K-beauty’s 3 trendiest ingredients from 2018

December 18, 2018
4 min read

Beauty consumers in South Korea are increasingly pursuing safety over convenience as their preferences switch towards gentler ingredients. Consumer concerns around certain chemicals are growing, hence the demand for safer products. A special term has even emerged—‘No-chemi-jok’ (노케미족)—to describe those who reject products containing harmful chemicals.

As a result, brand new ingredients and combinations are being introduced by beauty companies, brands and manufacturers in South Korea. In many cases, the ingredient itself can work as part of the brand story to boost its success in the market and build a stronger brand image.

Here, we take a closer look at three of these new and improved skincare ingredients that are currently trending in K-beauty.

Pink vitamin (B12)

True to its name, ‘pink vitamin’ formula gives the skin a rosy tint seeing as it is packed with vitamin B12.

According to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), vitamin B12 is emerging in South Korea with new product launches featuring the ingredient tripling between January 2017 and August 2018. These products incorporated with pink vitamin target uneven skin texture and dull skin tone. At the same time, one of the most appealing, desired skin tones among South Koreans today is ‘rosy skin’.


CNP Vita-B Energy Ampule is a whitening ampoule that restores vitality for clear, translucent skin.


A’PIEU’s Baby Tone-up Line is infused with pink vitamin and Baby NMF Complex to brighten and give translucent, ‘mochi-like’ (moisturised, supple and clear) skin.


Brands are making use of pink vitamin to improve their own brand story with campaigns that feature the visually appealing, pink-coloured formulas which promise a brightening effect. They are also emphasising the ‘selfie-ready’ and #pictureperfect results provided by the ingredient.

Cica (+)

Centella asiatica extract is currently one of the top trending ingredients used in cica products and is known for its ability to cure physical wounds and soothe inflammation. Usage of Centella asiatica is significantly higher in South Korea as compared to the global beauty marketplace, according to Mintel GNPD.


CLIO’s Azulene Cream is a face cream that features azulene and Centella asiatica. It provides quick relaxation and skin protection, and helps sensitive, irritated skin to recover.


Normal NoMore’s Blue Therapy Anti-Redness Cream contains ‘Blue Cicazulene Complex’, which calms skin, reduces sensitivity, strengthens skin barrier and minimises stress.


Meanwhile, traditional cica is now also being enhanced with more complex formulations. Instead of simply containing Centella asiatica extract, beauty brands are now creating products that feature a ‘cica complex’ (4X and 5X complex) made of a range of other ingredients related to Centella asiatica such as madecassoside and asiatic acid, among others.

Furthermore, in order to boost its skincare benefits, cica is now enhanced with other essential ingredients to give visible results while caring for multiple skin concerns. Azulene, for instance, is an oil extracted from chamomile that is frequently used in ointments to soothe and protect skin that has become sensitised by skin aggressors (eg stress and pollutants). While currently in cica’s shadow, it is well placed to be the next trending ingredient by being included in cica formulations as a calming, gentle, effective solution for sensitive skin.


Many South Koreans are turning to white jade (백옥) injections, a skin-brightening treatment with glutathione as its main ingredient—a widely regarded ingredient known for its necessity in brightening products.

Since a lot of South Koreans find translucent skin aspirational, more brands are considering the use of glutathione in their products. Mintel GNPD reveals that new product launches that include glutathione have more than doubled between January 2017 and August 2018. Recently launched glutathione-infused products are mainly designed to brighten up the complexion.


Tony Moly’s BIO EX Cell Toning UV Solution SPF50+ PA+++ contains glutathione and tranexamic acid to brighten the complexion and reduce the appearance of dark spots.


Huxley’s Glow and Brightness Mask features a combination of essence and oil. It contains Sahara prickly pear seed oil and glutathione to brighten skin and reveal one’s inner glow.


In fact, some brands have even nicknamed their products ‘white jade injection’, showing how the cosmetic procedure has inspired the use of this ingredient.

Hwa Jun Lee
Hwa Jun Lee

Hwa Jun is a Principal Analyst for Beauty and Personal Care at Mintel, based in Seoul. With 15 years of experience as a formulation scientist, he specializes in beauty and personal care formulation and product development. His extensive experience includes roles as a formulation scientist at both Amorepacific and Kimberly-Clark.

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