All About K-Beauty

If you’re at all into skincare, makeup, or beauty regimes then you’ve probably already heard about the phenomenon known as K-beauty out of Korea but if you haven’t, we’ve got you covered. Not only is Korean beauty advanced but it also promotes a drastically different aesthetic and takes on a highly unique philosophical approach than what we’re used to seeing in the rest of the world.

Here’s are the facts about K-beauty, its history, and the ways in which it differs from the Western cosmetic industry.

A History of K-Beauty

Korean beauty has been setting itself apart since ancient times when women used natural ingredients to cleanse and soften their skin, protect from the elements and look more appealing. Korea has long been an agricultural society so healing from the sun through the use of antioxidants and protecting from frostbite by using lard was a popular practice.

Pale, undamaged skin was a sign of privilege as it indicated that you didn’t have to toil outdoors; causing women to use concoctions made of mung beans to cleanse, gourd stems to heal, and ground up grains like mibun or baekbun to lighten their complexions. It was also popular for women to enhance their beauty with makeup by darkening and shaping their eyebrows with ash and coloring their lips and cheeks with safflower.

These practices continued right up until the 20th Century when Korea began to mass manufacture skin and beauty products along with the rest of the world, but by the 1920s, Japanese colonial rule in Korea meant that Japanese products dominated the market. Korea was liberated from Japan after World War II but its beauty industry was hindered once again by the 1950s due to the Korean War.

In 1961, things started looking up when a law was passed prohibiting the sale of foreign products in Korea, thus allowing Korean-made beauty products to finally take off.  Today, the Korean beauty product industry is valued at $13.1 billion dollars and is one of the top 10 beauty markets in the world.

Here’s what sets Korean’s beauty industry apart from its Western counterpart.

MamiGibbs / Getty Images

Skin Care is Number One

In the U.S. market products are designed and marketed to address particular skin problems like acne, dullness, dryness or aging, but in Korea, they have a more holistic approach in which healthy, hydrated skin is considered fundamental and worth working for. K-beauty is known for advocating a multi-step skin care routine, which can range anywhere from five to 15 steps, depending on your preference, and can involve oil cleansers, water cleansers, exfoliators, toners, face oils, serums, moisturizers, SPF protection and more. This might sound exhausting, but K-beauty fans say that all those steps are worth it and report having hydrated, glowing skin all thanks to their extensive regime.

1 of 4