it is affordable.  Since K-beauty brands sell most of their products at affordable prices, it encourages people to experiment with them more and to purchase a large quantity of different products.  You can purchase a mask for two dollars at Target but at Sephora you can find K-beauty products that exceed fifty dollars. There is something for everyone based on their income level making it comparable in cost to Western beauty products.  In Golda Arthur’s BBC News article titled, The key ingredients of South Korea’s skin care success, Arthur says, ” South Korean women spend twice as much of their income on beauty products and make up than their American counterparts.  Meanwhile, South Korean men spend more on skincare than those in any other country.”   Arthur also mentions that since they are very dedicated to their skincare in South Korea, they are at the forefront for the research on new ingredients and skincare products.  In 2015, South Korea had exported more than $2.64 billion worth of cosmetic goods which was a high according to the Korea Customs Service.  In the United States, K-beauty has sold over $225 million in sales in 2016 which is about 30% higher than in 2015, according to BBC News.  Euromonitor International, a business intelligence company that does marketing and research,  predicts that by 2020 the South Korean beauty industry will exceed $13 billion.  The Context or environment of K-beauty is social media platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, SnapChat and Blogs.  For example, a technology entrepreneur James Sun talks about how he created a team of Asian-American media leaders and influencers to launch the first ever social network where K-beauty is the focus called W2Beauty.com.  On the W2Beauty website you will find an editorial and shopping site, which uses a team to identify cult products, trending products and new major releases for the global customers.  The Context and part of the Stickiness Factor are connected to each other.  Millenials use these platforms as ways to communicate and share new things that they like.  Social media platforms allow them to generate not only the interest of many people, but also results in financial gain.    In South Korea, they tend to use a ten step skincare routine: cleanse, double cleanse, exfoliate, tone, spray yourself with “essence,” use an “ampoule,” apply a sheet mask, add eye cream, moisturize and moisturize again.  While in the United States people only use three steps: cleanse, tone and moisturize.  This gives an idea of  how in South Korea, they work harder to maintain a youthful look and value their appearance so much, they are willing to invest a lot of money and time in order to maintain it.  It is an important part of their day-to day routine right along with eating and sleeping.As you can see various factors and behaviors have contributed to its success so far, but will the interest in the skin regimen and products offered by the K-beauty phenomena survive. Popularity has gained momentum and is reflected in the sales prices.  Sun, creator of W2Beauty, says, “K-beauty is not only for Asians or Koreans.  In fact, the right K-beauty products can be perfect for skin types all around the world… and we have customers from the Middle East to Latin America to Australia.”  Suns statement is a prime example on how far the use of K-beauty has spread and became a trend internationally.  However,  it is still uncertain how long women in the United States are willing to take the time and effort to complete skincare regimens like people in South Korea and invest the money necessary to maintain this type of self-care.Gladwell’s three rules for causing a tipping point are the Law of the Few, Stickiness Factor, and Power of Context.  With K-beauty, the Law of the Few was described as the products having connectors, such as different celebrities giving exposure the product by posting on their social media networks.  There were many Stickiness Factors for the tipping of Korean beauty.  For instance, the attention grabbing packaging and marketing designs, their use of interesting natural ingredients such as pig collagen, cactus, and snail slime which proved to be beneficial.  In addition to those factors, K-beauty brands make a majority of their items affordable so that anyone can test a product out without having to break the bank.  At the last point, the Power of Context of K-beauty, is any social media platform such as YouTube, Instagram or a Blog.  Another environment would be South Korea itself, the United States, the beauty community and beauty industry.  Ultimately Gladwells framework did help to fully explain the causes of the K-beauty epidemic.    

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