Like BB creams, double cleansing and essence, the acne patch has emerged as the latest K-beauty (Korean beauty) beauty innovation to hit cult skincare status.
Inspiring a host of successful, recently launched startups, including ZitSticka, Starface, Hero Cosmetics and Peace Out, the acne patch market is heating up. K-Beauty brands such as COSRX was the original brands to bring these patches to consumers.
Now available with a range of different ingredients, the most common acne patches feature hydrocolloid, an ingredient used in wound dressing to promote healing. The patches use a gelling agent to help draw out pus, which makes them ideal for dealing with acne.
The hydrocolloid acne patches in beauty caught on in South Korea around 10 years ago and since become a must-have in the K-beauty routine.
Founder of Hero Cosmetics, Ju Rhyu, was intrigued by the patches and was shocked that the craze wasn’t a hit in the US.
“I noticed people in Korea wearing acne patches,” she said of her first encounters with the product. “I didn’t know what they were, and I was really curious. I found out they were for acne, so I bought some and I tried them, and I was amazed at how well they work. I immediately started wondering why they weren’t more available or widely known in the U.S.”
Hero Cosmetics was founded in 2017, with its hero hydrocolloid Mighty Patch, since then the brand has continued to grow, and has seen 25% MoM growth in sales since January.
Co-founder and CEO of K-beauty e-tailer Soko Glam, Charlotte Cho noted that the blemish-fighting patches are a huge success on the Soko Glam, especially during the lockdown period.
“The whole acne pimple patch category is one of our No. 1 categories for Soko Glam,”
Some pimple sticker startups in the U.S tend to focus specifically on either millennial or Gen-Z consumers, using a range of retail channels, brand identity, and price points to target their consumers.
For example, 3-year-old brand ZitSticka, uses millennial-pink branding and utilises up-scale e-tailers such as Net-a-Porter, to target their 22-28 consumer.
Whilst, one-year-old brand, Starface targets its Gen-Z consumer by building strong relationships with TikTok’s most popular influencers: Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae.
Starface founder, Julie Schott, made an interesting observation on the reason why pimple stickers are so popular.
“Our audience is predominantly 17- to 24-year-olds. We are very much a Gen Z brand, but we also have a really strong millennial customer base. I think that’s because acne is so pervasive because 95% of people experience this.”
It’s interesting to note the difference in how each market has approached the pimple patches. For K-beauty, functionality is key, Korean brands such as COSRX, haven’t adopted the Gen Z-friendly practice of releasing patches in fun shapes or colours.
“I think Korean [beauty] is just more about function,” said Cho. “It’s been around for so long, and they’re really not trying to make a brand new moment out of it. It’s like a Band-Aid.”
The fun shapes are not needed to normalise wearing the patches during the day in South Korea, said Cho. She said it’s not uncommon to see professionals wearing them in the office.
“Skin care was very private as a culture in the U.S.,” said Cho. “But in Korea, my experience with skin care was that people are very vocal about what they use.” She said that when she introduced pimple patches to the U.S., “everyone would ask me, ‘You can only wear them at night, right?’”
Whereas, US brands have been especially vocal in turning these patches into a status symbol, destigmatising imperfections, and embracing the skin positivity movement.
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