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Korea is known for its strict and unattainable standard of beauty, and has become a fixation since young for the Koreans. The moment you open the doors to the K-pop industry, you are peppered with images of idols with perfect faces and ideal body types. It’s almost as if idols do not have bad-skin days and that any imperfection has a solution, be it surgery or make-up. It pains me to say that even any male K-pop idol on the internet looks a hundred times better than I do on any other day.
It compels us as fans to adopt their looks, and resorting to anything and everything we can find in order to look just a little more like them. The market is literally throwing new products in your face every month, and Korean brands are now globally renown for their wide range of products that can mold you into their ideal type of aesthetics. Koreans are known to lead the fashion and beauty industry, along with their obsession with cute funny things.
This obsession with their image is taking their skincare industry to a whole new level. Beauty shops are now offering all sorts of ridiculous and unusual ingredients in their products in a last bid effort to stand out. Most of these products might seem natural because they are used in our everyday lives; but some of the ingredients are quite a turn off. SkinFood, a brand famous for using natural food ingredients in their products, and includes black sugar, broccoli and salmon. As much as I love eating salmon, there is just something off-putting about the thought of using salmon eye concealer or sweet potato hydrating mist. These are foods that people ingest for their taste, and its too much of a novelty to even consider them useful in treating whatever skin problems people might have.
Half the time, these products come across as too gimmicky, and don’t really cure the targeted problems. The Face Shop sells Rice Water Cleansing Foam at an obscene price that is technically rice water left over from washing rice. At this rate, anyone can just use their rice water from their meals at no extra cost to wash their faces. Why are people paying ten times the price for something that is not value-adding?
Aside from adding tons of sunscreens to all their facial and body products, Koreans take it another step further with skin bleaching through the use of whitening creams. While common in the Americas and other countries, Korean really fancy white complexion over their darker counterparts to the extent that the males are encouraged to have white skin as well. Its quite laughable when Americans or Europeans call any member from SHINee a girl because of their fair complexion. Kim Hyun-joong is another example of an idol who has a huge following of fan girls in Korea for his good looks, but is laughed at for looking too feminine overseas.
Are we overlooking masculinity a little bit too much just to appeal to the hearts of girls that we even support and encourage male idols to model their standards of beauty after females? It can get kind of embarrassing to tell your friends who aren’t into K-pop that your current idol crush is actually a guy even though the pictures look like a girl. It does not help that more and more idols find it acceptable to cross dress, resulting in feminine pictures of male idols spreading across the internet and being mistaken as females in other countries.
Marketing companies who are really smart managed to use this to their own advantage. Using male idols to endorse their products ensures that their products will sell because their fans will buy anything from the brand to show their support. Besides reinforcing the image that males should be all pale and vampire-like, they also receive attention deflected from the current idol ambassadors into their inflated sales.
I have personally heard my friend saying, “I don’t care what he is using, but I will buy it because Key looks amazingly pretty in this CF!” As much of a Shawol as I am, this CF had the complete opposite reaction on me. First of all, why is a guy used as the face of a girl’s facial product, and secondly, this CF is just reinforcing the unrealistic expectations of the high standards of beauty expected from Koreans. Unless Ecosoul is trying to get more males to wear BB cream, Key is right choice as a model for all the wrong reasons. That aside, the obsession with fair skin is disgusting because who in their right mind would think that they are pretty when they look all pale and sickly on a daily basis?
Sometimes it surprises me when they film variety shows at the idol’s dorms and the idols’ dressers have an insane amount of beauty products. It’s not only the girls who are expected to look good, but the male idols are now under pressure to keep their skin as close to perfection as possible. Most of the idols, regardless of male or female, don makeup as part of their normal routine, and sometimes even refuse to be seen without makeup because it would ‘ruin their image’. This cannot be healthy for skin to be smothered every single day without time to breathe as well as their mental health regarding their confidence in their looks.
All in all, the standards of beauty in Korea has got to let up. Not just for males, but the general perception of what is aesthetically pleasing needs to change. If not, entrepreneurs will just keep coming up with new products to enhance the physical appearance, but might actually harm ourselves unknowingly. Take the nose-push-up appliance which is inserted into the nose to make it seem like the individual has a higher natural nose-bridge (it works in a similar fashion to a push-up bra). But what happens if you accidently inhale the push up and it ends up halfway down your lungs?
All these products are quite imaginative to a certain extent, but the line has to be drawn at applying snail slime face masks, no matter how effective it is. Korea has to stop trying to use every damn thing under the sky as part of their skincare regime, and maybe try reducing the amount of skincare itself. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next trend comes about with male idols rocking out their concept photos with the latest shades of eyeshadow and lipstick to boot. We’ll all probably just fall over ourselves complimenting their looks, while they simultaneously complete the transition into looking like a doll.
(Images via JYP Entertainment, SM Entertainment, Keyeast, APOP Entertainment, Big Hit Entertainment, C-Jes Entertainment)