Makeup: American vs Korean Beauty Standards

by Kiki Wong

Ahh...the mystery of Korean beauty. It's astonishing how almost every man and woman in Korea has porcelain, soft, and blemish-free skin. Quite frankly, Korean beauty standards are set pretty high on the priority list in comparison to other countries. However, some of these practices don't necessarily translate similarly into American culture. From plastic surgery, skin care routines, clothing style, and even mannerisms, the differences in these categories make beauty in Korea somewhat mystical yet entrancing.

One easy way to change your immediate outward appearance is through makeup. As you may have seen, there are various ways one would go about painting their face. In this particular case, we are going to dive into the cosmetic differences between American vs Korean beauty standards.​



American Beauty Standards

  • Not too many color options
  • Rarely people wear them
  • Must buy them internationally
  • Does not come in very high powers
  • VERY expensive

In America, colored contacts are not as popular as Asian countries. Since the demand for colored contacts is low, there just isn't enough competition to keep a variety of color options available on the market. The closest I've ever gotten to purchasing colored lenses in the US was when they released the FreshLook ColorBlends. Sadly, I found out they don't make it in "Mr. Magoo Power," so I had to opt-out. 

Korean Beauty Standards

  • Variety of color options and styles
  • Girls wear these frequently
  • Can purchase locally in store
  • Comes in all types of powers, even for astigmatism
  • Relatively affordable and last for a year

When I visited South Korea just a few months ago, I couldn't believe how easily accessible circle lenses were. There were Neo and Geo Lens Stores all over Myeong-Dong. You could even get your eyes checked and prescribed in a train station. Also, many of the young girls wear circle lenses regularly. It's almost a rare moment to see a young fashionable girl without her big beady brownish sparkly eyes on. All in all, Koreans consider colored contacts to be apart of their regular makeup routine.



American Beauty Standards

  • Thin, usually clear application
  • Keeps skin dry and maintains matte finish
  • Goes on clear, does not change skin tone
  • Not scented
  • Not expensive, but not cheap

Generally, American primers tend to be used for MAJOR shine reduction. Since the matte finish look is really in right now, most primers will reduce shine and keep your skin looking pretty mattey all day long. Before I really got into K Beauty, I used Smashbox Photo Finish Primer, which really did the trick for me. The primer itself is clear and extremely lightweight, almost as if you're spreading tiny little feathery beads across your face. It's pretty effing amazing.

Korean Beauty Standards

  • Thicker application, like a moisturizer
  • Very moist and leaves skin dewy
  • Sometimes adds whitening and brightening
  • Comes in different scents
  • Relatively affordable

Unlike American makeup trends, the dewy moisturized look is very in. Korean primers tend to be much thicker and way more moisture-packed. Some primers even have a bit of iridescence and leave your skin looking shiny with a pearlescent finish. A great example would be the MISSHA BB Boomer Primer which does all of this for a MUCH cheaper price than some of the well-known American counterparts.



American Beauty Standards

  • Thicker, full covereage formulas
  • Matte finish
  • Darker, tanner shades
  • Very little to no SPF
  • Variety of colors

In America, people love to tan. The bronzed, sunny look is definitely very popularized, and people pay thousands of dollars to achieve that via tanning and makeup. Women usually buy foundations that usually are a slight shade darker and finish off with a setting powder to achieve the matte finish.

Korean Beauty Standards

  • Light, liquid formulas
  • Very wet dewy finish
  • Very light and pale
  • Almost always has SPF 30 or greater
  • Very few light colors

Koreans absolutely LOVE their dewy look. Most foundations are packaged as BB creams and CC creams and come in extremely light to pale colors. Unfortunately for those with darker skin shades, it is harder to find a color match with Korean foundations since they're just so dang light!


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American Beauty Standards

  • Dark and defined
  • Ombre blend
  • High arch
  • Sharp lines

Almost every girl is extremely picky about how their eyebrows are done. This is because eyebrows can really define your overall makeup look. Most American eyebrows have very dark, defined lines with a blended ombre toward the center. The arches are higher and contour the shape of the eye.

Korean Beauty Standards

  • Lighter color, matching hair tone
  • Fuzzy and natural application
  • Straight across
  • Soft lines

In Korea, eyebrows are left a little more natural than their American counterparts. Koreans love the straight across eyebrow look and generally tend to keep the eyebrow color as close to the hair color as possible (even if it requires lightening). The makeup look is much softer and more blended.


American Beauty Standards

  • Dark blended colors
  • Contouring eyelid, double lid makeup
  • Bold matte colors
  • Makeup goes all the way to the eyebrow

Because most American makeup deals with cut creases and double lids, the makeup looks put a lot of emphasis on this physiological feature. Dark, matte shadows are used to bring out the eye lid and lighter colors are used all the way up to the brow line. Many different contouring techniques are used along the crease to really open the eye up.

Korean Beauty Standards

  • Light, pinkish colors
  • Even application
  • Lots of sparkle
  • Eyeshadow only covers lids

Many Koreans (except those who went under the knife) do not have a double lid. So, their eyeshadow techniques are slightly different. They use way less product and only add just a little bit of sparkle, which brings more attention to the eye and widens them. Also, pink colors and light shimmers are very popular.


American Beauty Standards

  • Thick double layered
  • Very long, bold
  • Dark colors
  • Top lashes only

Recently, false eyelashes have become a huge fad in American makeup. Many boutique lash companies are popping up all over the country for a good reason. A perfect, long, bold eyelash is a great way to accompany the dark eyeshadow looks to balance out the color and add a little flutter.

Korean Beauty Standards

  • Thinner, more natural
  • Shorter length
  • Sometimes lighter colors
  • Top and bottom lashes

Korean eyelashes are a lot more subtle. Many Asians have very short and thin eyelashes to begin with, so adding something very dramatic may be too drastic of a change. Also, Koreans love adding bottom lashes to create a dolly look.


American Beauty Standards

  • Full face contour
  • Definition in cheek bones, emphasis on jawline
  • Defined nose contour
  • Highlighting

Contouring is a huge hit in the American makeup world right now. Almost every part of the face is contoured and blended heavily. Most of the time, highlighter is added to create dimension and really accentuate sharp edges.

Korean Beauty Standards

  • Very little to no contour
  • Minimal nose contouring

In Korean makeup, not a lot of contouring happens really at all. Sometimes, a little bit of nose contouring is applied, but for the most part, its just a little touch of blush. Koreans like the super smooth pearlescent look and a small, pointed egg face.


American Beauty Standards

  • Dark, bronzer
  • Accents below the cheek bones
  • Pearlescent and shimmer
  • Neutral tones

The tanner, the better, as Americans would say. The bronzed, sun-kissed look is very popular, and darker neutral tones are used to achieve this. There aren't too many pink blushes used since most of the blushes are used as bronzers. Also, the bronzer is applied below the cheek bone to create a more chiseled look.

Korean Beauty Standards

  • Light bright colors
  • Rests on top of the cheek bones
  • Matte colors
  • Peachy pink tones

In Korea, bright and light is the way to go. They love bright dolly pink blushes. They also apply the blush on the balls of their cheeks, creating a flushed look. Most Korean blushes come in pink and peachy orange tones and don't contain much shimmer.


American Beauty Standards

  • Dark, vampy colors and nude full lips
  • Big, luscious lips
  • Darker lip liner on the outside
  • Matte finish

Yes, I blame Kylie Jenner for this trend entirely. Yet, I still love this look. Matte, dark, vampy lips are the bees knees right now and they're spreading across Instagram like the plague. Also, lip plumpers are very popular since American's love the full, luscious lip look. 

Korean Beauty Standards

  • Bright pink and peach colors
  • Ombre lips (dark on inside and light on outside)
  • Lip tints
  • Wet finish

Koreans have an interested inverse ombre lip trend happening right now. They use bright vibrant pink and peach tones to create a dark on the inside light on the outside look. Koreans also love lip tints that create the image as if you just ate a cherry popsicle.




full lace wigs September 2, 2019 - 1:42 am

Thanks a lot for you sharing!It helps me a lot !Absolutely love it and i am expect more from you.

Four Seasons Laser Center November 13, 2019 - 7:01 am

You can really tell the difference on both of them. Koreans are really effortless when it comes to make up.

royalaestheticcenter February 12, 2020 - 5:45 pm

I’m more of American style makeup than Korean. I do a dark eyeliner but I hate false lashes. I have a dramatic amount of color that girls in Korea put on.


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