But its proven effectiveness made way for 10-step skin care routines, double cleansing, and face washing with fizzy water. K-beauty has since become a mainstay in the U.S. beauty industry, reaching an estimated $13.1 billion in sales in 2018.
Western beauty brands like Garnier, Beautycounter and Peter Thomas Roth have all adopted K-beauty concepts and incorporated them into their own products, while American retailers like CVS, Target and Walmart all have dedicated K-beauty sections. The success of K-beauty has also helped shine a spotlight on Asian beauty brands outside Korea, from places like Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines (known as J-beauty, T-beauty and F-beauty, respectively).
One possible reason Asian beauty brands are so popular is how they align with the clean beauty movement. “Asian beauty is very much about balance and using natural ingredients to heal the skin,” said Lauren Jin, founder of K-beauty brand CLE Cosmetics. “Clean beauty and Asian beauty share similar philosophies, such as nurturing the skin versus stripping.”
There has, however, been evolution in K-beauty. For instance, the 10-step skin care regimen has been replaced with simpler routines. But, according to Christine Chang, co-founder and co-CEO of K-beauty brand Glow Recipe, the whole 10-step thing may have just been a myth.
“This never reflected what was actually happening in Korea,” Chang said. “We’ve heard consistently from beauty editors, influencers and customers in Korea that women approach skin care by really listening to their skin and customizing accordingly instead of trying to reach an arbitrary number of steps.”
This more minimalist approach also falls in line with Japanese beauty beliefs, as Vicky Tsai, founder of Tatcha, explained. “Japanese beauty is rooted in minimalism, quality and innovation,” she said. “It is comprised of time-tested ingredients and rituals that have been perfected over centuries, and because the formulas are so spare it means the quality and precision of each ingredient is paramount.”
Another reason Asian beauty products are so appealing is that they speak to people long been ignored by the Western beauty industry. “We developed our colors specifically with our Southeast Asian warm skin tones in mind — color ranges that have been underrepresented in beauty for far too long,” said Martine Ho, co-founder of Filipino cosmetics brand Sunnies Face. “Inclusivity is such a big thing for us and the positive response and support we’ve gotten from women all over the world shows that we’re on the right path.”
That not only pertains to Asian makeup, but to hair care, too. Artemis Tsai, founder of Taiwanese hair brand SH-RD, said her brand has made efforts to support different hair types. “Many believe that Asian beauty tends to mainly appease those with a lighter complexion but there are many brands who are fighting that stigma,” she said.
Ahead, 16 Asian beauty products that will instantly elevate your hair, makeup and skin care routines.
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