Every month, various beauty industry analysts from The NPD Group write blogs about the latest trends being seen in beauty, based on the firm’s market information and insights. Through a partnership, Beauty Insider publishes NPD’s blog the day it’s posted to keep you in-the-know. Please see NPD’s latest post about J-Beauty.
Innovative formats, funky ingredients and playful products are hallmarks of K-Beauty. Beauty coming from South Korea has penetrated nearly every aspect of skin care over the past few years and with the winter Olympics being held in the country, Google searches for the term “K-Beauty” reached an all-time high in the first quarter of 2018. But another country that boasts time-tested rituals and ingredients has been on the industry’s mind recently: Japan.
Where K-Beauty is known for its playful approach, Japanese beauty is more about low-key luxury, time-tested ingredients, steeped in rituals. While there might be more than seven steps to Korean skin care, Japanese skin care is minimalistic in comparison. But, is J-Beauty really new?
Japanese beauty has been prevalent in prestige beauty for decades. Brands such as Shiseido and SK-II are perhaps the most well-known brands, and are built on traditional Japanese aesthetics. But with the 2020 Olympics scheduled for Tokyo, a renewed focus on the region is invigorating sales and inviting consumer interest. And newer, emerging brands such as Tatcha are gaining awareness.
Tatcha is the brainchild of Victoria Tsai. The brand, though young, has steadily built its foundation by launching products that innovate with formula, highlight the brand’s proprietary ingredient (green tea), and create excitement on social media. Early on, Tatcha adopted a makeup-like approach to promotion. While the rest of skin care was getting adjusted to social media in 2015 and struggling against makeup’s tremendous gains, Tatcha sent influencers such as Patrick Starr to Japan to meet with Geisha’s who inspired the line. While it is now commonplace to send influencers’ product for review, Tatcha was among the first skin care brands to understand this concept. This, along with a tight distribution, helped the brand gain a cult-like following. Tatcha is currently the number-two Japanese brand in the U.S. prestige market, based on NPD’s point-of-sale data.
While J-Beauty is not a new concept, its simple approach to skin care is perhaps a perfect match for today’s younger consumer. According to NPD’s Women’s Facial Consumer Report 2017, women aged 35 and younger typically use one to two products a day. Compared to the overall average of three to four products used daily, this is a different mindset. The Japanese approach to skin care employs gentle strength and clean ingredients that nourish the skin and prevent issues from occurring in the first place. These concepts are where American ideals shift and where younger consumers are already planted.