Korean Culture in America: From Skincare to GDP Growth

Korea is exporting more products to the US, and it’s not just cars and electronics

In the past years, Korean brands have become hugely popular in the US. Starting from skincare and moving on to apparel, especially streetwear brands, the trends and products from this Asian country are establishing a niche in the US market.

The Korean Skincare Trend

In the beauty world, Korea is renowned for its 10-step skincare routine. The extensive routine is explained by the fact that Korean beauty-followers value having a glowing, healthy skin and a natural look over layers of glamorous makeup. In America, on the contrary, the contouring makeup that aims to dramatically emphasize one’s facial features is more popular, thanks to the Kardashians.

However, the no-makeup look has been gaining popularity in recent years. With the help of beauty-pioneers and blogs like Into The Gloss, American women are opting out of noticeable makeup and instead promoting healthy, dewy skin, bushy eyebrows, and natural-looking rosy cheeks. Big beauty retailers are there to help the transition: Sephora has its own featured section of Korean skincare and makeup.


The popularity of Korean skincare is also reflected in the Korea’s GDP growth. According to an article in The Cut, last year, for the first time, “Korea exported more beauty products ($1.067 billion) than it imported ($978 million).”

According to the Korea Customs Service, the total export value of Korean beauty products to the U.S. was $52 million in the first half of 2015, increasing 60 percent from last year. America is the third biggest export market for Korean cosmetics companies, after China and Hong Kong, says an article on the online publication Fusion.

Beyond Skincare

Along with skincare, the Korean apparel is also entering the US market. The indie fashion boutiques, such as Opening Ceremony, are catering Korean streetwear brands like Steve J. & Yoni P.


Recently, a Korean eyewear brand Gentle Monster opened its first store in New York. The brand is famous for its creative and artsy sunglasses, and has already developed its reputation in Asia. More celebrities are getting a hold of Gentle Monster’s famous frames, as the brand competes with international fashion houses that produce high-end eyewear. Beyond its physical store, Gentle Monster is also featured in big online retailers like Nordstrom.




2 thoughts on “Korean Culture in America: From Skincare to GDP Growth

  1. Jimin Yu Chun

    Your blog post was very fascinating as it provided me with even more knowledge on the effects of Korean culture here in the United States. I never thought that my country would be known for its make up routines and products especially in the West certain standards of beauty are different. Even though I knew that Korean beauty brands were very popular in the neighboring Asian nations such as China and Japan, learning that US is the 3rd largest consumer was very surprising. Also with the rise of electronic and fashion business in Korea, I hope to see more market presence of my country in the near future. Overall, great post and nice job!

  2. smh5842

    This was a very interesting look at the brands and trends Americans have a fascination with, and how they are changing. Icy, I liked how you pointed out that beauty retailers like Sephora are marketing Korean skincare lines, because I was just in that store the last time I was home, and recognized the line being promoted towards the front of the store. A recent trend I have also noticed is a general “travel” theme in all kinds of retail stores. Buying things from other countries, especially European and Asian ones I feel like is a trend beginning to hit the market. It will be interesting to see where this trend goes and if it continues.

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