Korean women are known the world over for their glowing and flawless complexions and, being born and bread in Korea myself, I often get asked what our secret is. While to the outside world it may appear that we have all won the genetic lottery and are completely immune to blemishes, wrinkles and sensitivity, this is far from the truth. If imperfections never seem to tarnish our faces is because we take a preventative and proactive approach to skincare that zips every problem in the bud – and, sometimes, even before that!
Unlike Western beauty, which heavily relies on makeup to transform and correct a face, the Korean philosophy could be summarized in just one word, “ssaung-ul”, or “beauty without makeup.” Far from being a temporary fad, the ssaung-ul ideal has its roots in Confucianism, an ancient philosophy that permeates every aspect of the Korean culture, including skincare.
Confucianism is founded on several noble virtues, including modesty and simplicity. As a result, Korean women have always taken pride in their clean and unadorned appearance, striving to achieve a flawless complexion through a holistic skincare regime rather than the use of makeup. For Korean women, taking good care of their skin isn’t a vanity endeavour but an act of self-care.
In Korea, double cleansing your skin at night is second nature, just like brushing your teeth; going to the dermatologist a regular habit; stashing your skincare products and personal humidifier on top of your desk at work so common no one raises an eyebrow; and walking down the streets on sunny days with a parasol to protect your fair skin from the sun still the first line of defense from sun damage for many women, particularly those who belong to an older generation.
All these habits are learnt from a very early age, as mothers start putting sunscreen on their offspring as soon as it is safe to do so (usually six months after birth) all the while praising to them the benefits of sun protection and moisturization. By the time these toddlers turn into teenagers, they have become fully fledged skincare experts. Is it any wonder, then, that their skin remains flawless as they grow older?