How a rural girl became the face of vegan cosmetics in Korea




A teenage girl was helpless when she struggled from serious skin trouble. She lived in Yeongdo, surrounded by vast ocean and mountains, the only way was relying on home remedies to improve her skin health. Her skin was too sensitive to apply chemical skincare products. Thus, she tried making her own skincare products from natural herbs. Her childhood worries grew to become an influential vegan skincare cosmetics brand in Korea. Her name is Dahae Kim, CEO of Bonajour. 



Founding a cosmetic brand started from a simple question: Why should we put harmful chemicals on our skin? Kim Dahae found that most cosmetics focused only on sales, not authentic ingredients. Her endeavor to supply safe, genuine products led to endless R&D and experimentation. Reading voluminous academic journals to verify the products’ safety was not an exceptional task to her.

After the R&D stage, Kim Dahae reversed the conventional pricing strategy. While the existing companies selected ingredients that fit within their product price, she selected raw materials first and decided the price later. In other words, the production was dealt with demand for trustful components, not saving costs.

When Kim Dahae started the brand ten years ago, the concept of being vegan was unfamiliar to the Korean public. Since she focused on sampling pure and safe natural ingredients, she needed a persuasive method to certify the brand’s authenticity. “How can we certify our brand identity (no animal experimentation, using only natural ingredients)?


The process of making a Bonajour product.



After posing the question, she found that getting certification from Vegan Society is a clear alternative to show its product quality. Kim Dahae said, “The word ‘Vegan’ cannot completely be our identity. Instead, it is the method to prove that we provide harmless and honest products.”

This is how Bonajour makes their best-sellers. The first procedure starts from finding out peptide, a natural element that amplifies skin moisture. They then fertilize the raw materials themselves. If a single person is unsatisfied during the test period, they undertake the sampling process again. Perhaps this laborious effort in quality assurance would be something that consumers may not know firsthand, but it is what they do. The more I talked to Kim Dahae, the more I saw a young girl who craved to use trustworthy cosmetics. Her faith in manufacturing reliable products directly represented why she made this brand.




The CEO seems very busy handling all the schedules with research, production, marketing, and sales. As she spent her 20s with Bonajour, I asked what makes her happy the most. She took a moment to open her mouth. “I still vividly remember the moment the first product finally came out. You know, countless attempts are exhausting and expensive, but they could not compare with the satisfaction itgives me. I hope nobody is concerned with skin like I was during childhood.”





Wrapping up the conversation, I asked for her thoughts on the future of veganism. Kim Dahae said she is very much concerned about being genuinely eco-friendly. Now she is thinking of ways to make greener cosmetic containers. She pointed out that it is almost impossible to find out containers that are perfectly harmless to nature. We at NAKD SEOUL believe she will eventually find a way. Just as a young teenage girl finally became the CEO of Bonajour, her concerns have ultimately led her to better solutions.


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