Flower boys, Soldiers and BB cream

South Korea Army Men Make up

I think for guys who do use make-up, it’s not that we want to appear more feminine, we just want to have a crisper, cleaner look as a guy” – BBC Article

Since Psy, it seems the UK media has really taken an interest in South Korea, especially publications such as The Guardian, with their constant articles about topics such as Kpop to idols being featured in our Fashion weeklies. It seems that the UK has really started to explore South Korea and the BBC has decided to look beyond the music and into the modern culture of South Korea. BBC’s latest article “South Korean men get the make-up habit” explores the culture of South Korean men joining in on the BB Cream phenomenon.

DBSK advertising BB cream

DBSK advertising BB cream

BB cream stands for Blemish Balm. It was first invented in Europe for post surgery patients to cover up scars and to help them heal. South Korea went wild for this magical cream and soon the rest of Asia followed as it was said to be the secret of the Korean flawless skin. BB creams are created as multi function skin care; it moisturises, it covers, it protects – those is the 3 main mottoes of BB cream. Because of this, we’ve also seen many UK companies jump on the band wagon, but we’ve tried a lot of UK’s attempt at BB cream and it’s more like a tinted moisturiser then the magical cover-all flawless finish of Asian brands.

Now male make up is not that uncommon in the UK, a couple of years ago the craze of indie rockers saw the introduction of guyliner which never really took off. But Men’s weekly mag Shortlist often has a section on skin care and even once published an article all about male foundation, and along with rather made up Rylan all over the papers due to X Factor, male make up is not considered unfamiliar territory in the UK. With the male skin care section in Boots constantly expanding to include more then just deodorant and razors, the men folk of the UK have really started to make an effort when it comes to grooming and keeping up appearances.

BigBang TOP Man Make Up

Big Bang’s TOP demonstrates the more drastic make up of male idols

This BBC article is actually really interesting as it goes on about how the male gender in South Korea is deeply traditional due to compulsory military service. This “new appetite” for skincare and make up is apparently reflecting a different side to Korean manhood. But as followers of Hallyu wave, men and make up does not actually seem that surprising to us. We are all more than used to eyelinered members of boybands and even male celebs such as Jang Geun Suk and SHINee endorsing make up and skincare products. In Hallyu wave land, flower boys were the norm with their perfect fashions, hair and make up and when beastly idols like 2PM broke out into Kpop land, they were the minority.

But the BBC takes a look at the normal South Korean man, if you’re not an idol, what makes you turn to male make up? This article uses Yu-jin as an example. He first started using BB cream when he was in the military and was mainly using it as a form of sunblock for those long days out in the sun; East Asians prefer it pale and interesting. He now uses BB cream regularly as well as having a full facial skincare routine. Yu-jin explains that he used to have acne and since the BB cream has made him look and feel much better “now people say [he] looks more handsome“. So Korean men are not using make up as a way of making themselves look prettier and more feminine but for practical reasons, such as to look more presentable, as the article also goes on to explain how competitive it can get in the South Korean career world.

A few years ago, there was an advert which said, ‘Your appearance is also your strategy,’ meaning that grooming yourself is a reflection of your competency, part of your value as a complete package. It gives you a competitive edge.

So sometimes, feeling like you look the part could give you that edge you need over your competitors in the business world. You wear a suit to an interview to look smart so why not dress up your face for the part too? It’s all about looking presentable. Feeling good about your looks can also help you be more confident as when you look good on the outside, you can’t help but feel good on the inside too.

Basic non-threatening packaging

Basic non-threatening packaging

It also helps that BB cream is not really marketed as make up; the packaging is basic and is considered a “practical, down-to-earth” every day necessity. This has led to South Korea’s biggest cosmetics company Amore Pacific to believe that around 20% of young men are willing to use some sort of foundation and will not feel any stigma. South Korean men have opened their minds to make up as in today’s society, appearance can be everything even if you are not an idol. Make up is merely being used as a basic form of improving yourself, like brushing your hair and making sure you’re clean shaven.

When questioned, many women in South Korea are very accepting of the idea of men using make up. But one important thing we would like to point out is that we are only talking about skin improvement. Maybe a bit eyeliner if you are a idol, model or aspiring rock star. But keep your hands off the eyeshadows boys! The world is not quite ready for that yet…It also helps that BB cream is not really marketed as make up; the packaging is basic and is considered a “practical, down-to-earth” every day necessity. This has led to South Korea’s biggest cosmetics company Amore Pacific to believe that around 20% of young men are willing to use some sort of foundation and will not feel any stigma. South Korean men have opened their minds to make up as in today’s society, appearance can be everything even if you are not an idol. Make up is merely being used as a basic form of improving yourself, like brushing your hair and making sure you’re clean shaven.

We personally feel there is nothing wrong with men making themselves look more handsome and it’s actually nice that men have started to look after their skin. Do you think that the general male population of the UK would consider using some sort of cover up? What if we were to call it something subtle like ‘tinted moisturiser’? One little touch by South Koreans we especially love is that you can now get special camouflage face paints which are designed to be gentler on your skin then your regular war paint (see top image). A genius idea! Make sure you check out the original BBC Article, a very interesting read, and if you are a big follower of Hallyu, it’s nice to see a publication highlight a different perspective of South Korean men. Also a huge thanks to our reader Jong Chan for bringing this interesting article to our attention! :)

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