The beauty battle: Comparing Korean trends to Western preferences


Amber Mohmand/Iowa State Daily

Sephora beauty consultant, Haley Sanders, organizes a new section of makeup featuring Korean beauty products. The section offers a variety of products ranging from highlighters to lip stains. 

Amber Mohmand

Korean beauty products are becoming more and more popular in the Western makeup industry. With their increasing popularity, Korean beauty trends and products are being integrated in American makeup routines.  

Skin care is one of the top priorities in the Korean beauty industry, according to an article by BBC News. Skin products comprise 51% of the beauty products in the South Korean-beauty market, according to a mintel report. The popular skin products are known to have multi-step day and night routines that can range from three to 10-step routines. 

Many Korean brands also follow the common Japanese trend of using natural ingredients such as purple rice, a powerful antioxidant that boosts the skin’s defense against environmental pressures such as pollution. 

Haley Sanders, a beauty consultant at Sephora, said a major emphasis of Korean products is brightening the skin to promote a “youthful glow.” 

Some trends focus on a more “dewy” look with moisturizing, exfoliating and brightening skin care products. The products range from sheet face masks to serums, all of them intended to improve the skin by reducing acne scars and making the skin under the eye appear brighter. 

Korean beauty also has different steps in a typical “everyday” beauty routine; for example, eyebrows are made to look straighter, as opposed to the Western preference of an arched brow. 

While American beauty trends tend to focus on full-coverage products, Korean products are more sheer and translucent. For example, lip products are usually stains rather than a matte lipstick. 

“American beauty products are more geared towards the full-coverage side — like cover all of your flaws, imperfections, stuff like that,” Sanders said. “Since [Korean people] really do take care of their skin a lot, they really don’t need all of that. … So just adding a little flush of tint … more on the natural side, and that’s probably the way they go — nothing too intense.” 

Packaging trends also vary between Korean and Western styles.

Many Korean products have unusual packaging used as an advertising method to encourage customers to try out the product. While American products tend to follow a neutral, professional packaging style, Korean makeup packaging tends to be more colorful and fun.

“They have a lot of fun, cute stuff, so that’s kinda a big thing in Korean culture as well. They like to make all of their [packaging] kind of cute and artsy,” Sanders said.