Functional high-tech

High tech anti-ageing beauty is always an important product category at any Asian trade show, and perhaps especially so at a K-beauty show. At CosmoBeauty Seoul 2023, Korean exhibitors presented a wide range of beauty tech and functional face care products designed to address the concerns of ageing skin.

Korean mass market brand Banobagi’s newest face care launch is a serum and cream duo formulated with alpha-arbutin to help brighten skin tone and tackle hyperpigmentation and dark skin patches.

Indie brand Soroci’s new Vita Tangerine Fit Mask is a two-step sheet mask set which consists of a vitamin C toner-soaked peeling pad that is used to gently exfoliate the skin and a hydrating and skin-brightening sheet mask to be applied afterwards.

Eldeen, which brand name is “needle” spelled backwards, was launched in 2022 and offers self-dissolving microneedle patches in different shapes for specific skin areas.

Salon brand Puraxel presented its new at-home fractional laser tool which gently perforates the skin for a microneedle-like effect so active ingredients can more easily penetrate the epidermal layer, while fellow salon brand Reclar’s best-selling face massager uses different vibration frequencies to help apply beauty products more effectively. There are different settings for watery/liquid and thicker/creamier products.

On the other hand, Barulab’s big CosmoBeauty innovation is surprisingly low-tech but claims to deliver superior skin care results. SteamSheet Moisture Shield is a dual face mask which consists of a serum sheet mask that is placed on the face first, and a thin top mask made from vinyl. The brand says that the heat generated by the additional plastic layer opens the face’s pores and allows the active ingredients to better penetrate the skin.

Protecting the skin’s microbiome

The international microbiome trend was also very visible at CosmoBeauty Seoul this year, with the newer Korean indie brands in particular focusing on barrier care and/or the demands of sensitive skin.

For instance, Korean beauty brand Abiy, which was launched in 2022, offers a duo of microbiome-focused face care products formulated with peptides. K-beauty brand Herbloom‘s Kombucha Plant Biome face care range has been a bestseller since the brand was launched in 2021 whilst O’Clearien another newcomer brand from Korea, offers five face care products formulated with trehalose and centella asiatica extract for sensitive skin.

Doctob, another K-beauty brand launched in 2022, offers ten vegan biome-focused face and body care items and so does Age Zero, a new microbiome beauty brand introduced by Korean manufacturer Fascy. The Age Zero line-up focuses on anti-ageing beauty for customers aged 40+.

And indie brand Orgahue has just brought out the Mela Barrier Cream in its product range. The product is based on mountain yam, yuzu and centella asiatica extract to help protect the skin barrier’s natural function.

Targeting GenZ: Vegan and gender-neutral brands

“Vegan” was definitely one of the biggest product claims at CosmoBeauty Seoul 2023, closely followed by that other GenZ favourite: “clean beauty”. It was noticeable, however, that the vegan seal in particular was almost exclusively associated with the younger indie brands that exhibited at the show, and frequently combined with a gender-free and/or minimalistic angle. There were over a dozen beauty brands at the show that were launched during or since the pandemic, almost all of them aimed at the GenZ and Millennials market.

Claps is a good example of this new generation of brands. The label was introduced a few months ago and offers gender-free and vegan beauty with a focus on skin barrier health. Young indie brand Hamel, that launched in 2022, offers a vegan makeup and skin care with gender-neutral packaging and trending product textures, including a dual-phase hydrating toner and an ampoule (serum) in stick form.

Equlib is another stylish gender-neutral range that was launched this year. With French-inspired product names, the brand offers five face care items for skin aged 30+. Simplica, which was launched earlier this year, describes itself a conscious, clean and vegan beauty brand believing that less is more in skin care.

For its part, Aroutine, launched in 2021, is yet another vegan, gender-neutral beauty range offering five face care products formulated with plant extracts. Aroutine’s newest product is a hydrating sheet mask which contains white rose extract.

Plant actives

Herbal ingredients have always played an important role in Korean beauty, from the anti-ageing ginseng popular with luxury beauty brands over domestic citrus variants like the vitamin-rich yuja fruit which is a traditional mainstay of Korean beauty ranges. And with the increasing popularity of vegan products, it is not surprising that many exhibitors at CosmoBeauty Seoul 2023 focused on plant-based ingredients as their key active.

A good example is Korean indie brand Marinavi’s new Marinabee Intense Vitamin C Cream which contains 25% citrus-derived vitamin C and nutritious kelp extract. Vegan newcomer brand Deardot uses the dangyuja fruit extract as a key ingredient to help protect this plant species.

Salon brand Fau’s Shiny Pumpkin range, on the other hand, contains pumpkin extract as a lead botanical. For instance, the brand’s Shiny Pumpkin Amino Therapy is a hydrating toner which is based on 85% pumpkin fruit extract.

Niche brand Midha’s products are based on a very high percentage of nutritious rice water and contain the brand’s Rice 8 Complex which is manufactured from a premium rice grown in Gochang prefecture.

Newcomer brand Ginger6 uses concentrated ginger water as a base for its six face care products. Salon brand Awy’s most recent launch is a duo of serums, including the Vitamin Tree Brightening Serum is based on 78% sea buckthorn extract.

Eventually, beauty brand A by B.O.M presented its single ingredient toner range The One. Each liquid toner in this line contains over 90% of a single plant extract, usually traditional medicinal herbs.