A few weeks ago, my best friend asked me a surprisingly serious question that warranted some pondering and reflection (we both know we are never serious). While discussing the makeup I use, she asked, “So many of my friends and people I know use Korean beauty products, but none of them are Korean. There’s also that BuzzFeed video that tested those products. You’re Korean; why do you think they're so popular?” Being the incredibly blessed intellectual and critical thinker I am, I decided to enlighten her with my answer.
“Uhh, not sure.”
Quite the intellectual I am.
To my defense, I never really thought about Korean products being so prevalent. I’m a Korean-American! I’m constantly being surrounded by Korean culture so I didn’t even notice the growth of Korean makeup. I never really thought about what Korean products were like to Americans but now that my friend brought up the question, I started to change my perspective. Although there is no clear, singular explanation, I determined several factors.
1. Increased exposure from celebrities
In America, it is common to see celebrities endorse a product or be in an advertisement. Korean celebrities are much more involved, however. In almost all advertisements, Korean celebrities are used because they are seen as representatives of contemporary culture with powerful influence. K-Pop groups and actors are especially sought after by renowned makeup companies such as TheFaceShop and Laneige. Considering how Korean drama and K-Pop became insanely popular in America, it is expected that fans would be exposed to Korean makeup.
2. A different definition of beauty
In America, we have tanning beds, bronzers, and all other products to give us beautiful sun-kissed skin. We associate being tan with being healthy and well-off. Koreans don’t agree with us. If they ever saw our tanning stations, they would stare at us like
In Korea, having pale and smooth skin is incredibly important because skin care is the most fundamental step to being beautiful. Korean skin tends to burn easier in the sunlight, leading to premature aging and wrinkling. In response to this, makeup companies have developed many products and care regimes that cleanse and moisturize the skin. This is rather different from American skin care that is known to be harsh and drying. This different approach to beauty have made Korean products quite popular.
3. Novel ingredients and applications
In this video, the new products caused a lot of confusion. Eyelid gloss. Lip tint. There are many more weird products here.
Sure, some of the ingredients may make it difficult to want to try them, but the novelty and the strangeness have made many consumers think “F*** it. I’ll try that!”. Implementing these nontraditional ingredients or methods is also why the products have shown to be as or even more effective than their conventional competitors.