The CF Guide to Korean Makeup Trends

The definitive guide to achieving popular Korean beauty looks with American products.
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Janelle - Smith College
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The definitive guide to achieving popular Korean beauty looks with American products.
Korean beauty trends

Photo: ELLE

With K-Pop bands and doe-eyed Korean actresses all over Tumblr and international advertising campaigns, it's no wonder that South Korea is known for being a beauty mecca. Its cult makeup and skincare trends have been the topic of many YouTube tutorials, and its hottest export, STYLENANDA, is gaining increasing global reach.

I've rounded up six key features of the quintessentially Korean makeup look, straight from the streets of Seoul. The easiest way to achieve some of these trends is with Korean beauty products, but I've been using products available at American drugstores since moving here for college. You definitely don't need to scour eBay and Asian beauty sites to recreate these trends!

1. Dewy Skin

dewy skin

Photo: Flickr

Known as 'gwang', or 'glowing', this is arguably the most essential part of the look. I usually go for a 'lit from within' look, and mix liquid Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in "Pearl" with my foundation. Since Becca products are pricier, I've found that L'Oreal's True Match Lumi foundation gives the same effect on the skin. 

If the 'watery shine' look of STYLENANDA's models is more your cup of tea, my holy grail product is MAC's Face and Body Foundation. It's much sheerer than Korean BB creams, but gives the same watery glow. For a more budget-friendly alternative, try L'Oreal's Magic Lumi Light Infusing Primer mixed with your foundation, and applied over moisturized skin.

2. Glowy Cheeks

glowing cheeks

Photo: Flickr

Instead of contouring, most Korean girls use a shimmery highlight to up the glow factor. Skip the bronzer and pair your dewy base with your favorite highlighter. I love using L'Oreal's Infallible eyeshadow in "Iced Latte" as a cheekbone highlight - when blended well, it's a great dupe for theBalm's cult Mary-Lou Manizer highlighter on my light-to-medium skin.

3. Straight Eyebrows

straight eyebrows

Photo: Flickr

Eyebrows can really change the look of a face, and the Koreans love their thick, straight, archless brows. Working with your natural brow shape and some concealer to flatten the arch of your brows gives you a softer, more youthful look. 

This YouTube tutorial does an excellent job of demonstrating the best technique to achieve this eyebrow shape:

Korean girls usually use eyebrow powders to achieve this, but you can also use cool-toned, matte brown eyeshadows, like those found in this Physician's Formula quad. If you like the precision and portability of pencils, go for something with a softer kohl tip. I've used Essence's Eyebrow Designer Pencil to get my straight brows for the last three years, but recently switched to Sephora's Waterproof Brow Pencil.

4. Puppy Eyeliner

To emphasize the signature 'puppy' eyeliner shape, Korean girls keep their eye makeup fairly simple, like a light, shimmery eyeshadow taken up to the crease, and some slight shading around outer corners for definition. Instead of flicking your eyeliner upwards, extend your eyeliner downwards and follow the natural curve of the eye, connecting it with your outer lower lash line to create a little triangle.

You can pretty much use any kind of liquid or pencil eyeliner for this, depending on how sultry and smoky you want to go. For present purposes, Physician's Formula's brush-tip eyeliner and L'Oreal Silkissme eyeliners are both fantastic. 

5. Aegyo-Sal

Not for the faint-hearted, aegyo-sal, or 'eye smile', involves creating the look of baby fat under the eye. Though we're not about to celebrate our college-acquired eyebags just yet, these little fat pockets under the eye are thought to make eyes look younger and rounder. 

To make their eyes pop, Korean girls usually also use circle lenses, but if they're a bit too out-there for you, any combination of a shimmery highlight shade and a matte gray-brown to create the illusion of these fat pockets will do the trick. I usually use "Tease" and "Bootycall" from the Naked 2 palette, but I also like Too Faced's Natural Eyes and NYX's Parisian Chic palettes.

6. Gradient Lips

The Korean market is saturated with neon-colored lip stains for good reason - they're the easiest way to achieve porcelain doll-esque lips. Whether you cover your lips with concealer first or not, you'll want a liquid lip stain that's highly pigmented for easy application. 

Concentrate application and build color on the middle of the lower lip, blending outward in a gradient. I usually use any of Benefit's lip and cheek tints or The Body Shop's Lip and Cheek Stain in Rose Pink to mimic the look of Korean lip tints.

What do you think?

Would you try recreating Korean beauty trends with products you already own? Which trend would you wear? Are you a fan of Korean beauty techniques? Let me know in the comments!