An article by Foster Klug of The Associated Press highlights a new but pervasive trend with men in South Korea—skin care. And not just soaps and moisturizer, either. Apparently, men in South Korea are expected to have perfect skin, and make-up on men is common.
Cho Won-hyuk, a young South Korean man, explains what’s behind his attention to his skin:
“Having a clean, neat face makes you look sophisticated and creates an image that you can handle yourself well,” the 24-year-old college student said. “Your appearance matters, so when I wear makeup on special occasions, it makes me more confident.”
The article makes clear that while South Korea is a socially-coservative country (which also requires a minimum 2 year commitment to military service), their men spend nearly $500 million a year on skin care products… Which makes up for 21% of total sales in the market.
The difference between how South Korean men and American men view make-up is huge:
While U.S. cosmetics companies report growing sales in male cosmetics, American men are often wary of makeup. “Men Wearing Makeup a Disturbing Trend” was how American columnist Jim Shea titled a recent post.
In South Korea, however, effeminate male beauty is “a marker of social success,” according to Roald Maliangkay, head of Korean studies at Australian National University.
When and how did the shift toward men partaking in what is generally thought to be a feminine pursuit happen?
The metamorphosis of South Korean men from macho to makeup over the last decade or so can be partly explained by fierce competition for jobs, advancement and romance in a society where, as a popular catchphrase puts it, “appearance is power.” Women also have a growing expectation that men will take the time and effort to pamper their skin.
What do you think, men? I think we can all agree that appearance is hugely important in the USA, as well. We may not automatically think “handsome” when we picture the most powerful business men in America (or other Western countries), but beautiful people have been documented to elicit a more positive response in many social situations, including job interviews.
Do you think those of us in the West are headed toward the type of male skincare routines that guys in South Korea are into?
Photo of man with facial mask courtesy of Shutterstock