One day in early 2018, South Korean beauty standards took an unexpected turn.
MBC (Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation) news anchor, Lim Hyeon-ju, ditched her false eyelashes and contact lenses for a pair of round-framed glasses — LIVE on television.
This event instantly became an online sensation, making national headlines.
Because her actions were perceived as a ‘dramatic break’ from the strict South Korean beauty standards placed on women.
Popular beauty standards like the aegyo sal look, v-shape face, chok chok skin, glass skin, pale skin and thin body type — all which have both Korean men, but particularly women, flocking to their goto cosmetic store and plastic surgeons for.
This bears the question:
What’s the fuss behind these South Korean beauty standards? And are they relevant for you and your personalized beauty journey?
In this article, we’ll break down each of the most popular Korean beauty standards and trends, helping you decide whether they’re right for you.
5 Korean Beauty Standards and Trends Worth Considering
1. Large, Round Eyes and the Aegyo sal look
It’s not uncommon for South Korean girls to receive blepharoplasty (double eyelid surgery) for a sweet 16th birthday present or as a graduation gift. Known as the world’s plastic surgery capital, approximately one of every four women in Seoul have gone under the knife.
Per capita, South Korea has the highest ratio of cosmetic surgery procedures with close to 1 million procedures carried out every year.
The most popular procedure is the double-eyelid surgery, which creates creases in the eyelids to give the effect of larger and rounder eyes, which is as common as going to the dentist.
Another beauty ideal is to have accentuated fatty deposits beneath the eye because it gives you a youthful appearance, called aegyo-sal.
The Korean beauty standard of aegyo-sal literally translates to “charming fat”. If this is a look you’re interested in achieving, you can follow makeup tutorials online, get a surgical procedure, fillers and fat grafts, or try using tape to bring out that section beneath the eye yourself. Check out this video if you want to define your eye bags!
2. Youthful Chok Chok Skin
Korean women care not only about their v-shape face or straight nose but their skin’s health and appearance.
At this point in time, the ‘chok chok’ look, which translates to ‘moist’ or ‘damp’, is the most sought after skin complexion. It’s characterized by a commitment to the 10-step routine because it’s a look that requires a long-term commitment and can’t be achieved easily.
The multi-layered skin care routine is based on a skin care first philosophy, where you’re encouraged to focus on prevention and fixing the root cause of skin issues rather than covering it up with makeup.
More products are required to achieve chok chok skin than compared to say, the ‘glass skin’ look.
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3. V-Shape Face and High Arched Nose
Other Korean beauty standards include having a straight, petite nose with a high arch, along with having a v-line face shape. The nose is usually achieved through surgery, whereas the ‘v’-shaped chin involves breaking and shaving the jawline to create a slim, V-line face.
Products like Dodo Label’s Face Maker Lifting Tape have started to hit shelves as a less invasive solution.
They claim you can stick the tape on the side of your jawline, lift your skin and tape it down again for an elfin appearance.
4. Glass Skin, Honey Skin and Cloudless Skin
Glass skin, although similar, is described as translucent, poreless and glass-like in its perfection. It’s for those short on time who want to use fewer products.
The other desirable skin aesthetic is honey skin (kkul-gwang) — a plump and glossy look.
Another skin ideal that’s less trendy, is cloudless skin. Cloudless skin is having skin that’s as close to perfect and poreless as possible, almost like that of a child’s.
The difference between cloudless and glass or honey skin is to focus on developing a healthy aura or having beauty that radiates from within. You achieve this skin by living a healthy lifestyle and adopting a skincare regime that focuses on cleansing away dirt.
If Koreans are all about having plump and dewy skin, the Japanese prefer supple, mochi-like skin, which they call ‘mochi-hada’ which translates to ‘rice-cake skin’. This term is a direct reference to the luscious Asian desserts that are soft and plump, and ideally, your skin would appear equally as dewy, plump and youthful as well.
But for now, in Korea, the chok chok bounce is what’s trending. This quest for poreless, perfect skin may be why Korean women spend twice as much of their income on beauty products than American women, and Korean men spend more on skincare than men in any other country.
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5. Pale Skin or Porcelain Complexion
Pale skin doesn’t stem from an ideal to look Western. Pale skin has always denoted high status across all of Asia. It’s based on the perception that the lower class developed darker skin working out in the harsh sun, and the aristocracy could afford the luxury of not working outside.
Skin lightening has become one of Korea’s most common procedures. The most popular procedure is the glutathione injection which stops pigmentation so the skin can lighten.
If you want this complexion, make a point of protecting your skin from summer UV rays with high SPF sunscreen and makeup to prevent damage.
Are South Korean Beauty Standards for You?
From pale, glass-like skin to a sharp jawline and big, doll eyes, there are many things to note down if you want to achieve the perfect Korean beauty look.
Some trends come and go, but in Korea, flawless, beautiful, and most importantly, inner health, is believed to help you achieve amazing skin.
This skin care philosophy in Korea and Japan is unique because it focuses on hydration and prevention, rather than simply slathering on makeup to hide flaws.
And when it comes to our skin, self-care first is absolutely the most sustainable! Now that’s a refreshing philosophy!
Photos taken from Getty Images and SophiaChong.com