While Korean cosmetics and beauty products have become essential items on the bathroom shelves of beauty lovers around the world, it is still difficult for darker-skinned women living in Korea to find their shade of foundation here. With the arrival of Sephora, darker-skinned women had expected this to change, but have been left disappointed.
Sephora, the world's biggest cosmetics retailer, opened its first store in Korea Oct. 24 at Parnas Mall.
Sephora in the United States is known for selling multiple beauty brands and providing an array of shades in almost all of them. Thus, some shoppers expected a brick-and-mortar store in Seoul meant not having to buy online and pay for delivery and customs taxes ― or have it shipped from a family member or friend back home.
However, makeup lovers were left disappointed after they realized Sephora Korea stocked only four brands with diverse shades catering to the darker end of the complexion spectrum.
Uchenna Usegbu, a longtime Sephora U.S. customer living in Korea, had high expectations because Sephora in the U.S. is known for its inclusivity.
"Last week I went to Sephora myself to see exactly what shade ranges they offer and Anastasia Beverly Hills had the most extensive shade range of all of the brands available. They were the only brand besides Sephora itself to even tiptoe into the dark shades region," she said.
"Most of them were completely sold out. Even if I had wanted to buy my foundation that day I wouldn't have been able to. I ended up speaking with a Sephora representative who said that they would have dark shades available on the Korea Sephora website."?
One beauty forum user from the U.S. living in Korea posted that she had emailed the beauty retailer. "Yesterday after reading the Sephora thread and seeing about how black women and other women of color were being shut out of access to products, I emailed Sephora to express my dissatisfaction, and let them know that they've lost my business until their product lines become inclusive of diverse skin colors." She is one of many.
Sephora responded promptly to most of the emails saying they are considering all concerns and will update their product offerings in the future.
"The brand lineup and product assortment is different in each country since every market has a different consumer landscape," Yoon Yoon-mi, Sephora Korea communication assistant manager, said on the lack of a diverse range of shades in Korea.
According to Yoon, the beauty retailer here carries four brands with darker foundation and concealer shades at the moment, namely Anastasia Beverly Hills Luminous Foundation, Sephora Collection 10H Wear Perfection Foundation, Huda Beauty The Overachiever Concealer and Nudestix Tinted Cover Foundation. They will be adding more in the future.
"Diversity is an essential part of our brand. We will continue to bring more diverse shades in the future as we see there is a need for them in the market," she said.
"Sephora's goal has always been to give beauty lovers access to the best brands globally and so we will continue to endeavor bringing international brands that the Korean customer loves in the coming months."
Another issue is that since the Sephora store opened here, customers can no longer have products from the U.S. online store delivered here as delivery is only available from the Sephora Korea website, which carries limited shades.
"This is annoying…at least let us order darker shades online then," wrote one beauty forum user.
Sephora Korea responded to emails questioning the lack of access to darker shades of foundation by asking customers which specific products they would like to have access to.
"It's totally understandable that they wouldn't have dark shades in stock, but if I want to order one, I should be able to through the store. It's weird to me that international brands in Korea would not have access to dark colors at all, even for order," Usegbu said.
Yoon said customers only have access to the Korean site for online orders so that the company can ensure fast delivery.
"It is Sephora's policy to provide the best service and fastest shipping to customers once Sephora launches in the country. We hope to provide the best service to cater the needs of customers in each country," she said.
"We have exciting new brand launches scheduled all throughout next year and we hope to bring in more diverse shades with these new brand partnerships."
Sephora opened another store Tuesday at Lotte Young Plaza in downtown Seoul, the second of a proposed 14 stores that the beauty giant is planning to open here within the next couple of years.
source: The Korea Times