The Beginner’s Guide To Asian Cosmetics Part 7 : EAST VS WEST


Continued from Part 1 : The Skincare ObsessionPart 2 : An Asian Approach, Part 3 : Packaging Is A Necessity, Part 4 :  The Asian Skincare Routine. Part 5 : The Lotion Mask Method, Part 6 : BB Cream and It’s Evolution

So… here’s the post you’ve been waiting for! It’s a ‘don’t take it too seriously’ post, so just have fun and enjoy this! Both the east and west has very different perceptions of beauty – and it shows also in their cosmetics and makeup. Let’s explore the differences – and if you have any to add – share it below on the comments section. Each individual is unique, but i am using a general scope when writing this article.



1. Sun Care




This is one of the biggest differences. Asians do not like the sun. No, it’s not raining in the photo above. It’s just to block the sun. Whenever we see the sun, we take a path that has shade. We drive with jackets covering our hands to avoid the sun. Our moms would rather stay home than to eat at a coffee shop exposed under sunlight. That is how obsessed we are when it comes to avoiding the sun. The sun is our no.1 skin friend-enemy. While it gives life to us, it also accelerates aging – it reduces the skin’s ability to produce collagen, breaks them down, and increases the number of free radicals in our skin. Sun damage is irreversible. We were taught from young to avoid the sun, and to use sun protection.


In the West, it is the total opposite. Sun protection awareness only started a few years back, and until today, many are still unaware of bad effects of excessive sun exposure. See the girls and guys on Jershey Shore going to sun-tanning salons ?  The west flocks to the sun whenever they see it. Studying in France, i could never understand the students in my university all sitting under the sun on the grass without putting on any sort of protection – just baking under the sun. They love their sun, and would never compromise it.



2. The Grass Is Always Greener On The Other Side





Many might think that Asians want to be paler/whiter because they want to be like Westerners, but this conception of ‘white’ beauty existed even before Asians knew the existence of Westerners. To Asians, Beauty is always associated to fair milky skin. Fair white milky skin is associated to class and nobleness. Skin whitening has a long history in Asia, stemming back to ancient China and Japan, where the saying “one white covers up three ugliness” was passed through the generations.A white complexion was seen as noble and aristocratic, especially in Southeast Asia, where the sun was always out. Only those rich enough could afford to stay indoors, while peasants baked in the rice fields. ( Source : CNN ). Because Asians are also more inclined to have dark spots – whitening products and minimum sun exposure have been part of the Asian beauty culture for centuries.


In the west, beauty is related to tanned skin. It is related to ‘healthy’ skin… but  a fake tan is never healthy. Any tan indicates skin damage. The deeper the colour of the tan the more extensive the skin damage. ( Someone needs to tell the cast of Jersey Shore? ) While in the West, you’d see a market for tanning lotions, etc – in the East, it’s the opposite – everyone’s on the search for the best whitening product. The grass is always greener on the other side.



3. Skincare Steps




Another major difference in their skincare philosophy is that the average Asian uses 5-6 products ( cleansing oil, cleansing foam, toner, serum, cream, eye cream ) and some even goes up till 9-10 steps ( with the addition of first care serum, emulsion, makeup base, BB Cream/foundation, powder/pact ). We love our layering.


In the west, an average Westerner uses 2-3 items ( cleanser, toner, cream/serum ). They like their skincare to be lighter as if invisible and putting on nothing.



4. Skincare Philosophy




Another difference in the cosmetics market is that in Asia, skincare sales is way greater than make-up, and in the west it is the opposite. I’m sure you would have seen this : in the East when we see someone, one of the first things we would notice is the skin. The biggest compliment you can give to an Asian women is ‘Wow, you have great skin!’. In the West, it is more like ‘Wow, what lipstick/eyeliner did you use? How products did you get to get that look?’. In the East, is it more like ‘Wow, what brand are you using? Your skin is so white and flawless!’ Ancient Asian civilizations have definitely honed their skin care and also beauty control keys to maintain their individuals looking as fresh and also as youthful as achievable for as long as achievable.


Korea and Japan has the largest skincare market in the world, but it is the same said for other Asian countries like China, Taiwan – skincare sells better than makeup. According to the latest research on the Korean market, 89% of Korean women spend more money on skincare products, while only 11% spend more on make-up. In Asia, they believe a good healthy skin is more important – and that way, only minimal make-up is needed.



5. Men’s Skincare Market




In Asia, not only women are obsessed with their skincare. Even men are obsessed with their skincare. Despite only being 0.34% of the total male population in the world, South Korea’s owns 18% of the global sales for the male skincare market. In South Korea, men are starting to use BB Cream, and in India, men are also starting to use whitening creams. Sales of men’s facial products still make up only a small fraction of the $97 billion global skincare market, but it’s a growing fraction, despite the economic slowdown. Last year, skincare sales to men rose 17 percent to $2.4 billion, and 83 percent of that growth was in Asia. ( Source : Toronto Sun )


“Asian men strive to look refined and educated because a professional appearance for work is important … The western European man’s routine is primarily for himself, his wife and his family,” said Jennifer Bremner, Unilever’s global director for Dove Men+Care.


Despite Western men being much more open minded – and Asian men being much more traditional and chauvinistic – it really comes to surprise that Asian men are more and more aware of taking care of their skin and not afraid to look good. The Western companies are still dreaming of the day that the western men market will pick up in the next few years… but looks like they will have to focus in Asia for the next few decades since the growth is there.



6. Mentality




I think this is the saddest point, but reality is always harsh. Asians will always have this mentality that anything ‘Western’ is better and the same goes with cosmetic products. It’s already bad enough that the Western market doesn’t look much upon and trust Asian cosmetics ( even more after the Japanese nuclear disaster ), but Asians looking down on Asian-made products… le sigh. That is why the large Western cosmetic companies are raking in the money because of this stupid Asian mentality. I’m sure than more than 90% of Asians would purchase Western cosmetics, but probably less than 20% of Westerners would purchase Asian cosmetics. It’s a sad sad comparison – but hopefully the Hallyu/Kpop wave will turn the tables around.


I remember reading a famous Asian blogger writing ‘Somehow western-made BB Creams suits be better’….le sigh. Asians companies invest so much money on studying Asian skin, Asian shades, the Asian market, but somehow Western made BB Creams made for the western market are more suitable for her typical Asian skin. But i guess, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and whatever floats their boat.


However, little do Asians know that the Asian skincare technology especially in Japan and Korea is far more advance than the West. “They’re [South Korea] about 12 years ahead of the States in terms of technology,” said Mary Schook, New York-based owner of M.S. Apothecary. ( Source : integershoppermarketing ). In Japan, you’ll find skincare gadgets so advanced that the Western companies are not able to replicate.




So, do you agree with the above? Share your thoughts and add to the list if you have any comparisons!

0 thoughts on “The Beginner’s Guide To Asian Cosmetics Part 7 : EAST VS WEST”

  1. Since I’ve started using asian product… my make-up spendings went down and skincare budget… hum hum.
    I also find that western products are more “agressive”. It’s a bit like “you have a combination skinoily skin? Don’t hydrate it!”.
    I had to tell a colleague to start using her lotion with her hand (she agreed the day after that it was way better). I think asian “philosophy” is more soft and long-term!

  2. When you use cotton pads, you really waste a lot of the essence inside the toners. That is, unless the toner is an astringent toner. Otherwise, I think too that the reason why Westerners do not use Asian cosmetics has to do with stigma. North Americans would cringe at the mention of using ingredients like snail slime secretion inside skincare items, since there is an attached association with ‘dirt’ or some other emotion like disgust.

  3. This is definitely true, especially about the snail slime thing. I was curious as to why I’ve never heard it here (UK) before and when I went down to this little shop that sells health products I found out that they do indeed sell the snail cream from a different brand. I asked where it was and this girl pointed it out. It was in the farthest corner of the shelf right at the bottom that you won’t even see it unless you sit on the floor to look at it. I was surprised. I think people here although not all, would always cringe about the idea of this type of ingredients in our beauty products, regardless of its health benefits.

  4. I believe that another ingredient which people have a stigma towards using in skincare in the west is synake, the enzyme which mimics an effect similar to the venom in snakes which paralyzes muscle. Note, it is not the real snake venom itself, but people still seem to be somewhat hesitant towards buying products with it in the west. In the department of Oriental herbs, I think too that most westerners would be really unaware of the benefits of herbs like ginseng or dang gwe and so on, even though medically and in traditional Oriental medicine(especially in China and Korea), they have a really long history of usage. It could be one main reason why when Amore Pacific produces its own western line of Amore Pacific, targetted at an international audience and a mainly western one, the line itself does not carry a heavy Oriental fragrance because of the fear that they would not accept the brand itself(as compared to other brands like Sulwhasoo).

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