Makeup on men becomes more acceptable in Korea
“Macho men” and “tough guys” were popular in the past, but recently, “pretty boys” are the trend.
A considerable number of Korean men have realized the value of an “attractive appearance.” As a result, the men’s cosmetics industry is expected to surpass the 1 trillion won mark this year. The market has steadily expanded from 570 billion won in 2008 to 650 billion won in 2009, 800 billion won in 2010 and 900 billion won last year.
Surprisingly, colorful makeup items like eye shadow and blush are just as popular as BB creams a type of light foundation and moisturizers. It is easy to find men wearing foundation and eyeliner in places like Hongdae where college students flock or downtown Myeong-dong where foreign tourists are crowded. Makeup is not just for women any more, an expert said.
Kim Myeong-il, a 21-year-old college student, has been wearing makeup since last year. “I always use moisturizer, primer and BB cream,” he says. “I wear eyeliner and lip gloss on special occasions.”
Kim must wake up early every morning because he spends over an hour on his makeup. His makeup stand is crowded with dozens of cosmetics , including moisturizers, BB cream, sunscreen, primer, eyeliner, and lip gloss.
He spends about 100,000 to 300,000 won a month on cosmetics. He says he works part-time jobs to cover his spending.
Han Jeong-hae, 23, has detailed knowledge about makeup. He knows what kinds of chemicals are in cosmetics and how they affect the skin.
Most of his knowledge comes from “cafés” or online blogs. There is a large number of online cafés dedicated to men’s cosmetics. Bigger cafés have thousands of members. This shows how popular makeup is among men recently.
Despite this popularity, Lee Jong-beom, 23, says there is an unwritten rule among men when it comes to makeup.
That rule is “no mascara.”
“We can wear any makeup products we want except for mascara,” says Lee. “It doesn’t look good on men and it makes us look gay.”
The men claim that they wear makeup for the same reasons women do. Desire for beauty is not exclusive to women. Makeup makes both women and men more beautiful and keeps them from becoming just another face in the crowd.
Men claim that makeup improves self-confidence and gives them an edge over the competition, such as in job interviews or love life.
“Beauty is power,” says Lee. “A little extra care is all you need to improve yourself. But a lot of men lose this opportunity because they’re stuck with the obsolete notion that makeup is for women.”
As Lee stated, many people still disapprove of men wearing makeup.
“Some people give me a dirty look,” says Kim. “Some of the elderly tell me makeup is not meant for men.”
However, recently, the pressure has eased on men wearing makeup.
“It’s all thanks to the boy bands wearing dark, smoky makeup nowadays,” says Kim. “Celebrities have made men’s makeup more acceptable.”
The effects of these celebrities can be seen in recent surveys. As many as 54 percent of participants believed “men should wear BB cream” in a survey on ‘makeup on men,’ conducted for singles in their 20s and 30s. This shows that fewer people think “men wearing makeup is distasteful.”
In a few more years, men may be able to powder their faces in the streets without fear.