Seven years ago, Peach & Lily was born as a K-beauty retailer. In 2018, the brand pivoted to creating its own Korean beauty products, and released its three latest offerings last month: two masks (one clay and one overnight) and an undereye stick that cools and depuffs. Within 24 hours, all three had sold out.
While successful on the surface, underneath, rolling them out was way more complicated than Peach & Lily founder and CEO Alicia Yoon had anticipated.
When she first decided to expand the brand and create a skincare line, Yoon visited several of the top labs in Korea to find chemists to work with. But her demands regarding the products’ components—such as using the Asian mountain yam extract, peptide complex and peach extract found in Peach & Lily’s signature Glass Skin Refining Serum, while excluding other ingredients completely—made many labs turn her away, saying it would be near impossible to create effective products to her specifications.
However, Yoon told Adweek, she was willing to wait. The brand had not—and still hasn’t—accepted any outside funding, and the retail side of its business allowed the team to be patient when it came to product development.
“Developing the brand took a long time because we really wanted zero compromises,” she said. “I told [the labs], ‘Listen, we have the other parts of our business—we don’t have to launch this. There’s no product development timeline. If we need to take 10 years, we can do that.'”
It didn’t quite take 10 years. Yoon eventually found a lab that not only agreed to work with them, but committed to letting all 40 of its chemists have a hand in development, unusual for a small, new brand. Peach & Lily’s initial business as a K-beauty retailer gave it the cushion to create truly effective products.
“When you’re coming up with new solutions and really pushing innovation, sometimes you get it in, like, three months,” she said. “But sometimes, we’ve had to spend two years on that part.”
“These innovations were completely missing” in the U.S.
Yoon is willing to take the time to pursue her ultimate mission: bringing Korean innovation to the United States. What’s separated K-beauty from its American counterparts is the variety of ingredients—as Yoon put it: “These innovations were completely missing from the beauty shelves in the U.S.”
Thanks in part to retailers like Peach & Lily, that’s no longer the case. According to ecommerce analysis firm Slice Intelligence, Korean beauty and skincare in the U.S. grew nearly 300% over the past two years. It’s a worldwide phenomenon, too: According to market intelligence agency Mintel, K-beauty was responsible for a whopping $13.1 billion in global sales in 2018. (Though that’s still just a sliver of the overall $532 billion that the global cosmetic economy is worth, according to Zion Market Research.)
Though Peach & Lily’s own product line is still a small player in that game, it’s seen success since its initial launch: Beyond the one-day sellout of its latest drop, earlier this year the line was expanded to all Ulta locations. Yoon believes a factor in the brand’s early success can be credited to its openness. For example, rather than teasing what new products are coming, the brand opens up about what’s coming—and what it’s made of—on its social channels.
“We really believe in transparency and this two-way conversation with our community, just sharing a little bit more behind the scenes,” she said.
The customer-to-brand side of that conversation helps formulate what comes next. After the first round of products was released in 2018, Yoon said they were able to use what they learned from that experience to engineer what would come in the next product drop.
“Every single product we develop, including the three that are launching now, are really insights that we gather from what people are saying,” she said. “We never want to create a product that’s just great to use but we’re not really clear who it’s for and what it’s for.”
Always developing new ideas
Yoon’s own experience as an aesthetician, a profession she practiced for years before launching Peach & Lily, informed what the products are for—and for whom. “It was really important that every single product can be used during facials,” she said. “And at the same time, when you have a facial, you need to see results. You have to have incredible results delivered to your skin. That’s the bar for these products.”
In the end, it all comes back to Yoon’s original mission: bringing the best of K-beauty to the U.S. She’s constantly talking to dermatologists and aestheticians, as well as visiting the country to go on store visits, finding what’s out there that can fill a void stateside.
“Ultimately, it starts with really keeping our finger on the pulse in Korea,” she said. “We’re not going to bring in something that’s exactly like Neutrogena. That’s already available here, and that’s not the way to help people and empower them to care for their skin better or differently.”