Take a stroll in Seoul and it’s nearly impossible to not come across an Olive Young store. Its Canadian equivalent? Think Shoppers Drug Mart, but with sleek, brightly lit aisles of makeup and health products for men and women, and the sound of the latest K-pop track playing not-too-subtly in the background.
For the North American market, it’s the first global e-commerce platform for overseas consumers by a South Korean cosmetics retailer. The goal is for K-beauty products to be seen as more than just a passing trend, but a major player in the makeup and skincare space. “Our ultimate goal is the globalization of Korean cosmetics,” says Jongmin Song, digital global business manager at CJ Olive Young, the store’s parent company.
Now that K-beauty isn’t the shiny new kid on the block anymore, brands gimmicks and “cute packaging” are giving way to effectiveness. Sure, it’s fun to have a moisturizer that comes in a tomato-shaped tub, but it’s more important that it actually works for your skin.
Song notes that while brands used to be the golden standard for credibility just a few years ago, consumers are now placing ingredients and quality first. “People value ingredients over function and word of mouth more than brand,” he says. “As a result, the ‘good ingredients’ cosmetics craze is heating up in Korea.”
Contributing to this rise are apps such as Hwahae, a watchdog app for cosmetics ingredients. (Similar sites in English include SkinCarisma or Incidecoder.) Clearly, clean beauty has not escaped the notice of K-beauty; if anything, growing demand from global consumers has only served to place natural products even further in the spotlight.
Olive Young currently has over 1,000 products available online, and plans to double this number by the end of the year. As an added perk, the site provides free shipping to Canada on orders over $50.
Check out some of the most popular products on the site, below.
The latest reformulation of PeriperaInk Airy Velvet ($14) is a liquid lipstick with a silky powder finish—the brand is a cult favourite in South Korea.
The award-winning Mise-èn-Scene Perfect Serum ($20) is a blend of seven naturally-derived oils to restore damaged hair. This one comes with a buy-one-get-one deal, or as it’s called in Korea, a 1+1 promotion.
Mediheal‘s line of sheet masks is popular across Asia for their various skincare benefits. The H.D.P. Pore Stamping Black Mask ($4) uses charcoal and mushroom extracts to refine pores, clear blackheads and smoothe wrinkles.
For those looking for a smudge-proof and long-lasting liner, CLIOWaterproof Pen Liner ($22) comes with a sponge tip for easy drawing.