Reflecting on my time in Korea is one of my favorite pastimes. Especially after returning to the States, I remembered a lot more differences I had experienced during my semester there. One of the things Korea is most famous for is it’s top of the line skincare. Every block in Seoul had at least three skincare stores open and ready to sell to the masses. The obsession continued with advertisements of K-pop stars advertising new products from the most popular skincare lines all over the country. If you take a trip to Gangnam, the most expensive neighborhood in Seoul, you can see the countless numbers of plastic surgery clinics lining the road.
The skincare and cosmetic market in Korea is supported by the Korean culture. There is even a “10 step skincare routine” many Korean women swear by and follow religiously to achieve the perfect porcelain skin. Korean people begin their dedication to healthy, beautiful skin at a young age. From what I heard, parents start teaching their kids about moisturizing and protecting their skin from the sun around the time they learn to brush their own teeth.
Although I remember my mother slathering sunscreen on me as a child, she always was more concerned about skin cancer. In Korea, the skin is protected from the sun more to preserve wrinkle-free, porcelain skin that is coveted in Korean society. Instead of self-tanning products, they have whitening products for the skin. Just before summer, each cosmetic store had sales on sunscreen with huge amounts of SPF and supposed whitening properties. K-pop stars are often idolized for their flawless skin, clear skin.
Skincare is certainly high-quality and affordable. It’s also not entirely uncommon for parents to gift plastic surgery to their daughters on their 16th birthday to get double eyelids. This plastic surgery is also quite affordable compared to western standards. The Korean beauty standards are vastly different from those in the west and were interesting to learn about. Although they may seem extreme, there are certainly standards in the west that people take very seriously as well, such as idolizing tan skin or certain body types. Seeing old pieces of literature from Korea a few hundred years ago was also interesting as it reinforced the beauty ideals of long dark hair and very pale skin. Although certain things such as double eyelids most certainly were adopted from western cultures. Regardless, Korean skincare products were fun to learn about and test out.