Are Encapsulated Ingredients the Next Big Beauty Trend? Glow Recipe's Cofounders Say Yes

It's hard to believe that Christine Chang and Sarah Lee's beauty brand Glow Recipe has only been around for five years; their K-beauty-inspired products are mainstays in the aisles at Sephora, where they generate tens of millions of dollars in annual sales, and skincare enthusiasts everywhere clamor for details on their fruit-forward product launches.

We caught up with the cofounders at the second-annual SEPHORiA in LA to get their predictions for what's next in K-beauty — and even got them to spill a hint on what skincare product is hitting shelves next.

PS: You most recently launched the Avocado Melt retinol eye cream. Where do your product ideas start? Is it usually an ingredient you've wanted to use, or a skincare problem that you want to solve?

Sarah Lee: It starts with two things. We think about the concern we deal with all the time, and then we combine it with what we think is the best ingredient. But it always starts with our insights, and it helps that we're such busy entrepreneurs. If it works at our tired skin, it should work on most skin types. That's how we test our products when we get samples from the labs. We're always flying in planes, which, as you know, is the harshest environment. So we always torture test there, and if it passes, it's a good sign.

PS: You were really ahead of the trend when it came to sleeping masks, because there's such an obsession with sleep's role in beauty right now. Looking forward, what do you think the next big skincare trend might be?

Christine Chang: We're really, really passionate about encapsulated ingredients. (Editor's note: encapsulation is a process that increases the stability and efficacy of active ingredients by suspending them in a coating.) The fact that we were able to use the technology for an active like retinol was really amazing. Because we all know the benefits of retinol. It's dermatologist approved, but at the same time, there are some side effects if you don't use it properly. So being able to buffer [those] with this encapsulation and gently release it over time is very much a K-beauty approach. K-beauty is very much about prevention, but also a gentle approach to your skin, and respecting your skin so your skin respects you back. That's instead of chasing after the latest, highest percentages of certain ingredients that could potentially — if not used the right way — do more damage to your skin.

PS: When you do go back to Korea, what's the first thing you do, whether it's somewhere you go for a facial or a product that you snap up?

SL: We do a couple of things we love, from beauty hunting in the streets to seeing what the latest trends are. One of those beauty hotspots is our friend Unistella's [salon], who is the nail artist who created glass nails. She's always a source of inspiration, as well.

SL: We always get facials. And we're always on a hunt for the latest facials — the latest technology with facials, but also the treatment approach. We were inspired by how Korean facials always incorporate hydration, extraction, exfoliation, and soothing. We wanted to combine all of that, and that was actually a source of inspiration for our creation of the Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask, which is why we combined hydration, exfoliation to one jar.

PS: How do you think K-beauty becoming a global force has changed the industry at large?

CC: The fact that the K-beauty approach to skin care has opened up and exploded this dialogue around skin care is amazing. People [are] actually sharing their skincare routines, versus sharing a makeup transformation look. Which is still great, but that's always been part of that dialogue. I think because skin care is just universal in that sense, when we create products, it's really for everybody, and everyone can enjoy them. Women and men, whatever skin type you have — we make things for everybody. Inclusivity is also part of how we do visuals or how we present ourselves in social, too. Recently we did a shoot with makeup artist Nina Park and one of the models we used had very acne-prone, textured skin. But we didn't do any makeup on top or retouching because we just wanted to show that skin as skin, and skin is beautiful the way it is. Embracing that reality is really special for us.

SL: I think [the idea] that skin care could be fun is a deep philosophy that K-beauty brought to the market. It used to be such a chore, especially in America. I remember in our old L'Oreal days when we did surveys, people were rarely using moisturizers. Now people are obsessed with SPF products and they understand toners and essences and masks. It's a different world. I think K-beauty played a really key part in opening up this experimental mentality but also in creating this fun factor.

PS: Is there anything you find that's different between American beauty consumers and Korean beauty consumers?

CC: Oh, absolutely. Korean consumers really fuel that market, because they are so demanding and so adventurous — especially with skincare, which is this beauty ideal that is the golden standard to achieve in Korea. Women invest a lot in trying to find the right products for them, the right routines for them. I think the US customer is a little bit more results-driven, a little bit more practical. But that, in itself, is amazing, too. And so for us to be able to bridge that gap in a way that makes sense, that is simple, that is accessible and approachable for everybody, is basically the essence of Glow Recipe Skincare.

SL:I think the philosophy of prevention versus repair are the two key words. K-beauty really stands for prevention. We learn to take care of our skin since our teen years and here [in America], because it's results driven, people want to see their wrinkles smoothed and fine lines smoothed away. So why not prevent earlier instead of trying to repair later? I think that gap again is becoming narrower and narrower.

PS: I've got to ask: can you give us any hints at, like, what you're working on next?

CC: There might be a new fruit dropping sometime soon, but we'll kind of leave it at that.

SL: Yeah. And it's going to be for all skin types. I have to say, every time we post about what fruit should we do next on Instagram, I've never seen so much engagement. Our community is very excited about it, so it really motivates us.