What I’ve learnt about K-beauty (and running a business)

Celebrating 6 Years of TONIC15 with our founder Jin

Despite all the ups and downs over the past few years, we made it to our 6th birthday! And I would like to thank every one of you for being a part of TONIC15’s journey so far. 

Six years ago, I saw a contradiction between the beauty market in Korea and how K-beauty was seen in the UK, so I started TONIC15 to bridge this gap. As the only Korean founder of a K-beauty retailer and distributor in the UK, my mission was to show what Korean beauty traditions, trends and innovation are really about.

Over the years we’ve dispelled K-beauty myths (no, everybody doesn’t have a 10-step skincare routine in Korea), brought small but cult Korean brands into the mainstream by being the first e-tailer to launch them in the UK (such as ‘I’m From’), acted as a K-beauty brand distributor (we launched many Korean brands into department stores and large beauty retailers like Beauty Bay), offered insights into the beautiful stories behind many K-brands and delivered content on how to use your favourite new Korean skincare heroes the right way – and why our skin loves them, of course.

Along the way we’ve learned many beauty lessons (both K-beauty and in general) and discovered a long list of insights on running a small beauty business. In light of our 6th anniversary, we wanted to pay it forward and share these lessons with you in the hopes that even just one hack helps you along your own beauty or business journey, too.

The highs and lows of running a business: Here’s what I’ve learnt over the past 6 years…

1. You can’t run a business alone

You need people who can support each other. For me, this year was especially hectic as I’ve been pregnant through it all and there were lots of improvements to make with TONIC15 as well as a few new projects to work on. Emotionally it’s been overwhelming and my body wasn’t really working at 100%. Thankfully, I’ve had so much support from my TONIC15 team, business partners and friends who understand our mission. Knowing that I have great people working with me, I’ve been able to push through the work throughout my pregnancy.

2. Expect the unexpected

Whether it’s due to internal or external factors, when there is turbulence in your business, the most difficult thing is to face the issues straight on. I find it easier to process any challenges if I break them down into smaller issues. It’s less overwhelming this way and it helps me see things much more clearly and be able to face what’s happening instead of running away. If there are things that you can do to try to resolve the issue, then go ahead and try it. If the issue is out of your control, moving on and letting go can also be a good strategy, and it’s okay to do so.

3. You can’t always win, but you can always learn from your losses

There have been times where I accomplished what I set out to achieve and times where things didn’t won’t work out as I wanted them to. It’s okay to fail and it will happen, but reflecting on the situation is so important as it helps prevent the same outcome from happening again. What’s more, see your business as a marathon, not a sprint – the times that you couldn’t achieve and the time of reflection is all part of the process, not the outcome.

4. Spend your time wisely

When running a small business with limited resources things can get hectic and overwhelming, and fast and it’s so easy to get burnt out. This can have a lasting impact on your personal life and your health. To avoid this, it’s so important to prioritise and delegate work, and, in the long-run, this will give you the energy to keep pushing things forward.

5. A healthy body and mind are so important, and are linked

I started TONIC15 with the idea of reminding myself and my customers to make sure to take 15-minutes of me-time every day. But, often times, I found myself in a situation where I focused on work so much that I forgot to take care of my mental and physical health. If I am getting into this state, I learnt that this will not only make my work so much harder to accomplish but it also defeats the purpose and vision of running a business. So, consistently making time to have a good rest has had such a huge impact on my overall performance with work.

6. Focus on what makes your business unique

I am often asked about the vision of TONIC15 and what makes us special. I realized that when things are going well, this is an easy question to answer, but when the business is in flux, it’s very hard to answer. I feel that when we lose sight of what makes our business so unique, then we lose the reason behind our business’ existence. As a Korean founder, my mission has always been to make sure that we bring the most authentic and of-the-moment Korean beauty products to our international customers which is why strengthening this important part of our business has been our focus this year.


6 lessons I’ve learnt as a K-beauty expert


1. Skincare is selfcare

As I wrote above, I started TONIC15 to remind people to find even a small chunk of time every day to look after themselves. I had previously felt guilty about taking time to rest when I always had so much to do. Then, I started taking a small chunk of time each day to focus on myself. Just 15 minutes is short enough not to feel guilty about it but enough time for a little self-care. Using that time to indulge in skincare rituals – which stimulates the senses, gives you a pampering feeling and allows you to take the time to just be and breathe -  really helped to boost my energy levels and I wanted to share this experience with others. Also, along with a daily walk, it was something that helped me when I was going through depression. It’s hard to start, but once you do and then do it consistently, it brings so much energy into your life.

The must try: By Wishtrend Propolis Energy Boosting Essence is great for all skin types as it hydrates, clears, balances and re-energizes a tired, lacklustre complexion.

2. Consistency is the key

When it comes to skin health, creating and sticking to a simple routine that you can do everyday to keep your skin clean, hydrated, balanced, and protected from the sun is the key to good skin. Being consistent with your skincare instead of constantly trying new products or filling your skincare routine with too many products, really will work wonders for how your skin looks and feels over the longterm.
The must-try: I’m From Rice Toner & Cream Bundle makes for the ultimate skin brightening routine that’s big on results but gentle on skin.

3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Fine lines and wrinkles, excess oil, breakouts and redness - a lot of skin concerns can crop up when skin’s moisture balance is out of whack. So, by keeping your skin supple and hydrated, you can not only maintain a strong skin barrier but improve your skin condition, too. Korean beauty is very focused on hydration and skin barrier repair which is why products like I’m From Mugwort Essence are tried-and-trusted cult classics in Korea.

The must-try: I’m From Mugwort Essence is rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to restore a healthy skin barrier while hydrating skin at the same time.

4. Your lifestyle matters

What you eat, if and when you work out, and how you manage stress, all take a toll on your skin. It’s the first place to show what’s happening to your body on the inside which is why adopting better sleep patterns, a healthier diet and attempting mindfulness practices can help transform your skin, especially if you suffer from chronic breakouts, redness, dryness or sensitivities. 
The must-try: ISOI CICAGO Cica Speedy Calming Pads offer instant relief to stressed-out, problematic skin. We love how travel-friendly these pads are too!

5. Know your skin

Everyone’s skin is different. Skincare products, ingredients, tools or treatments that have gone viral might not work for you like they do on somebody else, so always patch test and make sure to find out which ingredients your skin likes and dislikes so you can avoid any unnecessary irritation or allergic reactions.

The must-try: Klairs Midnight Blue Calming Cream works wonders for when you do have any skin sensitivities, plus it’s great for soothing skin that’s seen too much sun.

6. Wear an SPF every day

It’s a non-negotiable. And no, sun cream isn’t just for summer or for outdoors. You should even wear it when you’re inside as UVA rays can penetrate through glass and clouds. Don’t forget to re-apply your suncream every two hours or after swimming, bathing or sweating. Your skin will thank you when you’re older. 

The must-try: TOCOBO Bio Watery Sun Cream SPF50 PA++++ is a lightweight sun cream that really sinks into skin and won’t feel heavy or cloying even in hot and humid climates.


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