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.

Image courtesy of Jo Turner

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.

Image courtesy of Jo Turner

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.


As a person who was born in Korea and raised in Korea, i think there is quite a lot of true information on the article, but also i think some are exaggerated. But yeah, many or some guys in Korea, they wear makeup but not too much i guess, and they go to a plastic surgery, particularly for rhinoplasty. And most guys take care of their appearance, therefore; it is absolutely common that you care about fashion stuffs and skincare stuffs, otherwise it will be hard to get a girlfriend ever. And yes, K-POP singers and actors also do makeup and plastic surgery and it directly affects Korean men. I guess because of this phenomenon that many girls in Asia countries, including Korea too, are fond of K-POP celebrities, and of course most Korean guys are aware of this phenomenon and they want to dare to be good-looking guy. I think, as a Korean, basically taking care of my own skin or body is actually important. HOWEVER, i strongly believe that Koreans are doing too much. I’m so glad that i live in the north america. If i go back to Korea, then i would be kind of a looser-looking bastard.

“It’s not a concern,” says James Turbull, a teacher at Dongseon University in Busan, who runs the blog The Grand Narrative, which explores feminism, sexuality, and pop culture in Korea. “You come to Korea and you bring this baggage of what is masculine, what is feminine, what is attractive, and so on. And then you encounter Korean men and women, and they don’t share those values. And guys in particular, they may come across as really, really effeminate to you.”

Image courtesy of Jo Turner

Turnbull admits that it’s easy to exaggerate how much Korean men are into beauty products — his own students, for the most part, simply can’t afford it. But he says that 20 percent of male cosmetics in the world are sold in South Korea, so someone is buying them.

Cho was raised in the U.S. and came back to South Korea with the U.S. military after his tour in Iraq, and was amazed at the ads for plastic surgery and cosmetics.

“I asked myself […] ‘Is it shallow?’” Cho says. “And initially I thought this is terrible, they’re so image-focused, it’s not good. But I think after time, after living there for five years, I really started to understand why.” He says now he respects how Koreans want to put their best foot forward, and want to impress. “I think every culture can work on their vices. But I began to understand a little bit more and I don’t judge them for it.”

Both Cho and Turnbull say the media have a lot to do with the focus on male beauty, especially the pop stars, actors, and comedians who dominate pop culture here. In particular, the phenomenon of Kkotminam — basically translated, “flower beauty man,” men who wear a lot of makeup and are radically into their appearance — came from certain celebrities, like pop-star Rain and actor Bae Yong-joon.

But Turnbull also thinks a lot of it is pressure from women. “Probably most of the reason guys are doing this, is because they’re like guys all over the world — they want to get laid.”

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