From the overhyped beauty trends to the ocean of glitzy and colourful k-beauty products rises a minimalist Korean brand that promises quality and simplicity that will revolutionise your skincare routine and save you time and money. We sat down with Ham Jung Han (함정한 ) for his refreshingly honest look on k-beauty and what drives his vision for Lagom.
ABX: There are already so many cosmetic brands in the South Korean market, not to mention the global market. When did you first decide that you wanted to create your own beauty products, and why did you think there was a need to create Lagom?
It’s true that there are many skincare brands in the market today especially in South Korea but many of these brands and products are very trend-driven and we saw an opportunity to create a no-nonsense skincare line that cuts through all the noise and is just simple, effective and gentle enough on the skin so that it can be used by everyone.
ABX: Has your brand philosophy always been about simplicity and minimalism? Why did you decide to go with this brand direction?
Yes, in fact, due to the Korean beauty culture and aggressive marketing, many Korean women tend to use too much skincare and cosmetics for their skin and too much nutrition can also be counterproductive. That's why we decided to keep things simple and not to overdo it and instead promote the natural strength and health of the skin with the right amount of nourishment and moisturisation hence our tagline, “Not to Little, Not too Much”.
ABX: There are so many different languages and words in the world. Why did you name your brand after the Swedish word ‘Lagom’?
The name Lagom comes from the Swedish proverb, “Lagom är bäst” which means “The right amount is best”. The word Lagom can be directly translated to mean “just enough” or “sufficient”. This translation is a little inaccurate as it suggests some degree of scarcity. Culturally, its meaning is a lot more nuanced and has a meaning similar to the concept of Yin and Yang. We felt that Lagom rightly represented our philosophy of getting it just right and not overdoing it, that is why we chose the name.
ABX: What was the first Lagom product you worked on?
It was the Lagom Cellup Gel to Water Cleanser - a unique product that starts as a gel but ends as a liquid and is perfect for gentle cleaning when you wake up in the morning when your skin does not require a harsher cleanser. It is also effective as the first step in a double cleanse.
ABX: Lagom is one of only a few brands to market a “Day” and “Night” cleanser. What inspired the creation of a dedicated “Day” Cleanser like the Cellup Gel To Water Cleanser?
Using normal surfactant cleansing can strip your skin of moisture and with it, all the goodness from the skin treatments that you have used the night before. To solve this issue, it is not uncommon for some ladies to just use water to wash their face in the morning. This, however, does not effectively remove accumulated sebum and impurities from the night before. This can affect the application of makeup in the morning. Furthermore, the application of makeup on skin that is not properly cleansed can lead to other skin issues as well. The Gel to Water Cleanser is a gentle cleanser that removes both accumulated sebum and impurities without stripping your skin completely of its moisture leaving it clean and ready for your morning skin and makeup routines.
ABX: K-beauty is well known all over the world and famous for the colourful and creative packaging and ever-changing product lines. Lagom seems to have gone the other way! Why is that?
We feel that having too large a line has a tendency to confuse and frustrate our customers making it hard to decide what is suitable for their skin and that is why we keep it to the basics and carefully consider the products that we add to our skincare line. In choosing the right ingredients for our formulations, we are not driven by trends but carefully consider the efficacy and skin impact of what we put into our skin products. We focus on natural ingredients that are as mild as possible and do not overburden your skin.
ABX: But with such a limited lineup, how do Lagom’s products cater to all the many skin types and who should really look and consider using your products?
The Lagom Skincare line was formulated to suit a broad range of skin types and our products have also passed numerous skin irritation tests and is suitable for sensitive and acne-prone skin. By not “over-formulating” our basic skincare products such as cleansers, we make them affordable, uncomplicated and suitable for all skin types.
Then there are some product types that should be more targeted to certain skin types. For instance, our range of moisturising creams is a little more targeted to certain skin conditions so if you have particularly dry skin, try the Deep Moisture Cream and if you have oily skin, try the Mild Moisture Cream.
Recently we also launched the new Lagom Cellup PH Cure Foam Cleanser that combines the gentleness of the Gel to Water Cleanser with the superior cleaning effect of a foam cleanser for our customers with sensitive skin type who prefer a foam cleanser.
ABX: What do you mean by “over-formulating”?
Well, the more active ingredients that you add into a formula the higher the chance that your skin might have an adverse reaction to certain ingredients. Many brands tend to do this so that they can market their products as being “this” or being “that” but over nourishment or adding active ingredients to your skin that you don’t need can create more skin problems in itself.
Over-formulation is a problem in K-beauty because many manufacturers add so many active ingredients into their products that reading product descriptions become meaningless since they will tell you that this is good for everything but the concentration of the active ingredients is important as well. For example, we can both add the same anti-ageing ingredient into our formulation but I use 20% concentration and you use 10% obviously there’s a difference but we both describe the product as being anti-ageing.
ABX: Are Lagom product clinical tests done on Asian women (is it Chinese, South Korean, Japanese, or a mix, etc.?) and across different ages (what are the age groups)?
Our products were tested primarily in North Asia across a broad age spectrum starting from teenagers to senior citizens. We test not just for safety but for general efficacy across as broad a spectrum as possible. This is so that we can keep our products affordable and simple to select.
ABX: Since Lagom is about achieving healthy skin through a simple and effective skincare routine how do you minimise the number of ingredients for each product?
This is an interesting question. I would say we are focused on “optimising” rather than “minimizing”. We focus on creating products that are not overly rich or “not too much” in line with our skincare philosophy.
ABX: So which product has the least number of ingredients?
The Lagom Cellup PH Cure Foam Cleanser contains the least amount of ingredients (18 ingredients).
ABX: What can consumers look forward to in terms of Lagom product offerings?
We are very deliberate in launching new products as we carefully consider the needs of our customers and whether it would work for them. Instead of just blindly following ingredient trends in the market, we do careful research to see how each product would work for you and within your skincare routine.
We are now launching a new Essence Toner, the Cellup Revive Essence Toner. Essence Toners are a relatively new (sub-)class of products in the toner category and are gaining popularity as a mainstay in many skincare routines.
Beyond that, I am afraid I am unable to publicly share more on our upcoming products but our customers can look forward to simple, straight forward products that work for them.
ABX: Well, thank you very much for your time and congratulations on your refreshingly simple take on skincare. I can see, as with many of our readers, how Lagom can simplify our skincare routines and save us time.
Thank you and all the best.
EDITOR: Original interview was conducted in Korean and has been translated and edited for clarity and context.
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About the writer
Hong Lyeon, a native South Korean, is the founder of Asian Beauty X and our resident beauty expert. She enjoys sharing her experiences, tips and reviews, and skin-loving recipes and when she's not telling the rest of us what to do, she has been known to cook up a mean storm.