The TONIC15 Curation Process

TONIC15 is the result of careful curation. It’s not enough for products to simply make a difference to skin – although everything we stock is highly efficacious and uses innovative ingredients to care for your complexion – there needs to be a mood-boosting quality, too.

Everything is rigorously tried and tested by our founder Jin, with only the very best making their way onto our virtual shelves. To understand a little more about why we stock the skincare we do, we’ve broken down how we curate and edit to ensure you get the very best of what K-beauty has to offer…

What makes TONIC15 different?

When TONIC15 first launched, K-beauty was largely defined by just a handful of keywords – phrases like ‘10-step skincare routine’ and ‘snail mucin’. And while these trends, along with kitsch packaging, are one facet of K-beauty, Korean skincare has much more to offer than that. Indeed, driven by innovation, K-beauty has been fast evolving and we wanted to showcase K-beaty in its current guise.

Founded by Jin, who was born and raised in Korea and has access to a network of K-beauty insiders, TONIC15 is at the forefront of skincare. ‘One area where I know I can make a difference is in our curation and the products we stock,’ Jin explains. ‘I wanted to offer a real mix between cult K-beauty brands, as well as indie ranges that are on the rise – and of course share with people what is popular in Korea as it’s a real hub of innovation.’

‘Even huge global beauty conglomerates use Korea as a testing bed because the customers are educated, fussy with what they’ll use, and the market is incredibly competitive. If a brand or product is doing well in Korea, it’s a good indication that it’ll have global appeal,’ explains Jin.

In Korea, skincare is used proactively to prevent aging, acne, and all types of skin concerns, by using gentle actives, making sure that the skin in properly hydrated and by strengthening the skin barrier. These tendencies make Korean skincare products complement the UK and EU market where tret, retinol and other stronger actives are popular.

Why the curation is key

As a small company, we have limited resources and have to be very selective and pick the right products and brands to work with. While some of the brands we stock are very well-known, especially to our customers that know K-beauty well, for others, K-skincare can be tricky to navigate.

We aim to make it as easy as possible for our customers to know what skincare will work for them and we want to make selecting which products to pick as failure-proof as possible. As such, we keep our curation standards high to build trust and assurance in the quality of what we stock.

The curation process explained

Our skincare antenna is always on and most K-beauty brands keen to tap into the UK market will come directly to us. We are constantly testing new products from emerging beauty brands.

What sets us apart from others is that we have a capability to discover and source the brands that are not actively reaching out to retailers in the UK – as well as companies that actively want to engage the UK and EU market. Some Korean brands that are thriving are so focussed on the domestic market that they are not actively expanding globally. Or, with new up-and-coming brands, it can be difficult to spot which have potential. As a Korean with many connections to the country, Jin has have the vantage point of an insider – and can encourage best-sellers to dip their toe in the UK and EU market – as well as being able to decipher which rising skincare stars to stock.

Running alongside our industry network, we also monitor trends and brands in the Korean press, read what Korean customers are talking about in the beauty community, brands’ websites, and review blogs (although we always distinguish between paid review and the organic reviews), and get recommendations from friends regarding what is popular “on the ground”.

When we think a brand has potential to be something our customers will love, we’ll dive deeper into their philosophy, ethos and products. Then, if a brand is aligned with what we stand for, we’ll get in touch to set up a meeting. Yes we are a retailer, but we are also the sole distributor for most of our brands, so we work very closely with them, help with their marketing and devise strategies to encourage international growth. We’re a bit like their British office, so it’s important that we establish a good dynamic with their teams.

The testing process

It’s important that we test all of the products that we carry. We often have a panel of testers with different skin types, skin concerns and from different ethnicities. Jin’s husband, mum – who is very skincare-savvy – and an assortment of trusted K-beauty aficionado friends are all called upon for their opinions.

If a product passes the panel test, it’s down to a few final considerations. We want to offer a diverse range of products in terms of category, ingredients, skin type and concerns to make sure that our offering is broad enough and has something for everyone.

We also consider whether it’s the right fit for the UK/EU market, so for some brands, we bring them immediately, and sometimes, I bring one or two years later after testing when the appetite is there.

We take a really holistic approach to what we stock but somethings that are incredibly important to us. These include manufacturers as they can signal the quality of the product to a certain degree, R&D capability, the brand’s philosophy and ethos – we want to work with brands that are conscious and aim to be socially responsible – the packaging and of course, ensuring that the ingredients really help to benefit skin.