WATCH | The demand for South Korean beauty products in the United States is booming, and this company was instrumental in bringing them stateside.
In South Korea, skin care is a ritual.
"I feel very strange when I don't put at least five products on my face every morning and every night," Soko Glam co-founder Charlotte Cho told Circa.
Five is actually on the low end. The average Korean skincare regimen consists of at least 10 products -- and that's before you get to makeup. And as the skin-first philosophy captures the attention of beauty lovers across America, these products are making their way onto store shelves and vanities near you.
From offbeat ingredients like snail mucus and bee venom to sophisticated application techniques like cushion compacts and sheet masks, Korean beauty companies are disrupting the global cosmetics industry with every new trend they set.
"When you think of beauty, you think of those top global players," Cho said. "But now, when you think of beauty -- I know we’re definitely feeling it here in the U.S. -- a lot of those top brands and those top companies are now looking to Korea."
K-beauty, as it's known, is seen as the most innovative of beauty concepts out there. And the beauty industry in South Korea is expected to reach $13.1 billion by 2020, compared to $11.6 billion just two years ago, according to Euromonitor.
K-beauty only started becoming popular in America in the past couple years, and the husband-and-wife duo's e-commerce site, Soko Glam, played a big role in bringing it stateside.
The popularity surge K-beauty is experiencing in the United States has a lot to do with companies like Soko Glam. Some of the most popular K-beauty retailers (and Soko Glam competitors) include Peach and Lily, Glow Recipe and Wishtrend. And this list is growing.
For Charlotte Cho, she realized she could make Soko Glam into a business on one of her trips back to the United States from South Korea. Her suitcase was "packed to the brim" with products her friends couldn't get in America. She knew being able to sell her favorite K-beauty staples would be a hit.
"When we were first talking about K-beauty, everyone thought we were crazy," Dave Cho, Soko Glam's co-founder and Charlotte's husband, told Circa. "It wasn't a huge business opportunity at the time, but we saw growth from the start."
Cho said that customers coming to Soko Glam to learn about K-beauty and shop for products make a second purchase on average within 15 days. Beyond their e-commerce platform, New York-based Soko Glam distributes K-beauty brands to retailers domestically.
Not only can these products be personalized to any skincare routine, they also come in a variety of price points.
From essences to oil-based cleansers, shoppers can find popular K-beauty items at stores like Target, Sephora, Ulta and even Urban Outfitters.
"A lot of the price points are very affordable and accessible so it makes the discovery process so much easier," she said. Two popular items -- a snail mucus-laced essence and a set of green tea-infused sheet masks -- each cost $19.
Education is at the center of what Soko Glam does
In fact, they recently spun off their "The Klog" blog to be "a place where you can go and form a community" and learn about the latest in K-beauty.
Soko Glam won't be debuting its own line of K-beauty products or opening a brick-and-mortar store anytime soon, but they did start a one-on-one skincare consultation service.
"Our focus is on how do we perpetuate more growth and excitement in K-beauty on a global scale," Dave Cho said.
What's the draw?
Committing to this regimen might mean tacking on an extra 15 minutes each morning and night, but that isn't scaring away American beauty shoppers. The Korean beauty market is the 10th largest in the world. Total U.S. imports of K-beauty cosmetics in 2015 reached $316 million, according to a report from Export.gov.
The allure? "With Korean beauty, it's not just about one product or one brand," she said. "It's about the entire ecosystem, the whole lifestyle. That's really aspirational."