We are extremely glad to share with your our latest interview. It is our great pleasure to introduce to you Jinwoo Kim, the CEO of Isntree.
History of Isntree
Karolina: Thank you so much for finding the time to have a chat with us. It is always great to hear a story of the brand so let’s cover the basics. How long has it been since you started the company and launched the brand?
Jinwoo Kim: Korea implemented the Cosmetics Ingredient Labeling System in October 2008, and in this, we foresaw a coming era in which consumers would visually check ingredients and purchase cosmetics, just as they do with food.
After the system was implemented, we launched a beauty blog, the first in Korea, dedicated to checking what’s inside your cosmetics. Thanks to this new approach, we gained a wealth of positive feedback from consumers.
And through interacting with consumers via the blog, requests for product development flooded in. We love cosmetics, so naturally, we launched our cosmetics brand based on these requests.
Karolina: That sounds amazing. First blog and then company. When was Isntree launched?
Jinwoo Kim: December 2, 2009 is the date ISNTREE released its first product. We are a first-generation brand that is driving Korea’s ingredient trend.
Philosophy of the brand
Karolina: What was the philosophy behind launching your cosmetics?
Jinwoo Kim: From my teens to 20s, I suffered constant skin problems, which naturally led to an interest in cosmetics.
I discovered all the expensive luxury cosmetics we’re all familiar with, but I found that they didn’t meet my expectations in terms of effectiveness. My skin just didn’t improve after using them. So I began to study. I looked for books on skin and cosmetics, and I also went to many cosmetics research labs.
There I learned that the determining factor for cosmetic quality is cosmetic ingredients.
Cosmetics that recognize the skin’s mechanism and are made with good ingredients in optimal blends, will never disappoint your skin.
ISNTREE focuses on creating healthy and stunning skin by cultivating the skin’s own rejuvenation power with the goal to protect the skin’s natural beauty.
Karolina: What would you say is the most important feature of your cosmetics?
Jinwoo Kim: We have been able to set unbiased criteria for good cosmetics thanks to 11 years of exploring the difference between consumers’ and researchers’ understanding of what makes good cosmetics.
We were able to classify about 110 suspected harmful ingredients based on ISNTREE criteria. Based on this, we develop products using only ingredients absolutely necessary for the skin.
ISNTREE builds on skins natural regenerating abilities by maintaining a healthy skin structure. We believe our main feature is that we are making cosmetics which consumers want for their effectiveness, rather than for their esthetics and features designed by brands.
Most common skin concerns
Karolina: What are the biggest skin concerns nowadays?
Jinwoo Kim: I would say these are:
-Micro dust (especially in Asia)
-Irregular sleeping patterns
-Incorrect cosmetics usage
-Exposure to harsh UV rays
-Intake of food with high glycemic index
As above, various factors can contribute to skin problems.
It is a complex challenge, but we are certain that fundamental skin problems can be solved only when lifestyle, eating habits, and skin care are improved together, rather than addressing problems one by one.
Karolina: How do your cosmetics tackle these issues?
Jinwoo Kim: Playing the role of an assistant, cosmetics can help improve skin by providing precise solutions according to specific skin problems.
For instance, if the keratin tone-over cycle is delayed due to irregular lifestyle habits, sebum discharge may be abnormal and acne comedonica could occur. This may interrupt cosmetics absorption, resulting in poor performance.
In this case, you can temporarily help to discharge keratin and absorption of cosmetics to enhance skin condition if you use a product that gently exfoliates dead cells and impurities.
This, however, is only a temporary fix, not a perfection solution.
We believe that optimal results can be achieved with the preconditions of healthy lifestyle and eating habits.
Future of Isntree
Karolina: In which direction is the company/ brand going? What are your plans for next 3-5 years?
Jinwoo Kim: First, with the goal of protecting the skin from environmental factors and preserving natural beauty, rather than blindly following trendy ingredients. We will strive to develop skin care products that nurture the skin’s own rejuvenation based on proven ingredients.
Second, our aim is to make products that consumers want, not products we want to sell. We do this through continuous communication with consumers.
Internally, we are considering intently how to communicate better with consumers.
Third, as humans and animals must coexist, we will endeavor to make cosmetics that cause no harm to animals.
Our goal is to expand globally as a representative brand of K-beauty over next 3-5 years. We are certain that our brand has the potential to achieve this.
Karolina: What are the new products we can expect? What will be their purpose?
Jinwoo Kim: Presently, we are developing a product group that is popular in overseas markets, which is necessary for expansion of our Hyaluronic Acid, Green Tea, AHA, and BHA lines.
Some items may change during the development process, so updates will be shared through our Instagram account.
Further, we will continue to listen to customers’ opinions on new products they wish to use in the future, and develop additional products through improved consumer communication channels (Instagram, offline meetings, etc.).
Karolina: How do you want customers to remember your brand?
Jinwoo Kim: We would like to be remembered as a brand built by people who produce cosmetics out of love and dedication to healthy skin.
I may sound a little abstract, but I want my company to bring joy to people; making them smile whenever they see our logo.
Ingredients to love
Karolina: What are the ingredients you would recommend incorporating into everyday skin routines? What ingredients are key to Korean skincare?
Jinwoo Kim: CICA ingredient (tiger grass) is the most famous in Korea. It has a historical story of healing the wounds of an injured tiger that happened to roll on tiger grass.
In Korea, it is also prescribed in pharmaceutical ointments to treat wounds and is broadly used in a variety of skin care products.
I personally like green tea extract very much as it has excellent antioxidant effects. It slows skin aging by suppressing harmful oxygen and contains tannins that are superb for skin soothing.
Isntree on skincare rituals
Karolina: What are two skincare must-have products everyone should have in their everyday skin care?
Jinwoo Kim: There are three important things in skin care:
First, a mild cleanser that works cleanly; second, a moisturizer with suitable oil and moisture balance; third, a sunblock that slows skin aging.
If I had to pick just two of these… hmm, it’s not easy☹. I think all the three are indispensable for maintaining skin that is young and healthy.
Karolina: If you were asked to give one advice on skincare, what would it be?
Jinwoo Kim: I recommend that you care for your skin with a mild product that fits your skin condition, rather than using products with a high content of active ingredients just to get fast results in the short term.
Seeking fast results, people with problem skin usually start with a product high in potent ingredients, including BHA, AHA, retinol, vitamins, and benzoyl peroxide.
This can result in dermatitis, and in the long run, it can speed up skin aging by promoting invisible skin inflammation.
Don’t forget that irritation-free care is the key to determining your own skincare routine.
Karolina: What are the biggest upcoming Korean skincare and beauty trends?
Jinwoo Kim: Microbiome ingredients are emerging as a new trend in Korea’s cosmetics market, and clean beauty skincare that carefully considers animal safety and the environment is growing rapidly.
Just one to two years ago, vegan cosmetics were not a major factor when choosing cosmetics. But now, the proportion of cosmetics brands that care about animals and the environment is increasing.
I believe this is a trend not only in Korea but worldwide.
In keeping pace with the trend, ISNTREE is also taking part in this new change by using sustainable environmentally friendly packaging materials.
Karolina: Thank you for finding the time to share with us your story.