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Image / Editorial

South Korean men are helping to change male beauty ideals and here is why

by Edaein OConnell
20th Mar 2019

Today on, TV presenter, columnist, and all-round style expert Darren Kennedy is here to take the editor’s reigns. All day on our website and social media, you can catch Darren giving his perspective on beauty, fashion, lifestyle and more, as he takes on the new role of guest editor. 

As all beauty lovers will know, South Korea is ahead of the game when it comes to make-up and skincare.

From CC creams to sheet masks, these products have infiltrated the western market and are now a staple of many women’s beauty bags. The beauty industry in South Korea is huge and is among the top 10 in the world.

According to Mintel, a global market intelligence agency, the South Korean beauty industry had a total market share of 6.5 billion dollars at the end of 2017 and this figure is expected to rise to 7.2 billion dollars by 2020.

Related: Darren Kennedy is taking over! Say hello to today’s Guest Editor

And it isn’t just female customers who are helping these figures soar — South Korean men are doing their part to help too.

Males in South Korea spend more on skincare per person than men anywhere else in the world. This is due in part to the massive popularity of Korean pop and TV drama stars who are inspiring them with their beauty looks and what they believe to be the perfect face.

So what are they buying?

Having Chok Chok skin in South Korea is the ideal. This is glowy, dewy and fresh as a daisy skin that everybody wants.

When it comes to South Korean beauty and achieving this look, skincare comes first. And men take it very seriously, with a multi-step routine meticulously completed twice a day every day.

A typical routine includes; a double cleanse with an oil cleanser, followed by a toner and essence, a good moisturizer and completed with an SPF for the daytime or night cream for sleeping hours.

Men in South Korea are also not afraid to wear make-up.

K-Pop stars regularly wear lipstick, eyeliner and eyeshadow and this is now a common trend on the streets of South Korea, with more and more young men taking pride in their appearance and experimenting with different make-up looks.

In terms of the best cosmetics to purchase, they swear by BB cream, a light formula which moisturizes while evening skin tone and hiding blemishes.

Lip tints are also one of the biggest crazes to hit the South Korean grooming market in recent times with the “candy stain” being a sought after look. These tints are blended out with a finger to create a natural-looking hint of colour.


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South Korea is changing the perception and previous notions of what masculinity is. Its men are trailblazers in shifting the conversation and showing the world you can care about your appearance and still be a man.

Toxic masculinity and all it entails is a damaging narrative and sometimes we are unaware and unreceptive to the damage this line of talk has on the everyday man.

Pressures to deal with your emotions in a particular way — don’t cry, be tough, be strong, don’t show feeling — and then live up to those expectations are similar in many ways to the standards which are placed on women — the very ones we are collectively trying to fight against.

Related: Stop talking about the definition of toxic masculinity – and start tackling the problem

Last year, the BBC posted a video of South Korean YouTuber named Kim Seung-hwan discussing his beauty routine on their website and the comments ranged from assuming he was gay to feeding directly into the toxic masculinity conversation with many saying that real men do not wear make-up.

However, the ever-increasing popularity of K-Pop groups such as BTS is helping to dilute this negativity. With a number one US album (a rarity for a non-English speaking record), sold out tours and legions of fans on social media channelling their “soft masculinity” is positively projecting and promoting inclusivity and hopefully changing dated attitudes.

And it’s not just South Korean men who are changing the way we view male beauty ideals — YouTube and make-up stars like James Charles and Jeffree Starr continue to break barriers and show there is a myriad of ways in which you can be a ‘man’.

South Korea is challenging the story and adding a plot twist to the story of men and beauty principles, and this, we believe, is a very good thing.

More like this:

  • Guest Editor Darren Kennedy’s top five grooming picks for men…here
  • Meet the Irish celebrity hairstylist splitting his time between Hollywood and Limerick…here
  • Spring/summer capsules and Celine catwalks: all on this week’s Smart Casual…here