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If you’ve been to Korea, or to a Korean market, you probably have seen a lot of skin care and beauty products.  If you’ve been in Gangnam, you’ve probably noticed a lot of plastic surgery advertisements as well.  Beauty, the quest for a perfect body and the perfect look, is a big deal to many in the Korean and the Korean American communities.  In fact, many look at Korea as a vain and shallow country that is too obsessed with looks.

Many Korean idols (or Korean stars in entertainment) have been accused of looking “plastic” and fake.  Granted, you can make that argument about entertainers from other countries as well.  The growing trend of unnatural looking backsides, breast implants, unnatural skin bleaching and botched plastic surgery has taken over the world.  So this is not an issue limited to the Republic of Korea.  But why do many Koreans seem to want to lighten their skin?

Concerns About Sun Exposure

Sometimes, the real concern is the effects that the sun can have on people.  Skin cancer is a real issues that many do not take seriously.  I’ve seen some Korean people who had sun spots on the left side of their body because of how often they drove and had contact with the sun.  It can sometimes be hard to explain why you have these spots on one side of your body, and not the other.  So some Korean people will do things to prevent sun exposure.  This includes wearing sun block, hats with visors and even a glove on the left hand while driving.  So to many Koreans, taking care of their skin is a part of taking care of their overall health.

Appearance of Wealth and Beauty 

Another reason why some will actually lighten their skin is because of the feeling of what lighter skin represents to some people.  In many areas, not just in South Korea, lighter skin is associated with wealth and beauty.  The feeling some have is that wealthier people were indoors most of the time, causing their skin to be naturally lighter.  But poorer people had to work outside, causing them to have darker skin.  So some people still think this way, even today.

But also, many have grown up with images of beauty being portrayed by women with lighter skin.  Some commercials, infomercials and beauty shows women as being happier and more attractive after their skin was lighten than.  Again, this is not limited to South Korea.  Other countries and cultures do the same exact thing.  But it is shown more often in Korea than in other places.  In my dealings with younger Korean men, those who prefer to marry someone Korean openly preferred someone with lighter skin.  However, those who were open to marrying someone of a different culture, skin color didn’t matter much.

Not As Shallow As Some Think

While some do have very vain and shallow reason for wanting lighter skin or feeling that it will somehow make life better, there are real concerns about what overexposure to the sun can do to many Korean people long term.  Add in yellow dust and other pollutants and your skin is not always being exposed to pure sunlight in Korea.  While some products are designed to change the pH balance of ones skin, other products are designed to try and reverse damage that has occurred to ones skin.   Other products are designed to prevent damage that can be caused to people who have sensitive skin.  Before using a product, make sure you know the risk associated with such product.  If you would like more information about skin products and Korean BB Cream, check out my friend Hunnyy’s blog.  Also make sure you know what the product is designed to do.  Just as you are careful about what you put in your body, you should be careful about what you put on your body.  Hopefully this helps you to better understand why skincare is important to many people in Korea.

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