Forget the caked on foundation, the hours spent baking, contouring and beating your skin. This season, the trends point towards skin that breathes, and a fresh, glowing look. And just like that, along with K-dramas and Gangnam Style, the great Korean Wave stands poised to sweep over the beauty and skincare scene.
The cornerstone of K-beauty lies in a focus on skincare as opposed to makeup. Those luminescent, dewy faces you see on television are the result of a strict 8-10 step regimen. The actual makeup they use is light, bright, and minimalistic. And why not? Skin that good is its own adornment.
In recent months, Dhaka has also hopped on board the hallyu (Korean culture wave), and there has been a rise in demand for Korean beauty products. Weekend Tribune got in touch with Saameera Taareen, one of the co-founders of “Beauty Box from Korea”, one of the most popular purveyors of Korean beauty products in Dhaka right now.
The cultural divide
“Korean products, which promise gorgeous skin but come with a product-heavy, labour-intensive routine” explains Taareen. “When it comes to makeup and cosmetics, South Koreans can't stop experimenting with ingredients or methods of application. It is not uncommon for these routines to include 10 steps just to cleanse and moisturise the face day and night. That's at odds with more minimalist American skincare methods, which can be limited to washing and moisturising in many cases.” The Viquarunnessa Noon alum, who graduated from NSU, and is currently working – in addition to Beauty Box – in the textile industry, further expands on the differences between Korean products and Western counterparts. “Many of these (Korean) products come with ingredients not commonly found in Western skin care, like pearl essence, snail secretions or donkey milk, Innisfree's Jeju Island volcanic clay mask and fermented soybean moisturiser. Korea's latest trendy cosmetics line, products change monthly. Additionally, Korean skincare products mostly focus on moisturising and replenishing skin by using natural ingredients, where other international skincare lines prioritise eliminating bacteria and drying out (oily skin).
How do these products impact our skin?
Coloured skin, whether you’re brown or East Asian, tends to have a more compact epidermis, which slows down the rate at which skin-care products are absorbed, as explained by skin treatment therapist Florence Barrett-Hill. This is why Koreans have adopted the multi-step skincare regimen. This might seem tedious – and expensive! But you think about it, even our own traditional South Asian beauty routines incorporate many herbal masks and oils.
Asian skin, by virtue of being more pigmented and having more melanin than Caucasian skin, tends to burn less and tan more. While this is certainly good news, it still doesn’t preclude us from the threat of skin cancer, and general degradation of skin. “Most makeup products from Korea have a minimum of 25 SPF, but 50 SPF is fairly common. This idea seems to support why Koreans don’t get premature wrinkles – because they use a lot of sun protection,” offers Taareen.
What’s trending in Seoul right now?
“Right now, they're pushing "hair shockers" - neon tints for hair – and nail polish with real flowers in it. South Korea is by far the largest market for men's cosmetics, with Korean men buying a quarter of the world's men's cosmetics – around $900 million a year.
The Beauty Box from Korea is a popular Facebook store, and are now available at Genetic Plaza, Dhanmondi.