Now it’s time to take a look at a Korean business bringing about changes in the global economy with some new ideas.
Today, we’ll introduce you to Cerma, which develops men’s cosmetics based on its personal color analysis. Let’s hear from company CEO Oh Seung-hyun(오승현).
Cerma pursues the three Cs: color, culture and cosmetics. The company develops cosmetic products based on the analysis of lifestyles in diverse cultures. I, a former cosmetics brand manager and color expert, teamed up with a pharmacist to jointly set up the company with the goal of providing great products tailored to individuals.
Men’s skin is about five times drier than women’s. That means men can keep their skin healthier by using skincare products specifically designed for them. Our main customers are men in their late 20s who have started their careers. We also found that men in their late 30s and 40s were interested in anti-aging. We’re working on products that help prevent aging skin.
Ms. Oh spent her childhood in the U.S., where she mingled with friends from various parts of the world and came to develop an interest in different colors and cultures. In the process, she often thought about the universality and particularity of beauty. She studied at Central Saint Martins, an art and design school in England, and Hongik University in Korea. While teaching students, she learned that her business plan was selected for the government’s support program. Encouraged by this, she decided to start her own business.
Oh paid attention to the fast-growing market for men’s cosmetics, in particular. According to global market research company Euromonitor, the men’s cosmetics market in Korea was valued at 660 million US dollars in 2010, but the figure jumped to 1.2 billion dollars in 2020. This indicates that more and more Korean men are sensitive to grooming trends and actively consume beauty products.
I discovered that many men were interested in improving their appearances, but they just didn’t know how. Unlike women, men, in general, do not really have many options to take care of their physical appearances—skin, hair and even eyebrows. So, skin takes up a large part in men’s looks. I thought it would be great for men to manage their skin properly. Our products are for those who want their skin makeup to be natural and undetectable.
In fact, men seldom use color cosmetics. It might seem unusual that Oh, a color expert, set her eyes on men’s cosmetics. Skin makeup is the first and most important stage for overall makeup, as clear skin leaves a good impression. With skin makeup, the first step is to find out a color that matches one’s skin. But it’s difficult to find out a perfect “personal color” that goes well with one’s own skin color as there aren’t many color cosmetics for men. That is, demand is high and supply is low. Oh decided to explore this niche market and focus on what she did best.
If you want your skin to look just natural and not too fancy, skin makeup should be almost identical to your skin color. But it’s pretty difficult to produce such makeup. For men, many BB creams and sunblock products available in the market leave a strong white residue. The situation gets worse when their faces become sweaty. I thought it would be necessary to create colors that would fit in well with men’s skin.
A cleanser and sunscreen were the first products released by Cerma under its own cosmetics brand “PER:CEPTION for men.” Many men actually neglect to use these two products, which are essential to skincare. Cerma thought that’s because the routines are rather inconvenient and cumbersome. So, the company focused on enhancing convenience. The company’s cleanser allows male users to wash their faces and shave as well. This is ideal for men who often suffer from scarring and inflammation caused by razor bumps while shaving carelessly.
The cleanser contains a natural substance to help soothe sensitive skin. The company’s sunscreen is not too sticky or oily and its patented substance is effective in preventing pimples and treating large skin pores. The company was able to produce these innovative products, thanks to its own research institute. In fact, it is rare for any startup to run its own research center.
With the support of the State University of New York Korea, my company was able to set up its research institute at the school. This enabled us to better understand the latest trends or needs of college students. We analyzed what kinds of skin troubles people have, how they address them, whether they just leave their skin uncared for and whether they are aware of the right color for their skin. We began to research the skin tones of men with a successful career and what types of skincare products they use. Based on the analysis and research, we launched a beta service that recommends proper products to individual consumers in consideration of their skin conditions and colors. Our accumulated data will contribute to developing new products of “PER:CEPTION for men” to create a virtuous circle.
Cerma’s products are drawing a positive response from consumers in Korea. They have also entered global e-commerce shopping platforms such as Amazon and Shopee to reach consumers in other parts of the world. This year, the company plans on tapping into the Southeast Asian market that includes countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
The company is also spurring the development of a personal color matching platform using artificial intelligence or AI for those who are interested in skincare but have no idea about ideal images for them.
We’re working on an AI-based smart color matching platform that analyzes data, diagnoses people’s skin conditions and recommends products that match their skin tones. We’ll expand this platform to let consumers know how to keep their skin healthy, how to shorten the skincare process and how to create the image they want in an easier way. We’ve accumulated data based on the feedback from consumers and we try hard to reflect the findings in our new products. We aim to develop a male grooming platform that will even attract men who are not very interested in cosmetics and to produce customized products for individual users. We hope to nurture our company as a leading brand representing men’s K-beauty.
Cerma is constantly researching what will be necessary and unnecessary for skincare and skin makeup as well as how to treat skin in a more effective and convenient way. The effort is certainly in line with the company’s management philosophy, in which the company seeks ways to make one’s skincare journey easier. With K-beauty expanding its presence in the global market year after year, we’re looking forward to the future of this company that will surely lead the men’s grooming industry.