Last Year, $495M in Skincare Sales for S. Korean ... Men

How the country became the men's cosmetics capital of the world

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 17, 2012 3:26 PM CDT

(Newser) – The biggest market for men's skincare around the globe? South Korea, whose 19 million men spent an incredible $495.5 million on skincare last year—that's almost 21% of global sales. And they're on track to spend more than $885 million on cosmetics this year, according to one cosmetics company. We're not just talking skin cream, we're talking full-on makeup from foundation to eye pencil to lipstick. "Having a clean, neat face makes you look sophisticated and creates an image that you can handle yourself well," one 24-year-old college student tells the AP. "Your appearance matters, so when I wear makeup on special occasions, it makes me more confident."

The AP traces the popularity of men's cosmetics—yes, there are specific brands for men—back to the 1990s. When a ban on Japanese goods was relaxed, "macho" South Korean men started to see their attitudes toward beauty change. By the early 2000s, more and more men aspired to be "flower men," the attractive (and smooth-skinned) stars who hawked male cosmetics. Today, men in makeup are increasingly seen in ads around the country, and effeminate beauty is "a marker of social success," says one expert. Men are also increasingly concerned about their appearance as they compete for jobs—and ladies. "I feel like I have more to talk about with guys who use makeup," says one woman. "We have more in common."

In this Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012 photo, Cho Won-Hyuk, a 24-year-old college student, shops for skincare and makeup products at a cosmetics store in Seoul, South Korea.   (AP Photo/Hye Soo Nah)
In this Friday, Aug. 10, 2012 photo, Cho Gil-nam, a 27-year-old insurance fraud investigator, shops for skincare and makeup products at a cosmetics store in Seoul, South Korea.   (AP Photo/Hye Soo Nah)
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