South Korean men breaking tradition and norms when it comes to cosmetics




Asia – where men are known for their sexist beliefs, their sexist mind set and chauvinism : it really comes as a shock that South Korea – a mid-sized Asian country where men are trained in the army for at least 2 years – are actually the world’s vainest men. With only a population of 12 million men compared to the 155 million in America , South Korea is actually the world’s No.1 men’s skincare market.


Accounting for 18% of global sales, Korean men spend up to 300 million euros on skin care products each year. This makes Korea the world’s biggest market in this industry, and growth potential remains huge. Beauty facilities for men are also popping up like mushrooms in South Korea. Domestic cosmetics brand Amore Pacific opened a beauty shop for skin and hair care for men in the vicinity of Hongik University in March of last year. Since then, sales have risen by more than 20 percent and 1,000 men on average now visit on weekends.


While Western brands like Jean Paul Gaultier have been daring in the past to push out a male make-up range in 2008, the response was not encouraging. The male make-up line was discontinued in 2010. Pete Wentz, of Fall Out Boy – also pushed out his own line of guyliner ( men’s eyeliner ) saw limited success and is now defunct. In Western countries, men with ‘makeup’ are referred to being plastic, fake, gay, or even fags. So what makes South Korea, a country which is far more traditional and less open than the Americans – able to break through stereotypes, tradition and norms to be the world’s leading male cosmetics market ? As the social status of Korean women grows, men are no longer just competing with themselves, but with women as well. Men now need to groom to be relevant in today’s world.


Take a scene from a Korean television advertisement in 2003: The handsome young men walk past each other in the blinding sunlight. Their shoulders lightly brush, and they turn their heads for a closer inspection.”Wow, he’s got great skin,” murmurs one, while the other casually informs him, “It’s just that I’ve changed skin lotion (foundation).” Color Lotion was introduced last year with a lavish advertising campaign starring androgynous World Cup soccer star Ahn Jung Hwan — the David Beckham of South Korea. The lotion chalked up $4 million in sales in the first six months, surprising even its manufacturer ( Somang Cosmetics which gives us brands like Danahan, Ecopure, etc ) .


Meanwhile, the chairman of one of the country’s largest cosmetics companies recently published his confessional memoirs with the title “The CEO Who Wears Makeup.” “Why shouldn’t men want to look beautiful and take care of their skin?” asked Yu Sang Ok, 70, the head of Coreana Cosmetics. “Especially as they grow older, they have to wear makeup if they don’t want to look shabby.”


In fact, Korean men were touching up their appearances long before the term “metrosexual” was coined by trend-spotters in the West to describe heterosexual men who lavish attention on their looks. Most politicians over 50 dye their hair. President Roh Moo Hyun and his predecessor, Kim Dae Jung, are distinguished by heads of jet-black hair — as is North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, although his regime is sufficiently secretive that one cannot say with certainty whether his hair is dyed.


Kim Min Yoo, an Estee Lauder salesman at a Seoul department store, says prominent figures have been using makeup as well, but discreetly.”It’s always existed. Men would wear a little of their wives’ or girlfriends’ makeup. It is just that now it is out in the open and respectable,” said Kim, who wears his hair streaked with copper highlights and admits to applying a little powder and eyebrow pencil for special occasions.


South Koreans are famous in Asia for their pursuit of beauty.Seoul’s plastic surgeons, fashion boutiques, hairdressers and cosmetics merchants attract customers from throughout the region. Those in the industry attribute the phenomenon to an ultra-competitive society, especially when it comes to jobs.”One’s skin is important to get a job,” said Ji Jeong Hyeon of CNP Skin, a cosmetics company. He said that men who buy cosmetics “are, in short, investing in themselves to raise their value.”


The advertising for men’s makeup here features young, girlish models. But market research indicates that the best customers are middle-aged businessmen who are trying to compete. We thought this would be popular with teenagers and men in their 20s, but we discovered to our surprise that it was men in their 40s who were most concerned about their skin being rough from the effects of aging, heavy smoking and stress,” said Chong Pu Kyung, who helped develop Color Lotion for Somang Cosmetics.


Also adding to the pressure for men to be picture perfect are Korean actors and K-pop artists. With the large influx of handsome perfect features perfect skin Korean celebrities and the booming popularity of Kpop (korean-pop) in the world, the Korean men population feels the pressure to look as good as the stars. Watch any K-pop videos and you will notice Korean men with flawless skin equipped with eye liners, eye shadows – gleaming with self confidence.


Domestic retailers say Korean men in their 20s and 30s have grown up watching popular men’s dance groups since the late 1990s and are used to spending money on personal grooming. For example, many online shopping sites saw a surge in sales of men’s undergarments that make the wearer look more muscular. Sales of body shaping or padded underwear rose 170 percent in February from one year earlier, according to popular online shopping mall 11st. The same holds true for apparel. Sales of women’s clothing at Lotte Department Store nationwide fell 5 percent in January compared to a year earlier, but increased 7 percent over the same period for men’s clothing. Shinsegae Department Store became the first retailer in the industry to open a section last year specializing only in men’s fashion and sales have already risen 450 percent since it opened.


The Korean men’s skincare market has achieved sales of over 500 million euros in 2010, and is expected to close in at 630 million euros by the end of 2011. While cosmetics company in the West are still dreaming and fantasizing about the day Western men will wear makeup and cough up as much money on their appearance as women do – in South Korea, the future is now. Japan’s SK-II launched a men’s skincare line last year, and
instead of launching it in Japan, the SK-II Homme line was launched exclusively in Korea for a few months even before Japan.


The SK-II Homme Facial Treatment Essence priced at a whopping 160,000 wons a bottle – saw a month’s worth of stock sold out in JUST ONLY 4 DAYS! “Korea accounts for 40 percent of the world’s high-end cosmetics market for men, and Korean men are often considered in the industry as test beds for new products,” a sales associate of SK-II said. 


Men are quickly forming the main ranks of cosmetics shoppers, with the domestic market for men’s beauty products growing 15 percent each year. Industry watchers expect the market will surpass W1 trillion this year. Almost every major Korean cosmetic brand has a men’s line skincare. Not only that, men’s BB Cream have been popping up every month and two major western companies – Lab Series and Biotherm – have also recently released their own version of a men’s BB Cream to compete with the Asian brands.




For example, check out Gatzmen – a south Korean men’s skincare brand that is Korea’s first men cosmetics line to feature a blemish concealer, a chap stick and a powder in it’s line. Or ManSkin, the first Men Skincare in the world to introduce 3 Men’s BB Cream all at the same time!




Long gone are the days where men’s cosmetic advertisement are limited to them looking natural and rugged. They can deny it all they want – but all men want to have good, radiant, glowing clear skin. Take a look at the new generation men’s cosmetic advertisement :




There’s no shame in wanting radiant dewy skin. There’s no shame in using a highlighter! And as Laneige goes a step further : there’s no shame in using a foundation brush, eye liner, a stippling brush, a lip brush or some powder! Isn’t it ironic that a traditional Asian country can be much more open than the West when it comes to cosmetics ? Western Men are still afraid of cosmetics because it is viewed as effeminate, but let South Korean men show them how it’s suppose to be done!


To end things, check out Laneige Homme’s tutorial on how to achieve flawless, radiant, glowing skin below :


South Korean men breaking tradition and norms when it comes to cosmetics

South Korean men breaking tradition and norms when it comes to cosmetics



Source : here


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0 thoughts on “South Korean men breaking tradition and norms when it comes to cosmetics”

  1. fascinating! And why shouldn’t they want beautiful skin too? I find it strange that it is acceptable for anyone on television in the US (man or woman) to wear makeup, so what’s the issue with adoption and acceptance. Nice post.

  2. haha maybe the public doesnt know that the men puts on makeup on television and think that they’re naturally that way? lol

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