When it comes to beauty, Korean and American products pretty much dominate the industry. Due to the difference in their perception of beauty, the same product can be used very differently. American beauty emphasizes on contouring and smoky eyeshadows whereas Korean beauty leans towards a more youthful and natural look made up with clean-looking faces with little eyeshadow or none at all.
As the saying says “beauty lies in the eye of the beholder”, both camps have their own supporters but there are also people like myself who loves switching up both styles for different moods. There is no one that is better than the other, and both Korean and American products have their own pros and cons, so in this article today we compare products of similar functions and the differences in the two countries.
Koreans have been known to prefer makeup looks that make them appear younger than their actual age. Thus they make use of lighter bases such as BB creams/cushions that provide a more natural finish. The coverage is, of course, not as high as a usual foundation, but we’re going for the as-natural-as-possible look here. However, if you’re not one who is already blessed with good skin, then just a BB cream/cushion is not going to work for you. This is also the reason why Koreans place so much emphasis on their skincare routine (which will be mentioned later on).
We recommend: Laneige’s BB Cushion
Now when it comes to American beauty, we think of a heavily contoured face like Kim Kardashian, along with long fluttery fake lashes and highlighters at the right spots. The American base makeup requires a lot more time and effort to create the perfectly sculpted look, which therefore proves the difference between the Koreans’ and Americans’ definition of beauty. The Koreans love it all youthful and natural, whereas the Americans like it more mature and precise.
We recommend: Urban Decay’s All Nighter Liquid Foundation and Kat Von D’s Shade + Light Contour Palette.
Sheet masks are Koreans’ favourite. We always see celebrities posting selfies of them using sheet masks, or the male/female leads in dramas “masking” religiously. A sheet mask is a piece of cotton mask soaked with lots of vitamins, amino acids and minerals. All you have to do is leave it on your face for 15-20 minutes and you’re good to go. It has become a favourite due to its convenience and claims of whitening, tightening, or even reducing fine lines. Koreans have openly declared their love for sheet masks over traditional clay masks.
For recommendations for great and affordable skincare products, check out this article!
We recommend: Etude House’s I Need You Mask
Americans have always been huge supporters of tub masks or homemade DIY masks made up of natural ingredients. However, there has been a trend of sheet masks going around that exposed more Americans to sheet masks. So who knows? They might become sheet mask advocates one day.
Tub masks like clay or gel work very differently from sheet masks as they have to be manually applied onto the face. Clay masks, especially, are supposed help clean your pores and get rid of blackheads. They dry up on the face and have to be washed off afterwards. Due to the nature of these masks, some find that clay masks dries up their skin too much. There’s a rumour that you should never wait till your clay mask dries fully because that is when it starts to absorb moisture from your skin. Another type of tub mask would be those that come in gel-like consistency. They are applied onto the face as well, but are definitely not as drying as a clay mask.
We recommend: Fresh’s Rose Petal Mask
Almost every beauty product you find in Korea will contain a minimum spf of 15, and BB cushions commonly have an spf of 50+. That’s how particular Koreans are about protecting themselves from the sun. In Korea and parts of Asia, fair skin is highly desirable. In the past, people felt that having tanned skin would mean you’re poor and work hard outside under the sun, whereas if you had fair skin it would mean that you’re well off enough to stay indoors all day. It may or may not be the same reason as to why the fair skin look is still highly sought after, but it is apparent that Koreans shun away from the sun.
We recommend: Biore Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF50+
The American belief is just the opposite of the Korean. Contrary to that of Korean belief, where being fair means you’re rich and do not have to work, Americans believe that being fair means you can’t afford to go on holidays and that being tan means you can afford a trip to the Bahamas or the Maldives to soak up all that sun. So now we know why the Kardashians are always touching up their tans by travelling to beaches around the world.
We recommend: Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Oil
To achieve the youthful, dewy look (with further help from a BB cushion), Koreans are known to place great emphasis on their skincare routine. Nevermind the endless number of products you can find in just a single range, there is a famous “10-step routine” and apparently many Koreans incorporate that as part of their skincare routine. The 10-steps are:
- Cleansing with oil
- Cleansing with cleanser (double cleansing)
- Eye Cream
- Face Cream
Yes we know, the list seems endless and it looks like it’s gonna take you hours, but this is what Koreans claim to do daily to achieve that perfect poreless skin. When it comes to skincare products, of course there are range of products infused with tomato essence, watermelon, or even gold caviar. The skincare options in Korea is basically endless! Shoppers will be promoted to purchase the full range of products in order to get the best results. If you’re someone who loves pampering your skin, Korean skincare products will be your heaven.
We suggest: SkinFood’s Tomato Whitening Line
As compared to Korean skincare routine, American skincare routine is usually not as intense. A daily routine usually comprises of 3 main steps, cleansing, toning and moisturizing. There are people who use many other products, but the general population follow the 3 main steps. It is, of course, a lot simpler than the Korean routine. Americans do not place as much emphasis on spf in their product as much as Koreans. American skincare places more importance on treating acne, and there are more acne-related product in the market than whitening products.
We recommend: Clinique 3-Step Kit
5. Eye Makeup
When it comes to eye makeup, less is more for the Korean look. Koreans usually put little to no eyeshadow, and eyeshadow shades are usually pretty close to their original skin tones. They do love emphasizing on the eyebags by dabbing sparkly white shadow/liner on the lower lashline. This look is called “aegyo sal”, and it is said to make them look younger and youthful.
We recommend: 3CE Dot Eyeshadow Palette #Sienna
Runway makeup is proof that Americans simply love loud and bold eye makeup. Be it extra long feathered lashes, or hot pink glitter shadows, they bring out Americans’ love for super eye makeup. We often see photos of perfectly applied eyeshadow on Twitter, or gifs of people applying a perfect winged liner. I’ve got to admit it’s pretty satisfying to watch, maybe because eyeshadow is super hard to nail. You get the picture: bold, bright, sparkly and very unlike the Korean eye makeup indeed. Find out what are the best matte lipsticks to pair your eyeshadow with our 1o Must-Have Matte Lipsticks.
We recommend: Tartelette in Bloom
As quoted from Alicia Yoon, who runs K-beauty website Peach and Lily, “Being high maintenance is not something to brag about in America. But in Korea, if you’re low maintenance, people are like, ‘Why? You should take care of yourself.'” This shows how much Koreans believe that having good skin means you’re taking care of yourself, and how good your skin is shows how healthy you are.
There is no winner or loser in comparing Korean and American products, just which one you personally prefer and which look you’re going for. Sure, Song Hye Kyo is equally as well-received as the Kardashians are, and that’s the same with the two sides of beauty. If you don’t know which kind of product/beauty routine you like better, try them both and find out for yourself! 🙂