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Glow Recipe aims to educate U.S. in K-beauty

June 29,2016
From top to bottom: Blithe’s Splash Mask as featured on Sephora.com; Part of a Glow Recipe video demo of a face cream by J.One that comes in little pods; Lee and Chang on Shark Tank showing Sharks Washima’s organic sea kelp facial sheet mask. [GLOW RECIPE]
If the tourist-filled cosmetics shops in Myeongdong are any indicator, Korean beauty products are big business across Asia.

But according to Sarah Lee and Christine Chang, there’s reason to be skeptical about the way K-beauty - the term used to refer to all Korean cosmetics and skincare exports - is actually perceived.

Lee and Chang are co-founders of Glow Recipe, an online retail platform where they educate U.S. consumers in K-beauty through a carefully curated selection of products.

“K-beauty is doing very well in China and Southeast Asia when you look at the numbers. But we were quite regretful to see that the popular products are very limited to certain brands or products that use strange ingredients like snail creams… [Many] seemed to get attracted to the cute containers and packaging as well as the low price,” Chang, who recently visited Korea on a business trip, told Korea JoongAng Daily in an exclusive interview.

Chang and Lee alternate trips to Korea, which they make about four times a year.

Seeing high potential in K-beauty, the duo decided to quit their jobs at L’Oreal USA to start their company.

Chang and Lee consider themselves more than just retailers, preferring the terms “curators and educators” of Korean cosmetics.

“Simply selecting beauty products in Korea that will appeal to Western consumers and selling them online is not what Glow Recipe is about,” said Chang. “Me and my partner have more than 20 years of experience combined, in both Korea and the U.S. beauty industry. Using our expertise, we curate cruelty-free and natural products that have been carefully selected through personal visits, and introduce - basically educating Western consumers - on some of Korea’s innovative and skin-friendly beauty products with detailed descriptions and video demos.”

Chang also added that her company has a diverse panel of testers to make sure the Korean products they select are also suitable for the wider range of skin types in the U.S. market.

Such strategies helped the duo land a $425,000 deal late last year on Shark Tank, a popular American reality TV show where entrepreneurs present their ideas to five business titans hoping for investment.

Sarah Lee, left, and Christine Chang, the co-founders of Glow Recipe, say K-beauty has big potential in the U.S. market. [GLOW RECIPE]
One of the most popular products on Glow Recipe is the Splash Mask by Korean brand Blithe, but it took a fair amount of work to make it so.

Chang and Lee had to talk to the manufacturers to change the name, which is called Patting Water Pack in Korea, to Splash Mask for American consumers.

“Koreans use the word ‘pack’ to refer to all the beauty masks for your skin but that’s difficult for Americans to understand,” said Chang. “To deliver the message that this product, which is the originator of the splash-mask category in Korea, can be simply splashed onto your face for 15 seconds for those who find waiting 15 minutes with a mask sheet a hassle, changing a name was a must.”

Chang added that it’s important to give the story behind each product, including the Korean beauty tradition that gave rise to the splash mask.

“Blithe, the manufacturer of the splash mask, created this product after being inspired by the tradition of Korean women who used to splash milk or green tea onto their faces in public bath houses,” said Chang. “Western consumers are amazed listening to such traditional beauty culture of Korea and we believe it’s important to talk about these stories behind each product.”

Early this year, Glow Recipe also signed a deal with Sephora and helped two of the products it had promoted - Blithe’s Splash Mask and J.One’s Hana Cream - get launched on Seophora’s online retail store.

According to Glow Recipe, responses and sales were so positive that Glow Recipe and Sephora decided to launch the products in brick-and-mortar Sephora stores across the United States.

“We believe Korean skincare products are gaining popularity in the U.S. market not just for the aftereffect but also because it allows consumers to have a little bit of fun while doing their daily routine of skincare that some Western women find troublesome,” Chang said. “We call it ‘skintertainment.’

“Korean manufacturers are very smart in making their products fun to use. For example, a face cream by J.One that comes in little pods called Hana Cream are beautiful to look at and fun to use as the pods pop as you to apply them onto your face.”

Glow Recipe aims to introduce more quality, natural and cruelty-free products from Korea to the mainstream consumers in the United States and help K-beauty get rated alongside French cosmetics brands.

“When we use a face cream from a French cosmetics brand, we don’t say, ‘Oh, I’m going to try this French cream tonight,’” said Chang. “That’s the future we have for Korean beauty products. We want them to become a global product that they no longer get called as one of the K-beauty products but by their names.”

BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [sharon@joongang.co.kr]









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