A water rubber mask from MD's Pick that will be sold at Glow Studio Downtown.


NEW YORK – Korean beauty incubator Glow Recipe is committed to debunking the notion that a K-beauty routine needs 10, 12 or even 15 steps.

So Sarah Lee and Christine Chang, cofounders and cochief executive officers of Glow Recipe, plan to open a retail space in SoHo here to do just that. The two, who specialize in discovering Korean beauty lines and then adapting them for the U.S. market (they also maintain an e-commerce site to sell these products, glowrecipe.com), are opening Glow Studio Downtown. The two-level space, located at 452 West Broadway, is Glow Recipe’s first U.S. pop-up shop and will run from March 1 to March 31.

About 30 brands – including existing ones sold on glowrecipe.com and a handful of lines that will enter the U.S. for the first time – will be carried at the store, from Make P:rem and Huxley to new brand Oliviarrier Essence, which infuses its products with the natural moisturizing properties of olives.

“It’s not about this prolific 10 step routine; its about that customization of your skin’s concerns and needs…[Korean] women don’t sit there counting the number of steps; there’s no benchmark of 15 or 20 steps that are supposed to be some ideal,” Chang said about renting the two-story space in SoHo, referring to it as a “full immersion of K-beauty.”

“It’s not the right translation of what’s going on in Korea. I think it’s a fun marketing angle that outlets have picked up on, but in reality… it’s about [the Korean woman] being tuned into what her skin requires at the time and then customizing her routine accordingly,” Chang continued.

If anything, the perception that excessive steps are necessary to achieve a Korean beauty regimen does K-beauty a disservice – and Lee and Chang are using education and introducing trends hailing from Korea (hybrids and face masks in new form factors, for instance) to dispel the stereotypes.

In fact, a K-beauty routine Glow Recipe might customize for a consumer who visits the pop-up could have as few as two steps, Lee said, thanks to the innovation of multi-hyphenate products. Among these “unexpected hybrids” are the Primary Raw DoYou 2-Step Milk Peeling Kit, which hydrates the skin while peeling, and a Make P:rem Peeling Sleeping Mask, a more advanced version of the former that peels skin overnight. A Wonder Bath Salon de Tte cleansing mitt cleanses, exfoliates, tones and hydrates simultaneously.

Glow Recipe worked on a similar concept with three Lane Crawford doors in Hong Kong last fall, but this is Lee and Chang’s first freestanding brick and mortar presence, as well as the first one to bow in the U.S. And they quickly realized they needed to take a different retail approach to connect with a U.S. customer.

Chang said they made use of every corner of the nearly 1,000-square-foot ground floor and 700-square-foot second level, and adopted a consumer-first mindset. In Hong Kong, skin-care sets were the focus at retail, but here, efforts that emphasize a customized experience are at the center of the store’s carefully merchandised walls, some of which are designed like a vanity table to enable discovery.

Because Lee and Chang learned that American beauty customers like to shop by skin type, walls are segmented that way, broken down into oily, combination, dry, Asian skin and more.

“She comes to this wall to learn about her skin type and get a beauty routine customized for her, and in an educational experience,” Lee said, noting that “nooks and crannies” all over the space support the aim to both teach about different skin textures and introduce new categories of K-beauty a consumer might not have heard of yet.

Chang cited the rubber mask category, which Glow Recipe helped bring to the U.S. about two years ago, as well as Splash masks last year, which are liquid face masks designed to to touch the skin for just 15 to 30 seconds. The latest iteration of rubber masks, which hit the Korean beauty scene about six months ago, is the water rubber mask, an updated version of its predecessor that’s “even more hydrating and leaves skin more glowy.” MD’s Pick Water Rubber Mask, for example, starts with an alginate base and is mixed with treatment powder that results in a gel-like mask that conforms to the face and then peels off.

“We’re seeing that our customers are shifting towards treatment products, and that is our number one category by far. This is a really great direction because now people are believing in the quality of curation and concentrated products they are buying from us,” Lee added, pleased that U.S.consumers are finally realizing that K-beauty is more than just kitschy packaging.

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