KMK: How South Korean Men Are Changing Male Beauty Ideals

In the US, we’ve traditionally had very masculine ideas of male beauty. The most attractive males are rugged, fit, and simply ooze testosterone. However, in recent years, Asian beauty ideals, and South Koreans in particular, have started to come onto the scene to change that. With the rising popularity of K-Pop in America, the South Korean standard of male beauty has begun to gain a cult following.

The Cult of K-Pop

As bands like EXO and BTS have burst onto popular music scenes, they’ve started to garner their own followings across the world. They’ve found surprising success in the US, and this, in turn, has started to affect some of our beauty ideas. The “soft” look that many South Korean males prefer has been popular in South Korea for some time, especially for actors, artists, and idols.

It’s not just K-Pop that’s been making an impact, however: K-Dramas have also been leaving their mark. Park Seo Joon, Park Bo Gum, and Song Joong-ki are all South Korean actors known for their Khonminam – or flower boy – looks. However, according to the BBC’s World sector, this isn’t meant to be understood as feminine, but more of a hybrid masculinity.

What defines these idols are things like a softer, rounder face, blemish-free skin, dyed hair, and a fit but thin body. Often, they will even get plastic surgery in order to fit the sort of persona they’re trying to recreate. Wearing makeup is okay according to this culture, and it’s even encouraged – men in South Korea can even frequent salons that will make them up according to K-Pop style. It’s essentially the polar opposite of the rest of the world’s traditional views on masculinity.

Worldwide Implications

While wearing makeup as a male has had negative connotations for a very long time, South Korean culture is starting to change that. It’s hard to deny that the things they’re doing with makeup and other techniques create a visually stunning effect. And recently, Korean beauty products have started to be sold throughout the world, imitating their most famous routines and looks. “K-Beauty” is the term that’s emerging to describe their beauty customs, and it’s been wholeheartedly embraced in the US.

K-Beauty standards embrace many things that traditional American male (and even female) beauty does not. In Asian countries, pale, healthy, blemish-free skin is considered the most beautiful, while in other places, we tend to tan our skin and cover up our blemishes. K-Beauty focuses on accenting the skin’s natural beauty and keeping it as healthy as possible, and Americans are starting to take notice of how helpful this philosophy can be for your body’s health.

Several makeup kings, such as Elle, Allure, and Sephora, have started selling or drawing attention to these new trends, and other companies like Soko Glam have brought their own products to the US. However, it’s still taking its sweet time in really catching on. To get the look, focus on maintaining the beauty of the skin with healthful products like BB cream (making sure to add a diffuse look to masculine areas like the jaw and browbone), add drama with subtle eye and face makeup, and optionally, dye your hair in stand-out colors.


  1. Dude May 13, 2019
    • Brian Dye May 22, 2019

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