CELLRETURN eyes global expansion with LED Masks by Kwak Yeon-soo (The Korea Times)

Appetite is growing in Korea's beauty market for home devices, as more consumers are turning to time-saving and affordable alternatives to visiting dermatology clinics and facial massage shops.

According to LG Economic Research Institute, the domestic market for household beauty appliances is estimated at 500 billion won ($420 million) for this year, growing around 10 percent annually. It is expected to exceed 1.6 trillion won in 2022.

The global beauty devices market is also likely to grow from $27.8 billion in 2016 to $94.3 billion by 2023, P&S Market Research said in a report.

While a growing number of companies ― ranging from startups to conglomerates ― are riding on the trend and vying for a lion's share in the market, Cellreturn, a startup that developed Korea's first LED masks in 2014, is at the forefront of the beauty devices market.

"LED treatments were primarily available at dermatology clinics. But thanks to technological advancements and beauty-conscious consumers, we were able to develop LED masks that can be used at home," Cellreturn Chairman Kim Il-soo said during an interview with The Korea Times.

Kim initially sought to develop treatments for hair loss, but later learned about near-infrared rays (NIR) that allow hair treatments to penetrate the scalp faster, resulting in better absorption.

"I applied the same mechanism to developing LED masks. They penetrate into different levels of the skin and help treat different skin concerns," he said.

"LED masks also produce collagen and elastic fiber, which facilitate the regeneration of skin cells."

The company developed its core technology called "LED NIR," a patented LED module for facilitating effective wavelength output.

According to Kim, there are three wavelength modes that require users to spend 20 minutes under the light. For the company's latest Platinum model, there is a fast mode that helps reduce the session length to nine minutes.

The red light reduces inflammation and promotes blood circulation and the blue light kills acne-causing bacteria. The pink light helps remove acne troubles, stimulate collagen and firm skin's elastin using high-frequency LEDs.

On how Cellreturn's LED masks differ from those of other brands, Kim said its products are equipped with more LEDs compared with those of other manufacturers.

"We have applied wireless touch technology as well as artificial intelligence (AI) and big data features into the device for ease of use," he said.

As soon as the device is activated, it collects and saves real-time user data and allows users to keep photos to track skin changes over time.

Regarding safety concerns, Kim mentioned that LED lights using NIR have been used to treat astronauts at NASA for over three decades.

"It takes two to five years to develop a new LED mask, as the product needs go through device assessment, validity assessment and safety assessment from professional institutions to be proven effective," he said.

He added that consumers need to spend adequate time under the light for continuous periods over several weeks in order for the LED treatment to be effective.

Kim said Cellreturn's primary goal is to become a global player in the beauty devices market and make a foray into foreign markets.

The company currently exports LED masks to 11 countries, including the U.S., Japan, China and UAE.

"The biggest achievement so far would be creating a Cellreturn zone at the Singapore Airlines lounge in Singapore," Kim said. "First class passengers can experience Cellreturn LED masks upon request."

Kim said that he sees big potential in the Middle East, as it is the world's fastest-growing beauty market.

"Consumers in the Middle East showed a stronger propensity for beauty and personal care products," he said. "I'd like to see international sales outpace domestic sales in the coming years."

The chairman vowed to expand its product lineups and launch healthcare products as well. Cellreturn currently offers a neck care beauty device called Neckle RAY and hair growth treatment device called Hair Alpha-RAY.

In November, Cellreturn acquired Speclipse, which manufactures devices that can diagnose skin cancer, to diversify its business portfolio into medical equipment.

Kim explained that the acquisition of Speclipse, which has laser spectroscopy-based diagnostic analysis technology, was carried out with an ambition to become a global beauty and healthcare company that incorporates science into beauty devices.

Apart from devices, the company is also willing to develop and partner with cosmetic firms to develop serum that can be applied in advance to going under lights for LED therapy.

"We will fully utilize resources for research and development (R&D) as well as customer services to enhance product quality and increase operating efficiency," he said. "We will continue with a global expansion strategy to become a leading player in the global beauty devices market."


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