J-Beauty vs K-Beauty: a professional reveals the REAL differences between Japanese and Korean beauty
If you’re interested in Asian skincare, sometimes you might have heard that Japanese skincare is a more sophisticated and grow-up alternative to Korean beauty. Well, in this video I’m going to tell you why this statement is absolute ****. Hello everyone and welcome or welcome back to my channel.
If you’re new to my channel, my name is Odile and I work as an art director in the beauty industry. I’ve been researching Korean Beauty for a little over a decade and here on this channel, I share with you informative content on Korean Beauty Trends and History, so if you’d like to be the first to know about what’s trending in K-Beauty, don’t forget to subscribe and turn on notifications.
A big part of my job consists of helping beauty brands produce localised content for East and South East Asian countries, so China, Korea, Japan, Singapore and so on, and one thing that always bugs me whenever I’m asked about the differences among these markets, is this widespread idea that Japanese cosmetics, are somehow superior to all other Asian products, but especially K-Beauty products.
So I decided I wanted to make a video where I debunk the most common misconceptions about the differences between J-Beauty and K-Beauty. But the first thing it’s important to understand is why J-Beauty and K-Beauty are constantly compared in Western media. Both Japanese and Korean beauty have been around for a very long time, but it’s only a couple of years ago that Western journalists began to pit the two against each other and it all started with something called ‘한한령’ (Han Han-Ryeong), which translates to ‘Korean Wave ban’.
As you might know, South Korea and North Korea are technically still at war. Well, in 2016 South Korea and the United States agreed to build a missile shield system, called THAAD, to protect South Korea from the threat of North Korean attacks. China was not happy about this agreement, claiming that the system posed a threat to their national security, and they started to express their discontent through a number of economic measures, like banning K-Pop concerts in China, banning Korean dramas from their national TV stations, and even limiting the Chinese imports of South Korean cosmetics.
Needless to say, this had a HUGE impact on the Korean Beauty industry, which is heavily reliant on Chinese exports. Japan looked at this drift between China and South Korea as an opportunity to revive their economy, which was still suffering from the consequences of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.
The strategy worked and in 2019 Japan overtook South Korea and became the top cosmetic exporter to China. Armed with this success, Japan decided to use this same strategy to enter the Western market, where they could also take advantage of the fact that Western consumers have a very positive image of Japan.
Japanese products were already praised for their high quality and traditional elegance, so it was easy to use this image of sophistication to build hype around their beauty products. Plus, K-Beauty already introduced the concept of Asian skincare in the West, so Japanese beauty companies could easily insert themselves in the conversation and use the comparison with Korean beauty as a marketing tactic.
This is especially evident when you look up interviews with representatives of Japanese beauty brands, you can see that their marketing model is almost entirely based on comparing Korean beauty to Japanese beauty, which is something that you NEVER see Korean brands doing. While it’s true that there are some amazing Japanese cosmetics out there, I’m not a fan of the narrative promoted by some magazines and beauty brands that Japanese beauty is inherently better than Korean beauty, so now I’m going to debunk the most common arguments used to support this narrative.
J-Beauty is based on traditional ingredients that have been scientifically proven to work, whereas K-Beauty is all about new wacky ingredients. Let me start off by saying that there’s actually some truth to this statement, however this truth has been twisted in a way to mean something that is completely false.
The Korean Beauty Industry does invest a lot in researching new ingredients and technologies to use in their cosmetics, and overall it’s very responsive to market changes and trends. Japanese beauty companies on the other hand tend to focus on ingredients that have been used in the beauty industry for a long time.
What I don’t like about this argument is that it seems to imply that Japanese cosmetics are based on some mystical secret ingredients that are only known to Japan, when actually, most of the time we’re talking about ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid and Glycerin. You can tell when you look at the ingredient list of some of the most popular Japanese beauty products.
Sometimes you can find some traditionally Asian ingredients like rice water or green tea, but these are ingredients that have been used for centuries in most Asian countries. In fact I have a series on my channel dedicated to Traditional Korean Skincare where I talk about many of these ingredients. Overall they’re natural ingredients that are commonly used in Asia, but there’s nothing magical or mystical about them.
Another thing I don’t like about this argument is that it seems to suggest that there are no cosmetic regulations in Korea and beauty companies can develop new ingredients without any authority to check that these ingredients are safe and effective as they claim to be… which is simply not true. Korea has very strict cosmetic regulations, especially when it comes to marketing claims and functional ingredients.
Functional ingredients are defined by the Korean FDA as cosmetic ingredients that promise to have a strong effect on the human body, as opposed to a generic hydrating or decorative effect. Some good examples are anti-aging ingredients, whitening ingredients and ingredients that are supposed to help with acne.
This type of ingredients are heavily regulated in Korea. and any beauty company that makes groundless claims about their products without receiving a certification from the Korean FDA, is immediately fined and their products are pulled from the shelves. So please don’t buy into this idea that K-Beauty products are based on nothing but fluff.
Another thing that you often hear about J-Beauty is that Japanese Beauty products look elegant and refined, while Korean Beauty products look childish and gimmicky. To understand why this is a silly statement, we need to go back to 10 years ago. When K-Beauty was first introduced in the Western market, the average consumer had very little knowledge of Asian skincare, so at first K-Beauty was marketed to young people who already had an interest in Asia and in the cutesy kawaii aesthetic that is usually associated with East Asian culture in the West.
For this reason, the first K-Beauty brands that became popular in Europe and America are brands that used to be famous for their cute packaging, think Tony Moly, Skinfood, or Etude House. These are not terrible products, some of them are actually pretty good, but they only represent a tiny portion of K-Beauty.
Korean beauty brands that make products in cute packaging are usually marketed to young people in their teens or early twenties, and they don’t represent the Korean Beauty Industry as a whole. You can find either elegant or cute packaging in both K-Beauty or J-Beauty, it all depends on who’s the target audience of a certain product.
So when you hear people say that Japanese products are more elegant and refined than Korean products, remember that this argument is only based on the way Japanese products have been marketed in the West for centuries. Lastly, another thing you hear a lot is that Japanese Beauty products are more reliable because J-Beauty has been around for longer than K-Beauty.
Both Korea and Japan have traditional beauty practices and rituals that have been around for centuries. When people say that Japanese Beauty has been around for longer, what they actually mean is that Japanese companies started to mass produce cosmetics in an industrial environment way before Korean companies.
This is not because Japan is more advanced than Korea, but it’s because the economic development of Korea was deeply affected by 50 years of Japanese colonialism. Under colonial rule, Japan had complete institutional control over all sectors of the Korean economy, and for this reason almost all Korean companies that we know today, were founded after the liberation of Korea in 1945.
So when people say that Japanese Beauty companies are more reliable because they have been around for longer… It’s almost like saying that men make better politicians because they’ve been in politics for longer than women. It might be historically accurate, but it doesn’t tell the whole picture.
So in the end, what’s the difference between J-Beauty and K-Beauty? Well, it comes down to two things: Marketing and aesthetics. Japanese beauty products are developed with a more conservative approach to R&D and they also reflect different beauty standards compared to K-Beauty. In fact it’s easier to find differences between Japanese and Korean Make-Up styles rather than in skincare.
Having said that, this video was not created to put down Japanese cosmetics, but it was just a way to show you that we can’t judge the quality of a beauty product simply based on the country where it was manufactured. If you enjoyed this video, please don’t forget to give it a thumbs up and subscribe for more informative content on Korean Beauty.
Source Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGaz0BGiDIc