5 key differences between Korean makeup and American makeup

We compare the trends in two of the beauty world's hottest countries

5 key differences between Korean makeup and American makeup
5 key differences between Korean makeup and American makeup
11 Mar 2015

5 key differences between Korean makeup and American makeup

At the recent opening of the world’s largest Etude House flagship store, located in Singapore’s very own Wisma Atria, we couldn’t help noticing that Korean “makeup designer” Ms. Pony had bucked the trend of Korean-style minimalist makeup.  Ms. Pony, who was flown to Singapore especially for the launch, wore sky-high lashes, glittery eyeshadow, bright orange blush, bold lips, and even a couple of jewels beneath her perfectly sculpted aegyo sal: a far cry from the “no-makeup makeup” look in Korean magazines as of late.

During her short interview with xinmsn, Ms. Pony admitted that she has more fun designing strong, vivid looks typical of American celebrities, such as her beauty idol, Scarlett Johansson.

“Western makeup is characterised by being sexy and seductive, with highlighting,” Ms. Pony said. “Korean makeup is natural, innocent, and pure.”

That’s not to say that one is better than the other – it all boils down to preference. As a former graphic designer, Ms. Pony enjoys experimenting with every colour from the rainbow.

“The fun part is using all the different shades of one product,” Ms. Pony said. And don’t call her a makeup artist. Being a “makeup designer”, Ms. Pony has branded herself as someone who “designs makeup on the face” rather than simply applying it.

That being said, it was pretty refreshing for us to meet a Korean beauty guru so passionate about dramatic looks, and so clearly versed in the difference between “moist and healthy” Korean makeup and the comparatively intense, mature looks on American celebrities and beauty buffs alike.

Not sure about the difference? Learn more here, as well as which makeup we’d recommend for applying them. (Since there are way too many brands to choose from, we’ve stuck to two iconic American and Korean beauty stores – Sephora and Etude House).


Brows
Brows
11 Mar 2015

Brows

American: Arched

Like its Korean counterpart, the American eyebrow is thick and not overly plucked (good riddance, ‘90s brows!). The signature arch, however, gives the person’s face just a bit of sass.

WE RECOMMEND: Too Faced Brow Envy kit, S$55. The small applicators, stencils, and highlighter will help you achieve a precise arch. 


Brows
Brows
11 Mar 2015

Brows

Korean: Straight

Anyone who’s ever watched a Kpop video in the past five years would know that straight brows are the way to go in Korea. Unlike the straight brows in America (such as Natalie Portman’s), the Korean straight brow requires a softer, almost ashy application. The result? A face that looks young, innocent, and sweet.

​WE RECOMMEND: Limited Edition Etude House Eyebrow Pouch, free after S$30 of spending in Etude House flagship store. Straight brows don’t come naturally to everyone, so this kit provides all the trimming, shaving, and shading you can get.


Eyes
Eyes
11 Mar 2015

Eyes

American: No eye bags allowed

Eyebags are Enemy Number One when it comes to American makeup, so there are an abundance of concealers available for making your under-eye area look as 2-D as possible. You will often spot American stars with a whitish sheen around their eye area, as eye bags are considered signifiers of age, tiredness, or even an illness.

WE RECOMMEND: NYX Dark Circle concealer, which packs a punch at merely S$12. If you’re up for splurging, use the double-ended Peter Thomas Roth CC Eye Correcting Concealer, S$89. One side treats and conceals your dark circles, while the other highlights and brightens to reduce the appearance of puffiness.



Eyes
Eyes
11 Mar 2015

Eyes

Korean: Aegyo sal

While no makeup artist in Korea would advocate dark circles, they are much more forgiving toward eyebags (or aegyo sal, which means “love bags”), as they can make you look cute and innocent. Talk about a cultural divide – and talk about great news for all of us who are sleep-deprived. 

WE RECOMMEND: After concealing your dark circles, apply a little bit of Etude House’s Tear Drop Liner to your lower lid to make your eyes look bigger while highlighting that adorable bit of puffiness (S$38.80, or S$23.25 if you’re a member whose birthday is this month)


Eye makeup
Eye makeup
11 Mar 2015

Eye makeup

American: Cat eyes and smoky eyeshadow

American eye makeup is sexy, seductive, and smouldering. Smokey eyes and winged eyeliner are still going strong, with everyone from Taylor Swift to the Kardashians sporting rock star looks while strolling out of the gym.

WE RECOMMEND: First, use NYX's Love in Paris Eyeshadow Palette in Almonde (S$16) to build your smoky gradient on your eyelids. Top it off with Urban Decay Black Magic 247 Glide-On double Ended Pencil Set, S$60, which includes four shades of black (yes guys, there’s more than one), as well as four colourful shades for a bit of creative flair. If there’s one thing we love about Urban Decay’s eyeliner pencils, it’s that while they have staying power, you can totally smudge them to achieve an even vampier look. 

Eye makeup
Eye makeup
11 Mar 2015

Eye makeup

Korean: Puppy eyes and shimmery, nude eyeshadow

While many Korean superstars still wear smoky eyes and winged eyeliner (hello, 2NE1), the majority of young starlets nowadays seem to prefer subtle eyeshadow with puppy eyes – that is, eyeliner that’s angled downward.

WE RECOMMEND: Etude House Play 101 Pencils (S$12). Like Urban Decay’s eyeliners, the Play 101 Pencils are versatile enough to be used as eyeliner, eye shadow, and even lip or cheek pigments. And best of all, there are 50 colours to choose from (all of which are available in the flagship store). Experiment with the different textures (matte, glitter, shimmering, glossy, and creamy) to see which ones work best for you as an eye liner and which work best as a cream eye shadow. Simply swipe on a champagne or cream-coloured shade and finish it off with a black colour, extended downward, before the pigment dries.


Complexion
Complexion
11 Mar 2015

Complexion

American: Contour, highlight, and bronze

Love her or hate her, Kim Kardashian is the undisputed queen of contouring. The right handiwork can sculpt cheekbones where none exist, while making your nose look slimmer, your chin look smaller, and your complexion more lively.

WE RECOMMEND: If you’re a highlighting, bronzing, and contouring queen, we’d recommend the Too Faced Bonjour Soleil Limited Edition Summer Bronzing Wardrobe, S$60, which contains basically every colour you’d need to achieve Kardashian-esque bone structure. But for beginners, Urban Decay Naked Flushed in Streak, S$48, contains just the basics: highlighter, bronzer, and blush. If you’re feeling especially bold, highlight your cheekbones with the Naked Illuminated Shimmering Powder For Face and Body (S$43) for an instant sparkle.

Complexion
Complexion
11 Mar 2015

Complexion

Korean: Dewy, glowing, fair

Korean beauty puts a premium on perfect, “bouncy” skin with a moist finish and just a hint of blush. No contouring, and especially no bronzing, here. You’re supposed to look young and fresh, which means that your bone structure should look soft, not angular. Achieving this look requires far more than just the perfect base makeup: you need to have nice skin in the first place, as even the best BB creams can’t completely hide pockmarks or giant pores.

WE RECOMMEND: Etude House Precious Mineral Any Cushion (S$32), Etude House’s bestselling 6-in-1 cushion foundation with sebum control powder, whitening, sun protection, moisturising, foundation coverage, and skin-cooling properties. That way, you can cover your blemishes while treating them. (Bonus: This month’s Precious Mineral Any Cushion comes in a limited edition Pink Wish Tree holiday packaging for charity – the makeup brand will donate 100 Won to girls in Africa for every purchase of a Pink Wish Tree product.)


Lips
Lips
11 Mar 2015

Lips

American: The bigger, the better

As the profusion of artificially puffy lips shows, America loves full lips. Now some women, such as Kylie Jenner, have even started over-lining their lips for a perkier pout.

WE RECOMMEND:  If you want bigger, bolder lips, start off with NYX’s Lip Primer in Nude (S$14), which will help your lipstick stay on longer. Follow it up with a shade from Too Faced’s super-pigmented Melted Liquified Long Wear Lipstick, S$39 for a set (trust us, this stuff sticks without being sticky), and top it off with the bareMinerals Holiday 2014 Swirled Marvelous Moxie Lipgloss (S$39 per pack) for a 3-D effect.


Lips
Lips
11 Mar 2015

Lips

Korean: Dainty but distinctive

While people like Kylie Jenner are over-lining their lips, people who follow Korean techniques are doing just the opposite: they line their lips with concealer to make them look smaller! While Korean makeup favours dainty lips, that doesn’t mean they should look thin or colourless.

WE RECOMMEND: Two words: LIQUID LIPSTICKS, which use a thin, but highly pigmented formula essential for creating a gradient.  Or if you’re not ready for lipsticks, lip tints. We love Etude House’s Color Lips-fit collection, which comes with a small applicator (again, perfect for a precise application). 

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