Ask K-wave fans to describe any of their favorite male idols and you’ll probably get a passionate speech about his looks, talent, and personality.
If you let them get into details, the list will inevitably include things like his unbelievably flawless “glass” skin, expertly smudged eyeliner, and popsicle-bright stained lips. All signs point to these guys as the stars of K-Pop and K-Dramas, but they’re also definitely the leading men of K-Beauty.
Aside from the dewy or “chok-chok” glow of flawless skin, boys from groups like BTS, EXO, Shinee, and GOT7 also know how to rock more adventurous makeup looks that most people are only used to seeing on women. Whether they have smoky or shimmery eyes, their looks have inspired tons of tutorials and memes across the Internet. Even their hair colors have no limits, with plenty of guys switching from pretty pastels to shocking neon shades every so often.
These days, the so-called flower boys of Korea are more than just kilig-inducing crushes, because they’ve also become aspirational beauty pegs for any woman and man.
Beyond the louder looks from music videos and photo shoots, it’s also pretty common for these Korean boys to show off their skincare regimen. Even the drama “Descendants of the Sun” has a famous scene in which the macho soldiers all pamper themselves with sheet masks. On social media, there is no shortage of selfies and videos of Korean heartthrobs with sheet masks or clay masks. Recently, boyband Seventeen also devoted a huge part of their “Thanks” music video to backstage shots of them with lots of makeup and beauty products, effectively demystifying the whole beauty process for men.
Their concept of “men’s beauty” has become so established that it’s almost de rigueur for skincare and cosmetics brands to have male endorsers, like BTS for Mediheal and VT Cosmetics, G-Dragon for Moonshot, EXO for Nature Republic, and Seventeen for The Saem.
And these boys actually wear the makeup they endorse, as opposed to One Direction and Justin Bieber coming out with makeup and nail polishes that were only targeted at their female fans.
In Korea, it’s a win-win situation for brands, celebrities, and fans alike – female consumers are thrilled to see all these handsome faces on the packaging of products they really use, while male consumers find validation in their path towards embracing men’s beauty.
Thanks to these gender-inclusive mindsets, plus the country’s famed cosmetic surgery culture, South Korea’s beauty industry has skyrocketed beyond 10 billion dollars. It looks like everyone else is following suit around the globe, starting with gender-bending beauty endorsements from YouTube stars, like James Charles for Covergirl, Manny Gutierrez for Maybelline, and Jeffree Starr for his own cosmetics line. While their traditionally “feminine” makeup styles seem to be more geared towards women than men, they’ve definitely opened up the possibilities for advancing the industry.
For those “manly men” who need to be eased into beauty and grooming, it also helps that Hollywood hunks are openly hopping on the beauty train. In the West, most products tend to skew towards “corrective” skincare, like moisturizers and concealers for dark circles, acne, and razor nicks. Beyond the usual spray tans and Johnny Depp’s perpetual guyliner, more and more actors are comfortable admitting that a lot of work goes into looking handsome.
At the Oscars, presenter Armie Hammer even joked that his look took “four hours in the [makeup]chair, plus prosthetics”. Prior to the ceremony, he also Instagrammed beauty-related evidence of his awards show prep, including undereye patches, a laser facial, and a photo of makeup products captioned #effortlessbeauty and #1/8ofthisisforme. Meanwhile, Best Actor nominee Daniel Kaluuya also made beauty headlines when it was revealed that he wore foundation from Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty to the Oscars.
And right here in the Philippines, the members of our very own BoybandPH are taking their cue from K-Pop idols as endorsers of Frontrow, a Korean skincare line. The boys aren’t shy about sharing their love for the DD Stick, a BB cream and CC cream hybrid that can also be used to highlight and contour the face.
All over the world, these beautiful boys are doing their best to make all this makeup look pretty darn good. To put it another way: if Innisfree’s BB cushions are good enough for Lee Min Ho, they’re probably good enough for any other man, and any woman, for that matter. And if Jimin of BTS can pull off smoky pink eyeshadow and S.Coups of Seventeen can wear ombre lip tint even better than some ladies out there, then maybe it’s time to rethink our ideas about makeup and masculinity.
After all, Korean idols have always set the trends and started revolutions in pop culture, and this one is hardly a new development. For their part, fans have proven that makeup doesn’t make their male idols any less “masculine” or undesirable. While it may be a long time before we see guys touching up with BB creams in public, perhaps it’s time to desensitize the rest of the world to the sight of men wearing makeup, or at the very least, indulging in some form of skincare.
Who knows, the next pretty boy selfie you see on Instagram might be the result of tinted sunscreen, an eyebrow pencil, or even some mascara. For all the boys out there, the possibilities are endless.