K-Beauty vs. J-Beauty

For about a year, J-Beauty has been called the new beauty hype from Asia. But what is J-Beauty exactly? Let’s clarify the basics first. J-Beauty stands for everything related to the Japanese beauty industry and beauty culture. In concrete terms this means: Japanese beauty brands, beauty products, skincare rituals and beauty ideals.


J-Beauty has a lot in common with K-Beauty. A flawless, fair complexion is the ultimate goal for both cultures. When it comes to skincare, both sides are primarily concerned with prevention. As far as make-up is concerned, both Japanese and Korean women prefer a rejuvenating, cute look. At first glance, both worlds are similar, but there are also clear differences.


What exactly are the differences between K-Beauty and J-Beauty? K-Beauty has some characteristic features that J-Beauty does not have. That would be e.g. products such as sheet masks and BB creams, ingredients such as snail slime and donkey's milk or methods such as the 10 step routine and the 7 skin method. K-Beauty is mainly about a combination of fun and effectiveness. Beauty is perceived as a pleasure and should be accessible to everyone. Koreans are also very experimental and do not shy away from peculiar ingredients such as bee venom. J-Beauty, on the other hand, values tradition and elegance. Beauty is often associated with wellness and has a luxurious image. Accordingly, Japanese products tend to be more expensive than most Korean products. Japanese beauty products often include local fruits, plants and mushrooms.


To understand the beauty ideals of each country, we’ll be looking at the characteristic make-up style of a typical Japanese and Korean woman. 


Japanese make-up: Japan was once known for young women wearing thick make-up and especially emphasizing their eyes. Eyeliner and eyeshadow were generously applied, giving these women (commonly known as "gyaru") super-sized and doll-like eyes. Japanese "gyaru" used make-up to alter their facial structure, giving them a sexy and exaggeratedly girly look. Over time, this "gyaru" make-up has become less heavy. Today’s Japanese girls like wearing natural and youthful looks. They’re moving away from the previously popular color lenses and thick fake eyelashes. Instead they prefer to emphasize their natural eye shape. The motto is: less is more. The eyebrows are neither too thick nor too thin and have a slight arch. On the lips you typically see soft pinks with a touch of gloss. To make a beauty statement nevertheless, a lot of rouge is used. This resulted in the Japanese "igari" or hang-over make-up trend. Hereby, a lot of rouge is applied on the cheeks and sometimes under the eyes, on the nose bridge and ear lobes. The goal is to look drunk and seductive. Now what about Korea?


Korean make-up: When we talk about Korean make-up, we think of dewy skin first and foremost. An even complexion with a healthy glow is an absolute must for Koreans. To achieve this, there’s a variety of products: from glow foundations, to soft highlighters and dewy facial sprays. On the eyes we have the “puppy eyeliner” (= unlike the well-known “cat eyeliner”, the wing of the eyeliner is not going up but down). The brows are relatively thick and straight. And not to forget, the "aegyo-sal" (= fat pockets under the eyes that make you look younger) is emphasized with a little contouring powder. On the lips we have the characteristic ombré look that is achieved with the help of lip tints. As a last touch, the contours of the nose and chin are enhanced with contouring powder, because a narrow, high nose and a v-shaped, small chin are popular in Korea. There you have the typical Korean make-up look!


Now you know the similarities and differences between K-Beauty and J-Beauty. But you don’t really have to take the distinction between the two cultures too seriously. Because quite often the two worlds mix. For example, Koreans appreciate the quality and effectiveness of Japanese eye products (especially eyeliners, mascaras and fake eyelashes). Likewise, Japanese women like make-up styles which are inspired by K-pop stars. In fact, K-pop stars are very popular in Japan. No wonder! Many K-Stars are now active in Japan.


One big question still remains: What is better – K-Beauty or J-Beauty – and is J-Beauty replacing K-Beauty? We think that this is not a race between the two trends. Therefore, in our opinion, there is no winner. The two trends have their characteristic charm. While K-Beauty is a mix of fun and performance, J-Beauty stands for tradition and elegance. And quite often, we see combinations of both worlds, because Koreans are also inspired by J-Beauty and vice versa. Besides, it is not right to say that J-Beauty is "new" compared to K-Beauty. Both have been around for a long time, long before we discovered them in Europe. We only became aware of K-Beauty first. That’s thanks to all the sheet masks and BB creams. Although K-Beauty will always be our first love, J-Beauty fascinates us as well. Do you have a favorite or are you also open for both worlds?

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