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by Alexandra Nicole Nuralam

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Korean Makeup

All images via @iammaeng

If you’re just as obsessed with Korean dramas as the rest of us, then you probably have, at one point, thought about recreating the female lead’s effortless makeup look. After all, what’s not to like about bright wide-awake eyes, a healthy youthful glow and lit-from-within dewy skin that K-beauty is known for?

You might have also noticed that Korean women are all about looking youthful. This has resulted in a slew of makeup application techniques that are all meant to help you look as youthful as possible. From tone-up creams, cushion foundation to sparkly eye makeup, keep scrolling for our tips and tricks, and the must-haves to get started with Korean makeup.

#1: Start with skincare

According to Park Tae Yun (of Korean beauty brand Son & Park), the two most important steps toward achieving the Korean ‘glass skin’ effect are exfoliation and hydration. So, make sure you’re regularly exfoliating and use products with hydrating ingredients (you can always count on good ol’ hyaluronic acid).

Prior to makeup, you can start by sweeping micellar water or an exfoliating toner across your face with a cotton pad, to slough off any dead skin cells. Then, prep the skin by drenching it with hydration — serums, essences and moisturisers leave the skin feeling and looking bouncy and supple. 

#2: Brightening, not whitening

The foundation (ahem, no pun intended) of the makeup look is a clear and bright base, which you can achieve with tone-up primers and creams. In case you didn’t know, these do more than just prep your skin for makeup and help it last longer. They can help correct dull and uneven skin tone and brighten your overall skin complexion.

Many people often mistake Korean tone-up products for whitening products, but they are actually made to brighten up the complexion and help treat any unevenness and discolouration. They’re designed to result in skin that is radiant and luminescent; skin with a bright glow, not a lighter colour.

#3: Use cushion everything

You’d be hard-pressed to find a single woman in Korea who prefers a traditional foundation over a cushion formula. Not only does it whittle down the time it takes in the morning to get that dewy skin look, you can also take it along with you for on-the-go touch-ups.

Tip: Press the middle of the compact with the cushion to disperse the formula to disperse the product. Then, gently dab it around your face in a pressing motion.

#:4 Embrace natural brows

Korean women don’t leave the house without defining their brows. For years, it has always been thick, straight lines with barely-there curves, since these apparently can make you look younger. Now, more Koreans have been embracing their natural brow shape, filling in any gaps with a brow pencil or brushing them into place with a brow mascara.

#5: Keep eye looks soft

As far as eye looks go, the Korean approach seems to be a soft wash of colour on the lids and a highlight on other areas — think full lashes, lining the eyes to make them seem bigger (but not a full-on winged liner look) and playing up the aegyo-sal, which is that little pocket of fat that crinkles under your eyes when you smile.

Go for a sheer wash of an eyeshadow of your choice (the trending colour of the seasons seems to be taupe) as a base and then layer on a shimmery shade on the centre of the lids. You can also pack on a darker shade at the outer corners of your eyes to give your eyes some depth. To accentuate your aegyo-sal and make your eyes appear bigger, apply a highlighter shade directly underneath your eye and then a slightly darker shadow directly underneath. 

Line your eyes (preferably with a brown-coloured liner as it gives off softer vibes), curl your lashes and coat them with mascara, and you’re good to go!

#6: Flushed and glowy cheeks

Since Korean makeup is all about looking youthful and natural, one of the easiest ways to achieve this is to look fresh and flushed — with blush. You’ll find that many lip tints are formulated for both the lip and cheeks (we love our multi-tasking products!) and many Korean women like to apply the same colour to both for an easy monochromatic look.

If you prefer powder blushes, a tip to keep in mind is to apply on the apples of your cheeks instead of the usual upward-and-outward method, which tends to give a more lifted and contoured effect. If you want to look extra-fresh and sunkissed, dab some blush on your nose and all the way to the area near the back of your eyes. Swipe on some highlighter for extra dewy skin and you’re all set.

#7: My lips but better

Koreans tend to stay away from the liner + lipstick combos popular in the West since they can make you look older. But we’re finally moving on from the “gradient lip” trend that was all the rage up until recently. Instead, many are reaching for shades like deep pinks, earthy reds or chestnut browns, away from the usual pinky-reds and fruity corals. We’re also fans of mauve-y MLBB (My Lips But Better) shades that look good with virtually any eye look.


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