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Tips and tricks for getting the Korean look

Global cosmetic brands are already captivated by the style of Korean women, and the country is no longer a pilot market for new products.

BB cream, once used after laser surgery, is now used to achieve a no-makeup look.

A Hollywood celebrity recently visited Korea to promote her new film, and photographers caught her enjoying her time here by shopping and tasting Korean food in areas such as Insa-dong, central Seoul. The local media scrambled to report on how pleasantly surprised she was at the beauty and style of the Korean people. She’s not the only one who feels this way.

World-renowned cosmetic brands and industry experts are already captivated by the style of Korean women, and the country is moving beyond being a pilot market for new products.

Global enterprises and young women around Asia are turning to Korean beauty secrets. If you find yourself captivated by glowing Korean celebs and want to learn the latest trends, here are some tips for replicating the country’s unique fashion and beauty style.

BB cream

If you want to look younger and more beautiful, makeup is a simple solution, offering an instant effect without surgery.

Asked which cosmetics product they use most, many Korean women will tell you in chorus, “BB cream!”

BB, or blemish balm, cream serves as makeup base, foundation, concealer and even sunscreen all in one.

Originally used by laser surgery patients to cover their scars, BB cream is now one of the hit products sold here.

The key to the flawless porcelain skin achieved by so many Korean women lies in covering up blemishes and skin discolorations with this magic cream. But never overdo it or the world will know you are layered in makeup.

As Koreans prefer light makeup for a natural looking skin tone and healthy complexion, apply a thin layer of BB cream and most people won’t believe you are wearing makeup at all.

Available in a variety of textures and properties and once exclusive to Koreans, BB cream is now manufactured by both local and global companies. Whichever variety you choose, BB cream will help you have natural, glossy and moisturized skin. If you want to look like a K-pop singer, try the all-in-one BB cream that is available at virtually any skin care store.

Snail slime facial cream

Have you seen the big poster in front of cosmetics stores with a K-pop star radiating a bright smile in front of a picture of a snail on a green plant? Have you wondered what on earth they are selling? It is a skin care product made of a natural ingredient that may not seem like something you’d want to smear on your face: snail mucus cream.

Snail facial cream might sound strange, but it is selling like hotcakes in Korea. Snail slime contains a substance called mucin, which is known to be beneficial for skin regeneration and rejuvenation.

A few years ago, Chilean farmers found that snail slime helped smooth their skin and heal cuts and scars, because the mucus is full of glycolic acid and elastin, two ingredients that are commonly used in skin care products to prevent acne and wrinkles.

To ensure a smooth face and delay the effects of aging, Korean women seem to have no fear of slathering on snail mucus.

Outside the country, news about the efficacy of snail extract is spreading quickly, and it has become a fad in South America as well.

In fact, other odd-sounding, but all-natural ingredients (cactus extract, fermented Tibetan mushrooms, salmon roe) are being packaged into skin care products as well. Go out and take your pick at stores across the county or choose the things your silky smooth Korean friends are putting into their baskets.

A woman prepares to use a circle lens. These are contact lenses tinted in areas that cover the iris to make the eyes look bigger. - JoongAng Ilbo

Circle lenses

From restaurants and cafes to even public bathrooms, young girls’ infatuation with taking photos of themselves is well known in Korea.

In the photos, most of these girls have very large, dark eyes, and they almost look like anime characters. Have the photos been retouched? No, it’s circle lenses.

Circle lenses are contact lenses tinted in areas that cover the iris to make the irises look bigger and more defined. The Korean perception of beauty includes large round eyes, which explains the trend toward smoky eye makeup and plastic surgery to achieve the most dramatic effect.

Circle lenses are believed to give the wearer an innocent and cute image, and young girls are obsessed with having big, teary, doll-like eyes, believing that they accentuate their feminine side.

Many young fashion-conscious women consider circle lenses as part of their daily makeup routine, seeing them as just another fashion accessory rather than a medical or corrective device.

Are you tempted to try them? But be aware: Once you get used to the effect, it is said to be hard to go without. Your big, dark brown eyes may suddenly appear tiny without the lenses.

Shoe lifts

There’s a term for all those surprisingly pretty Korean boys you see: flower boys. Some of these fashion pursuers even wear BB cream and eyeliner. Their tall, slim bodies are complemented by the current trend of skinny jeans, but these young men have a secret they would never want to reveal: shoe lifts, or ggalchang. If dizzying stilettos and killer heels are a Korean woman’s pride, shoe lifts are the counterpart for men. Just like high heels, shoe lifts come in various heights, but the typical size is about half of a regular insole, and the color is mostly black or dark gray to match the insole. With one pair of shoe lifts, the wearer could easily add five centimeters (two inches) of height.

Guys who are not happy with their stature will put one or two padded insoles inside their shoes, unlike the shoes with obvious heels that some older men still wear.

The universal truth is that while it is totally fine, even encouraged, for ladies to wear high heels, the world is harsh on guys who rely on extra padding to increase their height. If a Korean girl even suspects that a guy is wearing these hockey puck-like insoles, most will titter and give him the cold shoulder. But let’s not criticize or embarrass the guys.

And don’t forget that whether you’re wearing high heels or height-increasing insoles, neither are good for your back and could lead to long-term physical pain, no matter how good you might think you look.

Now that I’ve shared a few Korean beauty secrets, maybe it’s time for a weekend experiment. The next time you are heading out on a Friday or Saturday night, or shopping in Myeong-dong or Apgujeong, why not give yourself the look of a Korean beauty or a pretty flower boy and see the reaction you get.

By Michelle Kang Contributing writer [michykang@gmail.com]

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