In the male-dominated society of South Korea, men who apply makeup every morning are becoming as commonplace as American men shaving their faces.
South Korea’s largest cosmetics company, Amorepacific, expects to sell more than $885 million in men’s cosmetics this year. Last year, the average Seoul man spent $26 on skincare, making up more than one-fifth of global sales. It is now the largest market for men’s skincare in the world, according to the Associated Press.
Men in South Korea wear makeup for an edge in a competitive job marketplace and to satisfy the changing expectations of Korean women, many of whom expect men to spend as much time on grooming as they do.
“Having a clean, neat face makes you look sophisticated and creates an image that you can handle yourself well,” 24-year-old college student Cho Won-hyuk told the AP.
In the late 1990s, South Korea lifted a ban on Japanese products, including comics, that idolized beautiful men who were less masculine than traditional Koreans.
Today ads in the Asian nation portray attractive male superstars who model heavy amounts of makeup. And mainstream media messages communicate that perfect skin is necessary to find a job or a wife.
In 2002, South Korea World Cup soccer player Ahn Jung-hwan became one of these superstars. As one of the founding members of the “flower men,” he and other handsome male celebrities made a fortune selling male cosmetics.
Men wanted to look like him — and women wanted their man to look like him.
“My skin wasn’t bad, but the media constantly sends the message that skin is one of the most important things, so I wanted to take care of it,” 27-year-old tech industry worker Kim John-hoon told the AP.