South Korean Men & Grooming.You Won’t Believe The Grooming Habits Of South Korean Men – But You Should Adopt Them.
To the uninitiated foreigner, South Korean men seem like a complex bunch. On the one hand, they are tough. Each one of them does at least two years of rigorous military training. They work insane hours at the office or factory. They have survived one of the most tortuous education systems in the world. And when it comes to shot-for-shot drinking, few other men dare compete.
Yet you wouldn’t know this from the look of most Korean men. In Western parlance, they look effeminate — and they’re proud of it. Hair, skin, nails, and fashion are all rigorously cared for. This is a society, they insist, where appearance is everything, and as such, it’s imperative for men to look their best.
Looking Your Best
“All of society, not only women, but also men, are trying to seek value from their appearances,” says Noh Seung-woo, of O & Young Plastic Surgery. South Korea has the highest rates of cosmetic surgery in the world, and men are getting in on the craze. Rhinoplasty, Noh says, is particularly striking on men. “When good looking people meet, life is fancier,” according to Noh.
Down the road at Hill’s Dermatology, Dr. Park Eun-sang says 20 percent of her patients are men. They come in for acne care, Botox, and “filler care,” similar to collagen. “There are many men who think appearance is very important, more than back in the day,” Park says.
But most men eschew the more radical Botox and knife treatments. But they do often follow a rather over-the-top skincare routine. At the Skin Forever beauty salon, Kim Si Young explains the four to five stages she thinks every man must go through to have healthy, beautiful skin.
First, she says, cleanse with warm water, and then blot with cold water. Then apply a product called “toner,” a clear liquid with a light fragrance, which is meant to moisturize the top layer.
Following toner, out comes the “essence,” a light colored translucent liquid with a light fragrance, slightly sticky. That is meant to give a deeper moisturizing. Then it’s the moisturizer, which is similar to anymoisturizing cream back home. Finally acne cream goes on if needed, and then the piece-de-resistance, “B.B. Cream,” which is tinted like foundation, and has SPF to block the sun.
All of this is meant to protect the skin, moisturize, balance the “oil to moisture” ratio, and make your skin look its best. “Men should take care of themselves these days,” Kim says. “Young people who work in business, they don’t want to look too dark or too pale to face customers. They’ve learned this themselves.”
Even if I’m skeptical, the men I speak to in the street aren’t. Nam Woo Yong, who works at a chic clothing store on the fashionable Garosu-gil, says it’s important for him not only to take care of his skin, but to wear concealer and eyeliner. “Most men use BB cream [if not eyeliner]. Every generation there is a trend and people follow it,” he says.
Kim Yun studied in Philadelphia for a year and has seen the difference between Western and Korean men himself. “I stayed with five other roommates, and they really didn’t care that much. I try to care more,” he says. He uses toner, emulsion, and various creams. “I’m so old now, so I try to care of myself.” He’s 27.
What Does This Say About Korean Society?
“The way you look, your image, has the utmost importance for jobs, for finding a mate, for impressing the parents, whatever it may be,” says David Cho, CEO and co-founder of SoKo Glam, a company that imports Korean cosmetics into the U.S. “And when it comes to skincare, it’s something that’s ingrained from quite a young age.” Cho says his own Korean mother instructed him as a child to take care of his skin, something he’s continued to do.The biggest difference between men’s style in Korea and in the West is that Koreans don’t have that fear of looking “effeminate” — it doesn’t exist here.