For Korean stars, achieving the perfect look all comes down to having the right hair and makeup. Just consider K-pop music videos. A large part of the appeal is visual, with glamorously showy appearances an absolute must.
It is the same in K-dramas. The woman who’s crying over her cheating boyfriend? She has a flawless, made-up face. Or that angsty police officer who’s going through an existential crisis – you might think he visits a hair salon before work everyday.
But it is not all about being dramatic. At the moment, K-beauty calls for subtlety. Think of your everyday, on-the-street appearance, but, of course, amped up in the right way to highlight perfection.
For the average person, achieving the look is not impossible. You just need to know the trends that are currently big in K-beauty at the moment. That, and a little (ok, maybe a lot) of your time each morning.
Two of our journalists, Chester Chin and Lee Chonghui, were sent to the Leekaja Beauty Salon in Kuala Lumpur to experience the Korean beauty treatment. After two hours, they emerged looking impressively well-styled.
The Leekaja Beauty Salon was established in 1972 in South Korea and was the first franchised hair dressing brand. Since then, it has branched out with 130 shops in the country itself, with outlets overseas.
Keep It Natural
According to the Malaysian salon’s hair director, Cho Sang-sook, the big trend right now is to seem natural and almost effortless.
Think soft curls, with the appearance of freshness. This is in contrary to Western looks that are more sexy and grown up.
“Korean girls are very fond of having lightweight hair. Even if a person has long hair, she cuts it into wavy layers so her hair would feel and look lighter. You could say it gives the illusion of being natural,” she explains.
For Chin’s hair however, Cho decided to go with “comma dot bangs”. This is popular in South Korea, where the hairstyle suits guys who have a long and thin face. It also helps give volume to those with shorter and thinner hair.
The hairstyle is said to be a favourite among many K-pop idols and Korean actors. It is named as such because of how it looks with the front portion of the hair curled inwards, resembling a comma.
Baek Hyun-woo, who is also a hair director at Leekaja Malaysia, says that nowadays, everyone is constantly scrutinising each other’s looks. This has put the pressure on even Korean guys to look their best. Thus, they really don’t mind primping themselves.
“I think that when you approach another person, the first thing that attracts their attention is your looks. So Korean guys feel the need to look handsome, even if it means that we have to put on makeup.”
Baek gave Lee a rather chic hairdo. He softened her features with a shorter cut on the sides and front, while tying the back into a very loose ponytail. This offers the impression of a natural wave.
He says that the hairstyle is indeed popular in South Korea. It is difficult for him to pinpoint a specific person as inspiration though, as the look is something that a lot of K-pop stars are sporting right now.
It’s All In The Finish
Etude House makeup artists, Jessie Soon and Lim Zi Jun, helped complete the two looks. They gave our journalists a flawless face.
The most important thing when trying to achieve the K-beauty look is having skin that is healthy and clear.
“Guys need to have clean looking skin. They should have very defined eyebrows that look tidy. Nowadays, even the men are taking good care of their skin – moisturising or even applying foundation,” says Soon.
“I think the secret to getting that perfect finish is choosing the right undertone for your foundation. If you get this correct at the very beginning, you will be able to achieve that natural look very easily.”
Having two-tone lips is also apparently popular. It calls for the application of a lighter shade as a base and a darker one for the inner areas. In South Korea, two-tone lips are said to give a more youthful and innocent appearance.
“We followed the Korean style in having clean skin that is slightly moisturised. For the lip and blusher colours, we synchronised colours. This is a trend there now, matching the lipstick and blusher,” says Lim.
All the products used were from Etude House. As a South Korean brand, Etude House aims to spread a fun makeup culture. It offers everything from eye palettes to cushion foundations and more.