Korean Cosmetics: The Light Skin Ideal.

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Oct 20, 2015

Shelley W.

When Korean BB/CC hit the US I searched high and low for a shade that would work for my NC45 skin tone. No dice. The darkest shade available by some lines had me looking like Casper the Friendly Ghost. It wasn't a pretty sight. Even if I wore it under my foundation it would show thru and left me looking a bit pasty.

I remember beauties here on BL battling out over the superiority of the Korean creams vs the US version. It was quite maddening to say the least because no one seemed to empathize with beauties who could not enjoy the benefits of the true BB creams due to the fact that there was not a shade (s) for us. I wanted in the action but had to settle for the US interpretation of the Korean BB creams.

I started on BL a few years ago when the creams really were getting intense press. I wanted to know WHY these Korean makeup/skincare lines that were being sold and marketed here in the States weren't producing shades that would cater to tan/darker skintones. I bugged Korean chemists and formulators that my spouse has worked with and I even drove him crazy with my million and one questions. What I learned saddened me and has me rethinking the whole Korean beauty market.

Basically we will never see darker shades being produced because tan/dark skin is not an ideal look in their eyes. Pale, pristine skin is valued on so many levels. South Korea maintains the most rigid standards of beauty in the world. Appearance is big deal...skin, hair,weight is all subjected to judgement and possible ridicule. Pale and Caucasian features are embraced so plastic surgery is a big deal and not uncommon in the slightest. If you fit the ideal look it places you higher up on the totem pole when it comes to job opportunities and university placement (yes they have to submit pics with their application). It also speaks of a persons wealth as well. Darker skintones are frown upon and people will determine that one probably comes from the fields as a laborer.

Some of the formulators kinda skirted around some of questions I asked and one of them I point blank asked;"Have you ever studied the color wheel? And if so do you understand that you can create darker shades by studying not only the pigments that are available to you but the undertones as well." My Korean is horrible so a translator was used and I know a few of them probably had some harsh words to describe my line of questioning but I didn't care.

It was my husband who told me the dark ugly side and it hurt to hear it. Basically darker shades isn't the ideal. They don't view dark skin as being pretty and has heard Korean men say that dark skin to them equates to being dirty. And consider that beauty segment to be small so why infuse the money and research time creating darker shades...especially when their ideal of beauty is on the opposite end of the spectrum.

I've been to Seoul a bunch of times and whenever I shopped for skincare they would always try and sell me skin lightners. I'm sorry but I love my dark skin and don't believing in masking it.

All that being said my quest for a true Korean BB cream has stopped. I refuse to give further complaint or disdain for a market that doesn't see myself and others as worthy. I will continue to wear my US interpretation of BB/CC creams because at least there is a shade available for me. And for those who can wear the Korean BB creams please don't discredit the US lines that have jumped on the craze...while the formula may be nothing like the Korean versions it makes those who wear it feel good in knowing that aren't being left out when it comes to shade range. Yes, as a whole I believe the whole cosmetic industry needs to get it together and expand ingredient and shade wise but as the saying goes...Rome wasn't built in a day.

Oct 20, 2015

Tina K.

I am so irate reading this (not at you, Shelley!) that I can't even formulate any articulate response! Gah!

Oct 20, 2015

Shelley W.

Trust me Tina...I know exactly how you feel. It took me over a year to just gain the courage to post this. It's been silently simmering in my head all this time. I know every country has different beauty ideals but it stings a lil when a large segment of the population can't enjoy the benefits of a beauty trend based off those ideals.

Oct 20, 2015

Shelley W.

Talei...I thought about that briefly until I started asking hardcore questions from the development side and just what I learned from the researching the history of Korean skincare. They won't entertain the idea of branching out shade wise even though their products are sold internationally. And there is a segment that resides in Korea who are biracial due to the US military presence and or residents who come from other countries to work in Korea.

Oct 20, 2015

Pamela F.

My god shelly no wonder this has had such an effect on you, its quite disgusting. thank you for posting this and opening all our eyes to the narrow mindedness that rules their beauty market. very sad to see this going on in this day and age.

Oct 20, 2015

Diana T.

Hey girl I definitely know where you are coming from but it's not just Korean culture - it's most Asian cultures in general that do not view dark skin as beautiful - but the reasoning behind it is deeply rooted in the job system that has been present since the beginning of society - darker skin for Asian cultures result from working out in the fields and working low paying jobs - so light skin is ideally beautiful because the rich people are fair skinned from staying indoors most of their life - that being said it will be a long time before Asian cultures view darker skin as beautiful - me being half southeast Asian - I feel it's more prevalent in Southeast Asia (Philippines especially) where they sell many whitening creams and soaps and respect people with fair skin more so than dark skin because they are seen as beautiful - there are some small movements that campaign that tan skin and brown skin is beautiful but the mindset of the people as a whole culture is so deeply rooted that it's difficult to change that image even today - I personally feel exactly the same as you though - I never appreciated the whitening products in many Asian brands so I rarely buy them - and I love it more when my skin is tan as opposed to pale but not everyone feels that way - either way I wish it was different but like I said it would take a lot to change a whole culture of people.

Oct 20, 2015

Mylene L.

I understand how you feel Shelly and for the rest. The reason behind all of these is the history. And it's not only in Korea also in my country. We (Filipinos) were conquered before by foreigners. Who some of them, used women for sex and slavery. Then light skinned babies were born. Later identified light skinned people as rich and dark ones as poor. Even now, some people think this way. I feel disgusted by this thought esp when I got here (US). I like brightening products for hyper pigmentation. But to literally whiten my skin, nah forget it. Love my skintone. I don't have to spend a lot of money for tanning. Lol. And true, if an asian company sells beauty products internationally, they should have varieties of shades that caters ALL skin tones.

Oct 20, 2015

Shelley W.

I always knew about the cultural differences that different regions of the world are faced with but it really sickened me that some of these individuals I spoke to spoke about how each line they worked for had an ideal image of their clientele and it disgusted me. It was truly a wake up call for me because I always try to give folks the benefit of the doubt. I wish I could just put them on blast but I promised confidentiality. Urrrrggggggg...

Oct 20, 2015

Diana T.

Lol Shelley you would make a horrible reporter! :P yeah if we could put companies on blast for their crazy beliefs then I feel like a lot of companies would get hit hard! I don't think it's just Asian brands that suffer from these beauty standards that they cater to - I feel like a lot of companies in general do not cater to yellow undertones or olive skintones let alone darker skin tones - it's so hard to find colors that fit my skin perfectly so I can only imagine the trouble with other skintones as well - but cosmetic companies are just following what's trendy and what is making them money and most could care less about the unique individuals that try to find ourselves in their products - when really they should be catering to us the customers... But sadly that's just not the case most of the time :T anyways now I feel like I'm ranting but I hope that more companies expand their shades to suit more unique skintones.

Oct 21, 2015

Shelley W.

Amen Diana!! And yes I would make a horrible reporter. ;) I'm too passionate and might "slip up".

Oct 21, 2015

Livi H.

Aw Shelley, I'm not surprised at all by these "Asian" believers of how people should be lol... I'm a little embarrassed because I'm not like that at all. My mom used to tell me I'm getting darker and always warn me like "you're going to get dark" and I never really understood what the whole deal was. She is light as a ghost and I have no clue how she does it living in Indonesia in burning weather. Anyway, so sorry you feel that way :(

Oct 21, 2015

Livi H.

Btw I wrote you a message on Instagram!

Oct 21, 2015

Roz X.

I'm so sorry you were made to feel as if somehow you were not beautiful. I understand that our own traditions and standards are not shared worldwide. Even the roles that we play as women are so vastly different around the world. As Diana stated, it has dated back for centuries. These are people who wear ski - masks on the beach. There are many cultures that do not view me as beautiful either...even America has a serious body worship issue that hurts both women and men. I honestly believe they are tailoring their products to the bulk of their market and although available internationally, I don't expect them to change their culture or redefine their ideals.. Brazil has their tan worship as do many women here and as a pale girl, it is often suggested I tan...and you are right...it hurts when someone suggests you are somehow less because you don't fit their notion of perfect. Still, I don't begrudge those who desire pale skin any more than I do those who seek darker tones as their ideal beauty because the world as a whole varies so different that we cannot possibly share the same views or appreciations. From a cultural perspective, It's like going to Chinatown looking for Lasagna. They specialize in Chinese food, but that does not mean that Lasagna is not amazing in soooooooooooooo many ways. *hug* Thank goodness for Little Italy!

I often feel slighted by the beauty industry myself, as I'm certain many of us do when we walk into any clothing store . Luckily, there are more and more cosmetic companies not only embracing, but celebrating diversity and women of color. Certainly there needs to be more in the future. And so I agree, you should take your business elsewhere and invest in those who appreciate you, respect your own culture, and your hard-earned dollars. My very best to you. We know you are beautiful..both inside and out.

Oct 21, 2015

CPT- Lili R.

Thanks for all the information shelley it was really eye opening.

Oct 21, 2015

Shelley W.

We can only hope that they get it together globally and stop the nonsense but it's so deeply embedded spanning many generations I can't foresee individuals releasing those ideals. But if we can get brands to advance and stop feeding into them then we will be onto something.

Oct 22, 2015

Nathalie C.

Hey Shelley, if you decide to stop boycotting, you could always try to mix some coverfx drops to korean products. Although if I were you I'm very unsure I would stop boycotting.

Oct 23, 2015

HV V.

Good idea Nathalie!

On a deeper tone (pun intended :P) this is very sad but a cold, ugly truth. There are dangerous whitening products all over Asia (as Mylene stated). It is prevalent as a cultural (hidden) truth in India as well. The saddest part is when Nina Davuluri was titled Muss America- not only was she ridiculed in the US since she was if Indian decent, but also intensely ridiculed in India because of her dark skin. Instead of embracing Indian beauty being embraced across seas, Indians were laughing and worse yet, shamed, that a dark skinned Indian woman was named ''Miss America'.

I think as a global culture persists nowadays, those set in the mindset of the past will be left behind. I DO think banning companies for their beliefs and especially actions is the best way to make a change. It won't happen overnight, but, for a company to really reap potential profits, it will need to happen.

This makes so much sense now that you opened my eyes! Thanks for sharing Shelley, this is really upsetting. I knew about their inflexible beauty standards but I had given them the benefit of the doubt too. :(