Beauty is a cult in Korea. And the Korean beauty ideals are very characteristic and unique. It’s so unique that some terms used to describe the Korean beauty image don’t even exist in the English vocabulary. Let’s have a close look at 3 of these terms. Since they don’t only enrich your vocabulary, they will also tell you a lot about the Korean beauty ideals.
The best translation we can come up with here is “cute fat”. What on earth is cute fat? Aegyo-sal refers to the small bags of fat some people have right below the eye. Those bags are especially noticeable when you smile or squint your eyes. But how come Koreans call that cute? Babies and little children tend to have quite pronounced aegyo-sal under their eyes. So when adults have aegyo-sal, it tends to make them look younger and cuter. And that’s exactly the image that Korean girls and women want to have. No matter what age, they want to look youthful and adorable. And most Korean men are into that. To create or enhance their aegyo-sal, Koreans love to use contouring powder or highlighter. The contouring powder is used to enhance the shadow underneath the aegyo-sal. The highlighter is put on top of the aegyo-sal to make it appear more voluminous.
The best translation here would be “fresh face”. You could also think of “bare face” or “naked face”. This term refers to a face without any make-up on. A synonym for saeng-eol is min-nat (민낯). It is the ultimate goal for Korean women to have a flawless saeng-eol. That’s the case when your complexion is bright and clear – no impurities, no scars, no discoloration. Korean women feel a certain sense of pride towards their naked face. Having a perfect saeng-eol means that you’re a true beauty. Others will envy you and compliment you on it. On the other side, some feel very insecure about their bare face. For them, revealing their saeng-eol to others is a rather intimate act. They fear one comment especially: “You look so different without make-up. You look more beautiful with make-up.” Did you know that showing your face without make-up is such a big deal in Korea?
EOL JJANG 얼짱
The literal translation for this is “face best”. So here we’re taking about a face that is the epidemy of the Korean beauty ideal. It’s a face that has all the features which Koreans consider as beautiful. One of those features is for sure perfect skin. But it goes beyond that: A beautiful female face has big eyes (with aegyo-sal), a small delicate nose with a high nose bridge and a small mouth with full lips and a pronounced cupid’s bow. The face itself is also on the smaller side and has a V-shaped chin line. If a woman has all that, then she is very likely referred to as eol-jjang.
The words we learned today:
- Aegyo-sal 애교살 cute fat, refers to undereye fat that tends to make you look cute
- Saeng-eol 생얼 fresh face, refers to face without any make-up on
- Eol-jjang 얼짱 best face, refers to someone who is especially beautiful/handsome because she/he meets the Korean beauty ideals perfectly