My Trouble With Korea’s Obsession With White Skin

Hey guys!

Today I want to talk (complain-ish) about why having white or very fair skin is considered to be more attractive and why Korean women and men obsess over having very light skin. This was something I wanted to address for while. I’ve been living Korea for almost 5 years and I still can’t get over the fact that most all beauty commercials and ads push the idea that light skin is more beautiful than lets say tan skin. I might start to generalize in this post a little bit but I’ll try to be as specific as possible.  

My mom is always telling me to buy foundation lighter than my skin. There are usually only 2 shades of light to choose from when you’re buying foundation or BB cream in a Korean makeup store. Most all Korean products feature whitening as a formulation in their products. I see women with foundation that does not match their skin tone. White is beauty in Korea. 

It really bothers me in lots of ways. As a beauty consumer it is such a pain to find shades that are perfectly matched with my skin tone. It’s always a shade to two lighter. So whenever I buy foundation or any face makeup I have to warm it up with bronzer. Even when it’s not a Korean brand let’s say Revlon the stocker only purchases two to three colors that matches the Korean equivalent. 

Another way it bothers me is that it promotes one kind of beauty. Having fair or light skin. Yes fair skin is beautiful but so is your natural skin color! I’m so over Korean ads promoted by Korean beauty bloggers covering up their natural skin tone with a foundation or a cover product that is way too light. If I put it on I would look ridiculous. People can do whatever they want with their makeup and preferences to how they want to look, but why would you promote a brand that only considers the lightening/whitening is skin as beautiful or attractive. 

I know that there must be a business aspect to only having two shades to choose from. But c’mon! These businesses need to understand the reality that people have different skin tones that don’t fall into the 21 or 23 category. I think this will be a battle I will have to face whenever I go purchase from a Korean brand. I know that many non-Koreans and Korean gyopos have such a hard time finding a foundation that is the right color in Korea. They have to spend quite a bit of money on foundations from department store brands. 

12 Replies to “My Trouble With Korea’s Obsession With White Skin”

  1. very well said keep it up
    your blog is very good and informative

    1. Thank you!! I appreciate it! 🙂

    2. Thank you so much!

  2. It kinda troubles me as well. I’m Brazilian my skin it’s kinda yellowish , and i’m not totally tanned. I love korean products and i have a few cushions but it’s too light (the only one that matches a little , it’s the Etude House’s Mineral Cushion). When i visited Seoul in 2014, i saw a few girls that are naturally fair but most of them really uses a shade lighter that their skin and it shows it, specially when you see the difference between their neck and face. It’s weird. Ps: I love you blog!

    1. Hey! Thank you for reading my blog, i really appreciate it. At one point I was like do i need whitening products hahaha sometimes Korean beauty standards drive me up the wall.

  3. Hi! i just came across your instagram account and kind of stumbled onto your blog! I must say that so far your take on the Korean Beauty Trend has been interesting. I come from a country that has totally bought into all things Korean-the beauty trend, Kpop, food etc and I have been very fascinated by this phenomena. As a beauty lover, I must say that Korean beauty products have appealed to me as well. But at times, it really becomes very hyped up! And I totally can relate to this post about foundation shades. I am indian in ethnicity and I can just forget about purchasing any foundation from Korean Brands which is a pity as some formulations look pretty tempting. But I rationalise it by the fact that their mass market mostly consists of lighter skinned East Asians:) But their colour products I adore unapologetically. But I have concluded that Korean Beauty culture must be quite stifling and conformist within Korea. But as a participant from afar I am free to just enjoy the offers coming out of Korea. Ok all that rambling is cus its refreshing to hear a reality laden perspective on Korean Beauty from someone in Korea as Social Media contributes much to the Korean beauty hype as well:)

    By the way, are you Korean? Cus you speak english rather fluently and most Korean beauty youtubers i have encountered thus far do not speak english and the more popular ones rely on english subtitles.

    Anyway, glad to have stumbled on to your blog!:)

    1. Hi Faith! Sorry about the late reply! Thank you so much for your thoughts on this topic. To answer your question I am full Korean but I was raised overseas so English is more comfortable for me to communicate. I hope you visit my blog again 🙂

  4. The sales girls always give me a funny look when I purchase the darkest shade. I mix the “tan” shade with the lighter one to get a more natural look more similar to my skin tone (light medium). Imo ashy ghost face is way worse than being “tan”.

    Regardless I just don’t like that ashy grey look of Korean bb creams. I might look into Japanese makeup more since their tones are more yellow than a weird grey undertone of a zombie.

  5. I’m moving to Osan in three weeks. I am completely exited because I have naturally pale skin.
    I mean pale.
    I reflect light like the moon.
    Here in the states the most common comments are that I either look sick or that I need a ‘healthy glow’.
    When I buy makeup it is always too dark.
    I actually add white stage makeup, called ‘clown white’ to my makeup.
    I lived in Florida for several years and I fit in about as well as Megyn Kelly co-hosting The View.

    1. I really enjoyed seeing an honest take on all that’s happening. I love Asian culture, Korean culture. However, at times I’m a bit disturbed to see how Koreans wear such light shades that do not match their true skin tone. There are obviously various shades in every people group but its as if only one shade is acceptable…white. I think the Asian skin tone has perfect melanin and is beautiful. It’s painful to watch as people paint their faces two to three shades lighter and I know this because, you can see that the back of their neck is a different color and at times their chest. Brown is beautiful, white is beautiful, dark chocolate is beautiful, all shades are beautiful. As a person of color, it’s highly offensive and it makes me sad that the world is like this. I love Korean culture and the people and I hope that eventually they can push past this obsession with being pale and celebrate the beautiful them!

  6. As Finn, why I love Korean products so much, is that they make perfect shades for fair, light skin! <3 My skintone is very pale and cold, reddish, I don’t easily tan, just burn like most of Finns. BUT! Because like most of European (and Westerns..), Finns likes tan look as much Korean beauty industry loves fair light skintone, so every foundation, powder etc. are just too dark (and yellow) for me. I think this is weird, but beauty industry is.. 😀 (sorry for commenting very old post 🙂 )

  7. […] who introduces herself as a digital creator, wrote in an article titled “My Trouble With Korea’s Obsession With White Skin,” “I’ve been living in Korea for almost 5 years and I still can’t get over […]

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