Posted : 2012-12-09 16:55
Updated : 2012-12-09 16:55

Men and cosmetics

A man checks a cosmetic product at a store. Korean men recently have a greater interest in skincare products. / Korea Times photo by Bahk Eun-ji

Males now key buyers of cosmetics

By Bahk Eun-ji

Kim Beom-soo, a 27-year-old freelance writer in Seoul, puts at least five kinds of cosmetics on his face every morning ― toner, serum, moisturizing cream, eye cream and sun block.

His zeal for cosmetics is not as strong as in the past. Previously, he only used face lotion after shaving. Kim hardly spent anything on purchasing beauty products but now spends around 80,000 won every month.

"Having a neat and clean face makes me feel more confident. Being good looking with flawless skin is considered a crucial asset for achieving social success in this country," Kim said.

Song Yung-rok, a 32-year-old electrical engineer in Gyeonggi Province, has two dressers in his house. One is for his wife and the other is for himself. It has already been two years since he became interested in skin care products for men.

When he went to a department store with his wife, he noticed there were many types of cosmetic products additional to toner and lotion. Now he has more than 10 items, so he had to buy another dresser for himself.

"First impressions are extremely important in Korean society and clean skin plays a pivotal role in making a good impression. So I take good care of my skin with several items every day," Song said.

Although East Asian men, especially Koreans, have been overwhelmed by Confucian culture, an interest in skincare and products has grown including even plastic surgery over the past few years.

"I think it's nothing new," Kim said. "Males have long agonized over how to look better one way or another, so the rising interest among men for beauty products is not that surprising. But I think the social stigma of taking good care of their physical appearance has reduced recently."

Kim said that he has no qualms about going to cosmetics shops, and having conversations about beauty products with clerks among many female customers.

Cosmetic products are on the dresser of Kim Bum-soo, a 27-year-old freelance writer in Seoul. Kim puts at least five kinds of cosmetics on his face every morning — toner, serum, moisturizing cream, eye cream and sun block.
/ Courtesy of Kim Bum-soo

Korean guys: key buyers for cosmetics

Men's new attitude toward skincare products has brought about profound changes in the market as well. The number of male customers has been surging changing a market previously dominated by female customers.

Despite the recent jitters in the domestic economy negatively affected by the global economic downturn, the male skincare market of Asia's No. 4 economy is growing at more than 20 percent a year.

According to Euromonitor International, a London based market research firm, Korean men spent more than 540 billion won on cosmetics last year, accounting for 21 percent of overall global sales.

In other words, Korea is the world's largest men's skincare market, quite an achievement in consideration of its male population which is around 25 million out of 3.5 billion worldwide.

Deluge of products

By now, it is obvious that the widespread emphasis on good looks affects not only women but also men, and has led to increasing consumption of skincare products for males here.

The trend has prompted companies to offer various products. Amore Pacific, Korea's largest cosmetics producer, provides more than 10 male brands such as HERA Homme, IOPE for men and Laneige Homme.

In addition, global brands such as SK-Ⅱ MEN, LAP series, and Biotherm Homme are very popular among Korean men.

"SK-Ⅱ MEN Facial Treatment was launched late last year and we were all surprised when our monthly inventory sold out in just four days," said an employee of P&G Korea, which markets SK-II products.

In response to the demand for an improved appearance, cosmetics firms release new advanced treatment products such as those for reducing wrinkles, whitening care and so on.

The nation's two foremost cosmetic companies, Amore Pacific and LG Household and Health Care, employ cutting-edge technology involving anti-oxidant ingredients so as to win out in the competition to draw male customers.

Second-tier players such as Kamill, a German based body products firm, recently introduced hand cream exclusively for men in the Korean market.

KGC Life & Gine, famous for using red ginseng ingredients in its products, also launched Donginbi Hyun, a brand for men, in a quest to develop business opportunities with male consumers.

The Riverside Hotel has started to offer spa services especially designed for men. Traditionally in Korea, spas are considered luxurious retreats for women. The Medi Spa is open 24 hours for tired and exhausted businessmen.

"Many male customers have been uncomfortable to visit spa centers because there has been a kind of social pressure that they are usually for women. Yet, an increasing number of male customers ask for spa facilities exclusively for men and we accepted their requests,"said a Medi Spa representative.

Men's new attitude toward skincare has brought about a profound change in the market. It has also prompted companies to offer various products.
/ Korea Times photo by Bahk Eun-ji

Epicenter of frenzy for male cosmetics

Experts point out that the latest fad for male cosmetics has to do with the social atmosphere in which hyper-competition prods them to sharpen their edge not only in terms of ability but also regarding their appearance.

"With cutthroat competition in the job market and even at work, the nation's craze for young-looking faces creates social pressure on men that they should take care of their looks, especially their skin," professor Song Jae-ryong at Kyung Hee University said.

The professor noted that Korean men are desperate to stay competitive, which pushes them to put more cosmetics on their faces.

Park Jong-hoon, a 25-year-old medical school student in Bundang, South of Seoul, blames constant pressure from the media.

"Apparently, my skin condition is neither bad nor good. I wasn't that interested in skincare but the media, such as TV commercials and other show programs, repeat messages that crystal-clean skin is crucial for success. I even felt some kind of pressure to use foam cleanser instead of regular soap in order not to fall behind," he said.

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