There’s More to the Current K-Beauty Obsession Than You Think
As a beauty addict with Asian heritage (I’m Chinese-Malaysian), I’m often expected to be an expert on all things K-beauty. Putting aside the obvious fact that not all Asian cultures are the same (something that gets a bit lost on some people, unfortunately), not everyone likes the same things—regardless of their looks or heritage. The fact many Korean beauty brands have cultivated worldwide recognition is a great thing, not least because they’ve provided Korean women living in the West with easier access to products from home. That said, I do feel sometimes that K-beauty is exoticised in a problematic way. One result of this is an expectation that all Asian women should strive towards the same beauty look. (You know the stereotype—dewy, porcelain skin; big, bright eyes, and an appearance that projects an age of at least 10 years younger than reality.) Another is a strange phenomenon where some Asian beauty editors don’t feel they can knowledgeably write about “Western” beauty. (See: Tanning or even just wearing bronzer.) Yes, K-beauty may project one kind of image, but that doesn’t mean Asian women can’t source beauty inspo from elsewhere around the globe.
I do feel sometimes that K-beauty is exoticised in a problematic way.
Case in point: I’m a not-so-secret Francophile. Yes, I grew up in both Malaysia and Australia, but my beauty identity was born the day I became enamoured with Francoise Hardy. Because of this, I don’t have many K-beauty products on rotation, and I don’t embrace the stereotypical Korean makeup look. (My everyday winged liner and nude lip pays homage to Brigitte Bardot, and you’ll never catch me wearing puppy liner or dabbling in aegyo sal.) I do use a few Korean skincare brands, most notably Dr Jart+, but a lack of availability of other brands in Australia means it ends there for me. I also read a lot about K-beauty (beauty addict, remember?), but I don’t claim to be an expert. My skincare routine doesn’t involve 10-steps. (A trend which has been called a marketing ploy by K-beauty expert—and Byrdie contributor—Alicia Yoon.) On the contrary, I believe in a simple-but-purposeful regimen. Mine starts with makeup remover, and cycles through cleanser, an exfoliating toner and serum, and finishes with a moisturiser or facial oil.
When it comes to makeup, I aim to enhance my individual features. That means the dewy complexion trend beloved by many Korean women doesn’t work for me. (I have oily skin—sad face.) Matte products are my best friend, and the only dewiness I play with is on the tops of my cheekbones. I also find straight eyebrows tend to look intimidating on me. Though they may make me look younger, cancelling out the arch in my brows feels a lot like masking my identity. I much prefer my naturally arched, full brows.
Personally, my beauty identity was born the day I became enamoured with Francoise Hardy.
If you too are Asian but lack an interest in K-beauty, or just feel like you don’t fit in the beauty box your heritage says you should, I’m with you. I want all beauty obsessives to know it’s OK to create your own beauty rules—regardless of your ethnicity and background. Life is too short to not celebrate your own beauty your way! With that in mind, I’ve pulled together the French beauty products I love for your viewing pleasure.
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