K-beauty: the ugly face of South Korea’s obsession with ladies looking forever ideal


The global buzz around South Korean skincare and cosmetics belies the harsh realities of lookism and sexism confronted by Korean ladies who can’t leave home without makeup.

 ugly face

K-beauty has become a buzzword recently, as Korean skincare and makeup tendencies flash across social and traditional media. From closing spring’s “zombie” face mask hype and the awful lot blogged “glass pores and skin” fashion to the barrage of hydrating-animal-masks selfies on Instagram, marketing goals influence Korean ladies to have ideal pores and skin.

This romanticized photograph is held to be true, now not only by using K-splendor lovers or the splendor bloggers selling it; it’s an image championed via an industry serving one of the international’s pinnacle ten markets for beauty products, one that is predicted to be worth greater than US$13 billion this 12 months.

Global income of South Korean skincare merchandise is projected to attain US$7.2 billion by 2020, in line with a file by marketplace research company Mintel. With posters of perfectly made-up K-pop stars touting CC cushions and clay masks plastered at the partitions and websites of cosmetics stores across South Korea, K-beauty could appear to be a cultural phenomenon that is here to stay. Using each manageable beauty product – K-beauty professionals recommend a rather regimented 10-step recurring regarding cleansers, toner, serums, masks, moisturizers, and more – is much less an addiction than a need for lots of girls residing in what’s a culturally monolithic and exceedingly patriarchal society.

“For men, the social expectation is: don’t be fats, have a pleasing haircut, get dressed OK,” he says. “If all you needed to do to be successful as a female is get dressed OK, now not be too fat, appearance all proper, you’d have plenty fewer problems. And in a subculture in which woman splendor is so controlled, of the route you’re going to have many of these products.”


The splendor merchandise to be had offers all forms of innovative answers, with offerings which include V-line masks that promise to slim puffy cheeks or angular jawlines; hair markers created to cover high hairlines and widow’s peaks [for women]; body tints for rouging ashy knees, elbows, and nipples; and DIY domestic facelifts that come in small vials of serum containing microneedles.


The Beauty Myth via Naomi Wolf. Almost 30 years ago, Naomi Klein wrote approximately this in The Beauty Myth. “Beauty is a foreign money gadget like the gold standard. Like any economy, it’s miles decided via politics … In assigning a fee to ladies in a vertical hierarchy in step with a culturally imposed physical widespread, its miles an expression of energy members of the family wherein girls need to compete for resources that men have appropriated for themselves unnaturally.”

In South Korea, as in many arenas, beauty fantasy still exists for women. The pursuit of beauty is often an expectation, particularly for folks looking for social and expert achievement. “If I don’t have makeup on, my colleagues will say something like, ‘Why is your face so worn-out and melted-looking?'” says a twenty-something monetary representative who preferred to remain anonymous.

“When I go to meetings for purchaser audits, my colleagues push me to put on extra makeup because [our clients] these older guys can be more inclined to speak with a ‘pretty face’,” she says.

Marie Lee, a movie buyer who studied in the UK before returning to Seoul, says Korean ladies have little preference. “The fundamental distinction is that humans here can’t leave without makeup. The point is that every [woman] has to wear a few makeups.” On websites consisting of April Skin, one of South Korea’s biggest cult beauty manufacturers, merchandise like Perfect Magic Face Starter comes with slogans, including “Today, ” you’ll have a wonderfully made-up face! No more dense, rugged pores with this cover.”

Exploring South Korea’s road style revolution: 90s K-pop nostalgia and the brand new K-punk aesthetic “Your pores and skin are getting weak and collapsing, you want an original method to your problem,” reads an ad for Skin1004, a skincare answer concentrated on college students in their 20s.

As in other places in Asia, pale skin is still ideal in South Korea, but the emphasis has shifted to healthy skin. “Chok Chok-than plays,” or moisturized, younger, glowing pores and skin, particularly.

“You hear a lot approximately gang, the glowy, dewy style of makeup,” says Lee, at Korea’s modern K-beauty basis and cushion fashion. “It’s presupposed to appear to be you just had a bath and didn’t put on lots of makeup. It isn’t counted if you’re darker or lighter; your skin appears dewy.”

South Korean men have a plastic surgical procedure to get the ‘pretty boy’ looks and macho physiques of their K-pop and K-drama idols. Although the Korean splendor industry has varied during the last decade, with a much broader range of colors, new strategies with bronzing, and experimentation consisting of nude lipstick or rust-colored eyeshadow, Lee says the secret’s nevertheless about looking placed together.

“You may be lovely in distinct approaches, but you continue to want to care about your splendor. You have to expose that you care about your look.” This year, South Korea ranked 118th out of 144 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap survey, which considers factors such as wage equality and maternity departure. The nation ranked close to Japan at 114, a decrease from neighboring countries, including China, Malaysia, Singapore, and Cambodia.

Beauty ads within the metro in Seoul. Last month, the Seoul government introduced it might section out plastic surgery classified ads in subway stations through 2022. Photo: Crystal Tai
In one step that might assist in easing the image burden on Korean women, the Seoul authorities announced it’d section out plastic surgery commercials in subway stations through 2022. Media reviews noted a public outcry, with over a thousand proceedings and requests asking the stations to take down such advertising. Top five designers and trends at Seoul Fashion Week spring-summer 2018 “I think the powers that be ultimately admitted to themselves that that is a trouble,” says Hurt, the educational. “People are endorsed, nearly forced to put money into their body and cultural capital, to the detriment of other things. If you’re so involved in your destiny and face, you won’t do other matters along with your money. All varieties of negative outcomes have taken location.”

He says the government also recognizes the hassle of emphasizing the woman frame. “[For example,] President Moon Jae-in is asking to eliminate requirements for images on résumés; they must have done that long ago. Requiring that is probably one of the biggest drivers of plastic surgical treatment and coffee self-esteem [for women].”

The generation of women who might be despatched home from work for not carrying enough makeup has surpassed, and girls have become foremost customers who can have enough money to rock the boat, says Hurt. “Women have more electricity, social electricity, and shopping for power; ladies have more room to vote with their wallets,” he says.