In our interview with the AmorePacific US CEO, you’ll learn about what makes K-beauty so special and the next big thing in Korean beauty for 2018.
If you love Korean beauty, you may already be familiar with AmorePacific. It’s the Korean beauty industry leader that owns all the brands you love: Sulwhasoo, Etude House, Innisfree, Laneige, and of course, AmorePacific, among many others. At an exclusive event celebrating the in-store launch of Laneige at Sephora, I got a chance to sit down with the AmorePacific US CEO, Bradley Horowitz. Here’s what you need to know about the latest K-beauty trends this year and what’s coming in 2018.
What do you think is special about K-beauty, and why do you think it became such a big hit in the US?
It’s always been about the innovation. I’ve been in the beauty industry for 30 years, and our industry has always looked to different parts of the world for innovation, such as France and Japan. Now, most of the innovation is coming out of Korea.
By innovation, I mean not only the kinds of products like sleeping masks, cushion foundations, and sheet masks, but also the ingredients. AmorePacific has been studying ginseng for 50 years, and all that research goes into our Sulwhasoo brand. On Jeju island, we have 500 acres of green tea fields, and over a hundred patents in the extraction of EGCG. All that research goes into formulating products for our AmorePacific brands, such as Innisfree.
Since AmorePacific has 40% share of the Korean beauty market, I like to think that we’re leading that innovation.
What do you think are the differences between Korean consumers and those in the US in terms of their beauty needs?
There’s a difference in their regimen. The multi-step beauty process is much more comfortable for Korean women, while American women are into multi-functional products. I don’t think they’re intimidated by the steps, but they enjoy products that are multi-functional. That’s one of the reasons why they love our cushion foundations—they’re 5-in-1 products that really do the work for you. American women also love our sleeping masks, since they allow you to go to sleep and wake up with skin that’s hydrated, brightened, and refreshed.
In terms of the multi-step routine Korean women love, I don’t think that’s caught on in the States. Now, there are users who love K-beauty and understand that there’s a reason why you need to layer products to push the hydration down into the skin. We have to educate American women that it’s not about using many steps just for the sake of it but that there is a real reason why you have to layer heavier products after the lighter ones. If we can have that education, I think we’ll have great interest in K-beauty.
We do offer that education in master classes and smaller groups, but it’s hard to take it mainstream. On the other hand, a lot of Korean women grow up learning about skin care from their mothers and pass it down to their children, and the Korean beauty routine just becomes a part of their lives.
Are there any other challenges of promoting K-beauty in the US?
No. I don’t think there are any unique challenges we deal with because our products are Korean. For any brand, the challenge is always the same: How do you make your products relevant to the local market in which they are sold? That is a marketing challenge, and I think that for any global brand, you need to think globally and act locally. For us, we need to make our products as relevant for the Western consumers as they are for our Asian consumers. At the end of the day, there has to be an emotional connection between the consumer and the brand, and that comes down to marketing and branding.
You have extensive experience working with Western beauty brands like Clarins and L’Oreal before joining AmorePacific. What makes AmorePacific stand out?
I would say our relentless focus on R&D and our study of naturals. We have the largest R&D center in Korea, which is also the third largest in Asia. In all of our global offices, we have scientists working alongside marketing and other teams. Even in our NYC office, we have two people from the R&D center in Korea. I’ve never seen such a close connection between marketing and research before, and I think that makes AmorePacific unique.
Earlier, I’ve mentioned ginseng and green tea as the ingredients we focus on, but I also have to mention beans and bamboo. There’s a lot of botanical brands in the world, but we’re really creating an expertise in Asian botanicals and focusing on 4 or 5 key ingredients, which we have been researching for decades.
Laneige is best known for its Water Bank line. What are other Laneige products you wish more people would know about?
Since we launched Laneige on Sephora.com, the big surprise has been the Lip Sleeping Mask. When we were preparing for the launch, it was all about the obvious products, like the Water Sleeping Mask, the BB Cushion, and the Water Bank Line. But then out of nowhere comes the little pink Lip Sleeping Mask, and it’s the killer product that Sephora can’t get enough of.
That’s the beauty of launching a brand—you think you have an idea of what it’ll be like, but then the customer always tells you what she really wants.
In an earlier interview, you said that your skin care icon is Jennifer Lopez. Is that still the case?
I’d have to say so. She’s probably my age, and her skin looks great. I have a lot of respect for her since she takes care of herself so well.
I also think that the Korean model for Laneige, Song Hye-Kyo, also has the most amazing skin. I’ve seen her in person once, and she is as magnificent as you’d imagine. Her skin is just—unreal.
Can you tell us about your skin and personal skin care routine?
I get the benefits of trying out all of our products from AmorePacific. But the products I use religiously are the AmorePacific Treatment Cleansing Foam and the Treatment Enzyme Peel. I’ve also been using the Laneige Water Sleeping Mask for years. I travel to Korea 5-6 times a year, and when you’re on a 14-hour flight, putting on this mask on a clean face changes the way you feel when you land. Sulwhasoo has a jade mask called the Radiance Energy Mask that smells unbelievable, and I’ve fallen in love with it last year. For moisturizer, I switch across all different AmorePacific brands.
There are so many new AmorePacific brands entering the US this year. In your opinion, what makes these brands different from other K-beauty brands already on the market?
Every brand we have has a unique point of view, its own DNA. Laneige is based on water science and skin-perfecting minerals, whereas AmorePacific is focused on our home in Jeju island and green tea research. Sulwhasoo is a 50-year-old, #1 Korean beauty brand based on Chinese herbal medicine. Innisfree, which we just launched, is a naturals line from Jeju island. As you can see, these are brands with deep heritage that are authentic. I think every brand has its own story and its own authenticity, and if you’re not authentic and true to your brand story and claims, your customer will see through you.
Finally, what’s new in store for K-beauty in 2018?
Across a lot of our brands, we’re going to continue the theme of sleeping beauty. We think there’s a lot of white space in terms of ‘beauty at night’. In my opinion, you’ll start to see that work its way throughout the entire beauty industry. There’s still going to be a lot of news on masks as well. The growth in the mask category has been enormous this past year, and skin care will continue to grow.
You can now shop Laneige products at the official US Laneige online store and online and offline at Sephora.