Recently, the beauty industry has been revolutionized with the presence of products that per-haps a few years ago we would have imagined only in cartoons. Sheet masks with the heal-ing and rejuvenating properties of several creams and oils, creamy lip tints that subtly blend with the natural tone of your lips, barely making it look like you’re actually wearing makeup, and even quirky cushions shaped like pandas, apples, or other funny figures be-cause, let’s face it, while we all search for quality products, we cannot deny that a visually appealing presentation is part of the delight of buying a new item for our beauty routine. All this is a reflection of how the South Korean beauty industry is blending into our lives, and sure enough, it has come to stay, for the world is falling in love with the innovative and affordable core of their products, as well as the central role that a perfect image has in their lifestyle. It might sound conceited at first; however, the importance of beauty in South Ko-rea, which also makes it the capital of cosmetic surgeries in the world, has more to do with a philosophy of life and personal care.
South Korea’s expertise on beauty can be traced back to the 7th century AD. While back then a clear skin, rose tinted lips, and well-shaped brows were meant to convey a person’s high status, nowadays these standards, which are the aim of most cosmetic products, are rather used to denote a healthy lifestyle, self-care, and even commitment. The main purpose of their lengthy makeup and skincare routines is to make the person look “naturally beautiful,” that is, the makeup has to be subtle, just enough to highlight the natural glow of the lips, blend the color of the face, and shape the brow and eyes. The true protagonist of this routine, however, is the skin: it becomes a way for both women and men to let the world know that natural beauty comes from self-care, pampering your face with the adequate products for your type of skin, and investing a generous and well-deserved amount of time and money on that.
However, for the South Korean society, skincare routines are not the only way to achieve that naturally beautiful look. We cannot overlook another important area in which this country’s beauty industry excels: cosmetic surgery.
While there isn’t a specific social or historic event to explain the recent boom of cosmetic surgeries in South Korea, it could be considered the result of different factors, like the display of certain types of faces in the famous doramas (a.k.a. South Korean soap operas) as well as in the members of K-Pop bands (whom many people, specially teenagers, look up to), or even globalization itself, because just as the Western world is embracing the best of South Korea’s beauty industry, Koreans have embraced Western beauty standards as well.
South Korea has the highest rate of plastic surgery worldwide.
We can see that in the popularity of the double eye-lid surgery, which is meant to make the eye look bigger. Nonetheless, this type of surgery is not the only option in which local surgeons excel. In the city of Seoul, for instance, in the GangnamDistrict, hundreds of clinics offer not only the eyelid surgery, but also complete facial reconstructions, implants, nose and jaw surgeries, and even teeth whitening.
The reason why many recur to any of these procedures, and why there is a high rate of surgical tourism in this country, is because the surgeons’ dexterity is such that their patients do not even seem to have gone under the doctor’s scalpel. That is why they can even consider surgeries as a means to make their beauty look “natural,” or even from a more empowering perspective, it’s a means for them to feel more comfortable in their bodies.
South Korea’s popularity in the beauty industry is just rising, and it will keep growing as more Western brands start adopting some of the ingredients they use for their products, as well as some of the products themselves, like the BB creams, “cushion make-up,” and oils.
No matter what type of skin, or face, and even the type of make up each person likes to wear, there is a product for everyone; more importantly, a way to acquire a healthy look, and by doing so, feel good about themselves.
Text: Andrea Mejía ± Photo: : SEOULSYNC / SHIN HYUN JI FOR W MAGAZINE ONLINE / PETER LINDBERGH / FIONDWALL / AR / GUCCI / TFR