K-beauty has risen to prominence in the last few years, thanks to the likes of TikTok and Instagram singing its praises — but why has it become so popular, and what does this mean for the way in which we view skincare in the western world?
Korean culture places a large emphasis on the importance of taking care of yourself, as well as your appearance, with women in Korea spending more time and money on their skincare than we in the UK typically do.
Korean women have become more prominent in the public eye with the recent release of box office hits like ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’. With their diverse casts originating from East Asia, many viewers couldn’t help but notice the seemingly flawless skin of many of the actresses in these movies: Gemma Chan, despite being in her forties, still has perfect ‘glass-like’ skin. The actress appeared in the well-known YouTube series, Vogue’s ‘Beauty Secrets’, to share her makeup and skincare tips and tricks with the world. One of her go-to products is the TikTok-famous lip mask by South Korean brand Laneige (admittedly also a favourite of mine), which she, along with most of the online skincare community, hails as a holy grail lip product and the saviour of cold-weather chapped lips.
In the past, the beauty and skincare industry has preyed upon and exploited women’s insecurities in order to sell products, often promising to ‘fix’ or ‘correct’ completely natural aspects of a woman’s appearance. In recent years, companies have started to market their products as ‘self care’, and they place a large emphasis on the importance of taking a few minutes to take care of your skin each night, as opposed to using their products to ‘fix’ your appearance. Now, it is all about loving the skin that you’re in. However, this does not mean that the endless pushing of beauty products onto women is not still, at its core, giving into the capitalist notion of selling us things that we don’t truly need — regardless of the way it is marketed. There’s almost no end to the plethora of products claiming to bring you one step closer to the skin of your dreams — cleansers, toners, boosters, serums, oils; it’s practically impossible to put a number on just how many types of products there truly are on the skincare market. To the average person (AKA those of us that aren’t skincare-junkies) the seemingly never-ending list of products you’re told you should be using might sound like a lot to handle, and can feel overwhelming to a beginner looking for a simple routine.
However, despite the occasionally overwhelming variety of products, the popularity of K-beauty is a breath of fresh air in the skincare world and helps provide a much-needed new perspective on beauty. With western ideas dominating the beauty industry for decades, we are now starting to see the benefits of different cultural approaches towards beauty and skincare gain popularity. We can see a similar example of this with ‘hair oiling’, which has been a large part of South Asian culture for centuries; this concept has recently gained traction in the west as part of the ‘clean girl’ aesthetic. There is something to be said about the western world adopting, and acting like they’ve just invented, these beauty practices, when in actuality women in other parts of the world have been enjoying them for centuries. However, many, myself included, are simply happy to see our cultures garner positive representation in mainstream media for a change.
One reason K-beauty has generated attention in recent years is its (at times) unconventional approach to skincare. I recently purchased an eye cream that had an endless array of five-star reviews hailing the product as completely changing the game of skincare. The catch? It’s made from snail slime. This slightly gross-sounding ingredient promised to work wonders, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in love with this product and already planning to repurchase. I would just like to clarify that no snails are harmed in the process! Experts say that snail slime (or, to use the technical term, mucin) actually works best when the snails are at their happiest, so there are no ethical concerns when it comes to its use in beauty products. Another unconventional beauty ingredient rising in the K-beauty world is onions. Yes, that’s right! This vegetable, that you most likely have sitting in your fridge right now, is made up of skin-loving ingredients, such as quercetin, an incredibly effective anti-inflammatory. With its proven effectiveness and transformative results, it isn’t hard to see why it’s becoming such a staple in the K-beauty community.
Overall, as the world jumps aboard the K-beauty bandwagon, it is important to remember that you (and your skin) are perfect just the way you are. Things like makeup and skincare should be something fun that makes you feel more confident in your appearance, rather than something you feel you must use in order to look beautiful.
Featured image: Sora Shimazaki on Pexels