korean beauty men

Everything You Need to Know About Men’s Skincare, the Next Big Thing in Korean Beauty

Once upon a time, back in my high school days, a couple of Asian boys and I reached for the last pack of Shiseido cotton pads at the drugstore. Taken aback by their presence in the usual ladies-only zone, I wasn’t sure if I was more confused about their basket of cleansers, toners and moisturizer (when I was only carrying my basic cleanser and Complex 15 lotion), or more ashamed that these boys (boys!) had better skin than me. While back then I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of dudes having a better skincare regimen than me, fast forward a few years and you’re looking at a fast-growing target market. Well, at least in Asia, with South Korea at the epicentre.

The industry has been (and still is) fascinated with South Korea’s beauty game when it comes to their innovative products and skincare routines. Korean It girls like Irene Kim, Chriselle Lim and CL, with their perfect skin on display, are gaining traction in the fashion world, too. However, if you were to walk on the streets of Myeongdong in Seoul, you’d notice a hefty percentage of shoppers are actually young men. Unlike North America, where you often see men being dragged by their girlfriends in and out of beauty boutiques, stocking up for personal beauty must-haves with their buddies is just a regular pastime for dudes in SoKo.

“[Wearing tinted moisturizers and taking care of skin] is not a big deal,” explains Charlotte Cho of Sokoglam. “Maybe in [North America] it would be more of a big deal because they are not used to seeing it. Everything becomes a big deal when you’re not open to experiencing it.”

During an age where the lines become more blurred in terms of gender, there’s no question that South Korea is ahead of the curve on this front. However, Alicia Yoon of Peach & Lily believes that its more about different aesthetic preferences.

“I think in the U.S, there are certain notions of what you need to look like – to be masculine. It was never a big thing in Korea to look boss and burly,” says Yoon. “In Korea, having a chiseled and thin face is defined handsome.”

A different definition of male beauty certainly does come into play, but it all comes down to the essence of SoKo’s skincare philosophy. At the Shu Uemura x Kye launch earlier last month, Cho explains that with pollution ending up on our skin, washing your face is just basic hygiene.

“Growing up [in SoKo], parents teach their kids (whether they are male or female) the importance of cleansing, moisturizing and staying out of direct sunlight,” explains Cho. “So when you grow up with that philosophy, it is part of the daily routine. You know when you learn how to wash your hands before you eat or after you use the restroom? It’s the same idea. It’s not really a gender-specific trait.”

South Korea’s pop culture and music stars are key players as well. With both female and male entertainers boasting doll-like faces, they play a big part in influencing the masses (especially millennials) and beauty brands know exactly know how to use that to their advantage. While brands cater to the male market by pushing out gender-neutral packaging in the same formula, they also use top male celebs (like Kim Soo Hyun for TheFaceShop, Lee Min Ho for Innisfree and boy groups like 2PM for TonyMoly and Exo for Nature Republic) to front their lines. Though the male brand ambassadors cater to the male market, it’s also an incentive for girl fans (aka me) to pop into the store to pick up their idols’ sponsored products. #noshame

“It’s a really interesting way of marketing. In the U.S, you would never put a male model to entice a female to come into a beauty shop,” says Cho. “But in Korea, because entertainers are such a big part of the culture, they utilize that. It also gets men to feel comfortable about being attractive too.”

So boys, if you’re reading this, don’t feel ashamed of wearing a little concealer to cover up that blemish or even maintaining your skin with 10+ products. It’s all part of your well-being and there’s nothing sexier than that. And ladies, since we’re big believers in borrowing beauty products from our beau, dad and/or brother, flip through to see what other products you can share.