The rise of makeup and beauty interest among Korean men may appear as an 'effeminate' thing for non-Koreans, as many still regard men to be 'masculine'. Apart from KPOP's influences, we'll take you through this article to explain why Korean men use makeup nowadays.
One of KPOP's defining aesthetics is beauty, as the entertainment industry is filled with perfectly sculpted faces of beautiful women and "pretty boys". For most outsiders (including you), it's becoming more difficult to tell the difference between male and female KPOP idols. Some still hold distinct perceptions on what makes a man look "masculine" and a woman "feminine", and KPOP just... completely erases those perceptions and turns them into blurred lines.
In recent years, more male KPOP idols have become brand ambassadors for major beauty companies. Here are some notable mentions:
1) BTS was known for being ambassadors to many brands. One of their beauty collaborations was with a K-beauty brand, VT Cosmetics. They subsequently launched a unisex fragrance with VT Cosmetics called “L’atelier des Subtils”.
2) For ATEEZ, makeup and hair are just as important as their musical impression. The group is known for their powerful stage performances, elaborate stage costumes, and bold makeup that enhanced their out-of-this-world aura. In fact, ATEEZ's leader, Hongjoong, has always sports nail polish on his left pinky nail, as he and his groupmates recently joined the Polished Man campaign.
3) Former WANNA ONE member and current solo artist, Kang Daniel became the official brand model for Givenchy Beauty.
4) GOT7’s Jackson Wang became the first male celebrity to be one of the faces of Armani Beauty for a female fragrance.
5) MONSTA X also became TONYMOLY’s brand ambassadors, another South Korean brand.
Holland, the first openly gay South Korean soloist once said in an Allure interview, "Cosmetics are for everyone."
Native to South Koreans, it is not surprising to see well-groomed men wearing daily natural makeup. A CNN report found, at least three-quarters of South Korean men undergo grooming or beauty treatments in hair salons as well as dedicated beauty parlors.
Not to mention, most average Korean men no longer just rely on basic skincare products like toner and skin moisturizer, but rather, they have started applying makeup, like eyebrow powders and lip balm, to "enhance" their physical appearances.
In a growing and aging society, taking care of one's skin is the new definition of being healthy, apart from being strong, as men have traditionally been conditioned to.
But a 2010 study revealed the reason behind South Korea's interest in male beauty - traditional masculinity is slowly being rejected by women as a response against deep gender inequality in the country.
While male beauty remains as an accepted concept due to increasing awareness among young men, traditional gender roles will still be hard to change, as the country is still a deeply patriarchal society.
South Korea is known to have one of the world's highest rates of cosmetic surgery per capita, something that is uncommon, simply because the Korean society highly regards their physical appearance. Additionally, South Korean men are also shaping the beauty industry (thanks to KPOP’s influences) as the Korean cosmetics industry is worth $7 billion.
According to a report by Euromonitor, South Korean men have become the world's biggest spenders on skincare, where the country has seen a 44% growth between 2011 and 2017. However, South Korea is an ultra-competitive society because having good physical appearance can mobilize young employees upward on the corporate ladder.
But all in all, this is good news for the beauty industry because they have other demographics they can focus on for years to come - men.
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