When it comes to men’s beauty, South Korea leads the way. Look at any K-pop star and you’ll see lipstick, eyeliner and more than a hint of eyeshadow. On the street, many young men wear lip tint and foundation. Korean men spend more on cosmetics than men anywhere else in the world — in 2015, market researchers Euromonitor estimated that the country’s male beauty market was worth over a billion US dollars. Masculinity and impeccable grooming go hand-in-hand. Here’s a quick guide to the basics of Korean male beauty, and the best products out there.
Many young South Korean men don’t leave the house without a dab of BB cream, the secret weapon in any Korean beauty arsenal. BB (‘beauty balm’) cream is a multi-purpose lotion that moisturises, protects skin from the sun and provides light foundation coverage to smooth over any blotchiness or impurities.
This BB cream smooths over any lumps and bumps easily, instantly making your skin look a little more polished. The beige shade is natural-looking and light enough to go over most pale-skinned male complexions, and the cream has an extra dose of plant-based collagens to tighten and firm your skin, reducing the appearance of wrinkles.
Men tend to be more prone to visible blackheads, so these are an essential part of your beauty kit. Nose pore strips are applied to a damp, thoroughly cleansed nose and left for 10 to 20 minutes before being peeled off. The strips contain ingredients such as activated charcoal and witch hazel to draw gunk out of your pores and effectively remove blackheads.
What to try: Dr. Jart+ Pore Master Patch
You can buy inexpensive nose pore strips in cosmetics stores, pharmacies and most convenience stores, which will clean your pores well. To take it up a notch, try the Dr. Jart+ Pore Master Patch, which uses a two-step routine and two separate patches to not only cleanse, but tighten and tone pores.
The hottest lip look right now is the ‘candy stain’; instead of applying lip tint to the whole of your lips, it’s applied to the inside and blended out with a finger or cotton bud to create a natural-looking, easy-squeezy swipe of colour. Lip tint is a better choice for men than lipstick — it stays on your lips all day, whether you’re eating, drinking or (ahem) puckering up.
What to try: Etude House Dear Darling Water Gel Tint
Etude House is a great place to go if you want to experiment, as they have a huge variety of cosmetics at inexpensive prices. The Dear Darling Water Gel Tint comes in a range of red, pink and orange shades that are vivid if applied thickly, but surprisingly natural if applied lightly. Choose a bright pink version if you’re pale and want to get the K-pop look, or an orangey-red for a more masculine effect. If you’re darker-skinned, go for a deep red to add a pop of rich colour to your face.
Sheet masks make for a quick and easy boost to your skincare routine; just pop on the mask and let your skin absorb the serum for a healthy glow that lasts all day. They’re excellent for relieving tired skin and smoothing out any problem areas.
What to try: Too Cool For School Egg Cream Mask Hydration
This bestselling mask is popular with men and women. It uses egg serum and egg yolk to deeply hydrate the skin, as well as coconut extract to brighten your complexion in just 20 minutes. It’s a good mask to start with, as it delivers a power punch of hydration and skin firming properties (mainly from proteins in the egg) so you can see a difference after just one application.
Whilst your dad’s facial cleansing routine might have involved a bar of hand soap and a splash of cold water, today’s metropolitan man knows that delicate facial skin needs a little more care. Cleansing foams are creamy liquids that foam up in contact with water, effectively removing the day’s grit and dirt from your face.
What to try: Skinfood Black Sugar Perfect Cleansing Foam for Men
Like a lot of Skinfood’s products, this cleansing foam smells good enough to eat. It contains dark Brazilian sugar, which naturally draws moisture from the air into your skin for long-lasting hydration. The dual-action foam gets ingrained dirt out of your pores without drying the skin, and can also be used as shaving cream.
Toner is the secret to glowing Korean skin. It’s an important part of skincare for both men and women, and K-pop stars such as BTS swear by it. It’s a thin liquid — at first sight, it looks just like water — which is packed full of active ingredients to hydrate and treat your skin. You should apply it after cleansing thoroughly, while your skin is still wet as this allows ingredients to penetrate your skin more deeply.
What to try: Laneige Homme Active Water Skin Toner
This is a light, all-purpose toner designed specifically for male faces. It uses ocean minerals from seawater to deliver nutrients and hydration to your skin, and smooths rough skin. It’s best for normal to oily skin, as it contains alcohol; this helps prevent stickiness but can have a drying effect on very sensitive skin.