One of my favourite things about trade shows is the chance to discover new beauty labels. I first came across Whamisa at CosmeTokyo 2014 trade show and was immediately struck by the brand: Beautiful packaging, high-quality ingredients, great organic certification (BDIH and Ecocert) and a very attractive 38-sku product range.
Whamisa’s owners, ENS Beauty, launched the brand in 2010. Over the last years Whamisa expanded across Asia and products are now available in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Australia, Japan and, of course, in Korea. The brand’s distribution is selective; products are retailed in department stores, some organic stores and online.
[EDIT: 19/10/2015 – where to buy Whamisa in Seoul: Whamisa is no longer available in any of the major department stores in Seoul. Instead, the brand is now primarily retailed in organic supermarkets. According to a store list provided by ENS Korea, there are two organic supermarket chains in Seoul that stock Whamisa: Dure-Coop and Orga Whole Foods. I’m currently in Seoul and found around half of the Whamisa portfolio in the Daechi outlet of Orga Whole Foods (Hangnyeoul subway station, Exit 1). I didn’t have time to check out Dure-Coop so I cannot vouch for the availability of Whamisa products there, but as of October 2015, you can buy Whamisa in at least some of Orga Whole Foods stores! Here is the list that ENS Korea faxed me: Whamisa Store List Seoul]
[EDIT: 2/2/2017 – Whamisa is no longer available in Japan and Singapore, according to one of my readers. Thanks for the info, Margaret E! In other distribution news, Whamisa (finally!) launched in Germany in late 2016. The products (primarily key face care and body care ranges) are available through several organic online perfumeries (i.e. Savue Beauty or Najoba), which also offer shipping to other European countries. Whamisa is also available in the UK where their distributor K-Beautywise even has an own Whamisa webshop.]
The first thing to catch my eye was the gorgeous packaging – matte cardboard outer packs with labeling in Korean and English; the skin care products are housed in heavy glass bottles and jars while body and hair care is packaged in stylish plastic containers. The packaging of every single product looks different so the ranges are easy to navigate, but at the same time the entire portfolio has a coherent visual identity. Very nicely done indeed.
I was also impressed by the fact that Whamisa products carry the German BDIH certification, as well as the more common Ecocert seal. Now, organic beauty products with German certifications are still a rare find in Asia. Whilst visiting Korea Town (Shin-Okubo) in Tokyo I did see a couple of other Korean brands with products certified by BDIH, but most of the organic seals I came across during my recent travels were USDA (US), Soil Association (UK), various Australian certifications and, of course, Ecocert (France). I am not going to launch into a discussion of which certifications are better than others but my own preference is NaTrue (pan-European), Demeter (Germany) and BDIH. Let’s leave it at that!
Whamisa has a highly segmented and well-structured product range, including facial skin care, baby care, sun care, body care, hair care and men’s products. The portfolio currently comprises 38 different products and according to the website, a colour cosmetics range is going to be launched in the near future.
The facial skin care line-up includes three different toners, two lotions (Asian lotions are light milky facial moisturizers), a facial oil, two face creams, one eye cream, a BB cream, two cleansing products (a cleansing oil and a cleansing foam), a sebum treatment and three foldable face masks (yay! Face masks are one of my favourite Asian beauty products and there are very few certified organic versions around!).
There are three sun protection products (including a sun protection BB cream); the hair care range offers two shampoos, a treatment, a tonic and a hair essence (a leave-in conditioning treatment), and there four baby care products, three men’s care products and four body care products (body lotion, body butter, body cleanser and hand cream).
I was also impressed by the quality of the ingredients. The majority of products contain at least 90% certified organic ingredients. Also – and this I like in particular – the body care products and all of the facial skin care toners, lotions and creams are formulated without water. Instead, the product base is organic aloe vera extract or aloe vera water. In the case of the Water Cream (the middle set of ingredients in the pics below) the first ingredient is rice bran extract, the Facial Oil (left pic) starts with argan oil. Very few of the skin care products contain alcohol or glycerin, and those that do have these ingredients listed in the latter part of the INCIs.
Considering the high-quality ingredients, I think the pricing is reasonable: the majority of products carry price tags of 25-30 USD (20-25 Euro). So far Whamisa is not available in Europe but hopefully that is going to change one day. I think the brand would do very well in Germany: it has a strong visual Asian flair (always popular with German consumers!), German organic certification, very attractive packaging and good quality ingredients.