The History of Korean Skincare

Korean model

The First Signs of Skincare

Many people do not know how long cosmetics have been around. It goes way back to the ancient times where people used natural ingredients on their body for religious rituals, as camouflage during hunting or even as protection. The development of mankind and its cultures have benefited the world of cosmetics. Skincare was first used in Korea in 57 B.C., during the Ancient Chosun Era. These first signs of skincare were the use of natural colors to indicate a person’s social status, but soon the demand for a more glorified skin began to grow. The first real skincare invention was the application of liquid fats to protect the face from the freezing cold of winter.

The Development of Cosmetics in Korea 

Although skincare can today be seen as Korean heritage, we cannot underestimate the influence of the Chinese and Japanese cultures. The Chinese beauty ideal reached Korea a long time ago, conveying that a round face, thin eyebrows and well-dressed hair described 'perfect beauty'. This ideal increased the use of make-up in such a way, that even low society classes started using it. Besides the Chinese influence, Korean culture believed that a good appearance affects the inner self: beautiful souls can be found in beautiful bodies. Hence, make-up was more defined as an inner self-care purpose. During the Joseon era, cosmetics were discouraged by the values ​​of Neo-Confucianism. This however could not suppress the growing popularity of cosmetics. By the end of the 19th century, new makeup styles and products had merged with the growing popularity of Western culture, stimulating Korean cosmetics culture and enabling mass production and consumption. The first large-scale produced cosmetic product was Bakgabun, also known as Park’s powder.

The Story Behind Natural Products

Korean skincare products are known for the use of natural ingredients. Today a lot of brands focus on organic products, which are also often vegan. The use of natural ingredients is quite explainable as it was excessively used throughout the past. After blending with water, ground beans were used as cleaners. Juice, extracted from plants, were the base of lotions, and they still are. Safflower for example, contains vitamin E and essential fatty acids which is good for increasing the skin’s moisture level and gloss. Apricot and peach oils are believed to reduce pimples and liver spots. And rice and millet formed the base for powder. So, as you see, natural products ranging from plants to flowers and from rice to beans were commonly used. This philosophy is still the key to the natural quality of today’s K-beauty culture. In terms of ingredients, K-beauty doesn’t differ much from the past.