The Mindset of a Skin-Obsessed Culture

Once I had my feet on the ground in Seoul, it didn’t take me long to realize that I was living in a place where skin care was more than skin deep: It was a part of the culture in Korea. This was a new concept, but the more I learned about it, the more excited I was to embrace it.

At the time it was the mid-2000s, and Korean beauty was just then starting to make headway in the rest of Asia, with a small yet devoted following in the United States. If you wanted Korean beauty products, you had to work for them: You could commute to stores that were overpriced and hit-or-miss, or order goods online and swallow the fact that the shipping was going to cost you more than the products themselves

Good Skin Goes Beyond the Surface

Korean beauty is more than just ten steps and sheet masks it’s not just what you use, but how you think. From all my experience, this is what I’ve come to observe about Korean beauty and the mindset that drives it. The way your skin feels and looks is priority number one. But in Korea, skin culture goes beyond products, and both men and women will go to great lengths to protect and nurture their skin. Whether they use sun umbrellas to shield themselves from UVA rays or drink antioxidant tea to prevent premature aging (and they probably do both), Koreans recognize that skincare is a holistic practice. There are several individual steps that contribute to the overall goal of beautiful skin.

Brand Loyalty Is Overrated

Korean consumers rarely stick with one brand, which keeps beauty companies on their toes. Shoppers are constantly in the market for the next best thing, and the Korean beauty industry has to develop products quickly to satisfy those needs. This also means the products have to deliver because no one’s sticking around if they don’t work.

Customers also don’t automatically think Korean products are superior to all other brands. There are plenty of natives who use luxury-brand cosmetics from the United States, Europe, and elsewhere. Scope out a Korean’s bathroom counter or makeup bag, and you’re likely to find a healthy and diverse mix of brands from home and abroad.

Cute Is Not Overrated

Korean companies understand that packaging is important. We may be cautioned to not judge a book by its cover, but in this book, it’s totally okay to judge a cheek stain by its cat ears or a mascara by its dinosaur drawings.

Skin First, Makeup Second

Instead of trying to cover up flaws with makeup and spot solutions, Koreans tend to focus on skin-care products that get at the root of conditions and treat problems before they start. Relying wholly on makeup not only looks unnatural, but it’s also a temporary fix to a long-lasting issue.

This mentality is exactly why Seoul street style is filled with women who expertly pull off the no-makeup makeup look. With their skin-care game down pat, and their basic canvas prepped and primed, they can go outside with very minimal makeup and still look flawless.

Skin Care Is Not Just for Grown-Ups

When we’re kids, we’re taught proper hygiene, from brushing our teeth before we go to bed to washing our hands after using the bathroom. In Korea, kids are taught about skin care as well. Long before they even have to think about adolescent acne, they’re taught about everything from exfoliating and moisturizing to a generous application of SPF.

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