Skin Deep: Koreans Obsession with Beauty


Maybe you have heard about the Korean standard and obsession with beauty before, if you have not you should know that their guidelines are some of the most stringent in the world.

 South Koreans place high importance on their level of appearance, and what products they choose to use, so let’s go skin deep on Koreans obsession with beauty.

Korean beauty

South Korean beauty standards are an internationally recognized phenomena around the world. However, the majority of these standards are held towards women. Many people believe that Korean beauty borders on artistry, as persons of interest and famous groups become popular, such as K-Pop. Koreans place a heavy importance on physical appearance, such as having a slim figure or puppy-esque eyes.

Your professional standing in South Korea weighs heavily upon how you make yourself appear. Some organizations may require you to provide a photo of yourself along with your resume, as well as personal information including your height, which may seem excessive to their western counterparts. Money spent on beauty products is seen as an investment in order to find a financially attractive position.

Beauty merchandise

South Korea is one of the world’s highest consumers of beauty products like mascaras, whitening creams and some of the best korean toners in the world. Generally they are more oriented towards which beauty products are better, and the products are held to a higher standard than that of the western world. Koreans also introduce ingredients that aren’t often associated with this form of merchandise, such as snail slime.

However, their effectiveness is starting to become more popular in North America and European countries. There are multiple korean eye creams where the products are composed of rather unconventional ingredients like snail slime. The compound mucin in snail slime is apparently an effective ingredient that has been included in other products as well. It seems like the Asian country is going to start dominating the beauty market on and off of the continent. Many citizens of other countries often follow Korean makeup tutorials on YouTube and other social media because of their fondness for their beauty standard.

Male beauty standards

Korea is a unique exception of many Asian countries because there is a high importance of male appearance as well. Men are expected to be slim just like their female counterparts, and should not display overtly masculine features. Many celebrities within the Korean entertainment sphere will have an androgynous look. Facial hair on men is generally frowned upon, and the skin should be clear. It is not uncommon for men in Korea to use beauty products in order to enhance their appearance. In fact, one fifth of all beauty products sold worldwide were obtained by South Korean men in 2012, and that number may be higher today.  This is definitely not the fashion or style you would see in decades past for male pop artists.

Good or bad?

The high beauty standard held in South Korea has received some criticism in recent years. Many women don’t believe that they should be held up to this high of an aesthetic in order to be seen as beautiful and individuals don’t naturally suit this definition of beauty. There was a movement called the “free the corset movement” in which these standards of appearance were challenged and appeared as objectification. Additionally, keeping up with all the products required in order to maintain appearances can become expensive, both on time and on monetary resources.

There is value in physical presentation when it comes to maintaining professionalism, but this can go to an extreme. Just like not focusing on your appearance and having detrimental hygiene can become an extreme. The important thing is to find a balance. Nearly 30% of South Korean women have had plastic surgery, so the cultural demand on their looks is extremely high.

Plastic surgery

One of the main reasons that people think of these beauty standards in a negative light is because of the increase popularity of plastic surgery in this country. Medical tourism to obtain facial reconstruction surgery is becoming popular as well. Young people who could otherwise use the resources towards assets are investing money in their looks, and this can be seen as a negative. Although, it does increase interest in Korea and boosts their economy, so there are positives associated with the rate of plastic surgeries. Plastic surgery in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing and is a socially acceptable process to undergo.

The innovations that are coming out of Korean beauty products are definitely an improvement in an industry that is often chastised for not developing anything groundbreaking. There are definitely cons associated with the “lookism” that prevails with Korean culture, but it can help us set a standard for our own appearance as well. If we’re looking to engage within a professional environment it might be beneficial to use those guidelines as motivation for our personal life.

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