History of Korean Skin Care

Do you watch Korean movies? Or have you at least seen one before? There are a lot many of their movies flooding the international market. I mean, it's a booming industry. People love their movies and have become fans to most of their celebrity actors.

So if you've been seeing these Koreans constantly on your screen, what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Koreans? Yes, they're Asians. We all know that, but I'm asking what you remember when you think about their person? Or more directly, their beauty?

Korean Skin Whiteners


Well, for me, the mental picture I have of them is their supple, beautiful skin.

It would be proper to let you know that Koreans have an age-long history of desiring beautiful skin and taking care of it. This skin-care culture was passed down to them by their ancestors over a millennium ago. Read further to find out the story behind it.

The history of Korean skin care dates back to the era of the three Korean kingdoms. During this period, Koreans used ornaments which they had coloured to designate people's social class and position. These coloured ornaments where also used to identify religious symbols.

Basically, the Korean skin care philosophy did not only view make up or skin care as a way of becoming more beautiful. It was seen more as a good way of treating one's body properly, enhancing and grooming their beauty both in and out.

By the end of this article, you would gain more historic insight into Korean skin care, Korean skin care philosophy, Korean cosmetics, Korean make up and yes, Korean skin-whitening!

In those days, the Korean women made these skin-care products by themselves. They loved white skin. Some of them used lard on their skin to prevent them from having frostbites in winter. It also made their skin soft. This practice marked the beginning of Korean cosmetics.

The Three Kingdoms of the Korean Era

As mentioned earlier, the origin of Korean make up can be traced back to the era of the three kingdoms. The kingdoms were the Goguryeo (later known as Goryeo) kingdom, the Backje kingdom, and the Silla kingdom. These kingdoms lasted from around 57 BC to 668AD. You you can imagine how long ago the Koreans started taking a special interest in their skin.

The modern name, “Korea” was derived from the name of one the three kingdoms, “Goryeo”.

In those days, Koreans were more interested in looking healthy than just enhancing their beauty. This thinking and practice were majorly inspired by Confucianism. The religion stressed strongly on inner beauty more than outer beauty.

For this reason, having a soft and clean face was a thing of beauty. It was more common to see middle class women wear light make up even to occasions and functions such as weddings and other ceremonies. On the other hand, court ladies and performers wore a heavy and more-pronounced make up.

Techniques for Korean skin care and cosmetics
The use of make up grew rapidly especially during the era of the Goryeo Kingdom.

The women of those days made these skin-care products by extracting lotions from plants. For their hair, they used castor and camellia oils. This was because the oils had pleasant smells and had distinct unsticky quality.

These ancient Koreans were very industrious and innovative. They used safflower oil to make creams that had moisturizing and glossy effects on the skin. Apricots and peach oils were useful in those times too: they were mostly used in producing ointments that cleared liver spots and freckles. Each of these natural ingredients had their unique smell, so the Koreans put fragrance in them.

They mostly used dried clove buds to make the fragrance. These dried close buds had a healthy effect and also served as a deodorizer
They used it while bathing because it had qualities that reduced stress and mental fatigue.

Korean Make Up
They ground rice and millet to make their powder. These ingredients were known as “mibun” or “baekbun”. They blended the mibun with water and oil to make the powder stick to their faces.

They viewed their eye brows as a mark of facial beauty. To enhance the beauty of their brows, they used eye brow ink to draw and emphasize them. The ink was made from plant ash and from it, they made different ink colors like indigo, black, blue and dark brown.

All of the make up used in those days were hand-made. One little draw back then was the absence of modern preservatives. So women feared that their carefully-made cosmetics could lose their potency before they used them up. To solve this problem or rather, to prevent it, they found it better and wiser to produce them in smaller quantities. So, they would make these skin-care products and make up in smaller quantities and got small containers as well to store them in.

This way, the cosmetics would still be very much useful until they finished.

The small containers were made with different materials at different periods in Korean history.
During the period of the three kingdoms when the use and production of cosmetics began, they used earthenware. They used celadon during the Koryo dynasty while they used white and blue porcelain during the Joseon dynasty.
These containers were made in the form of dishes and bottles.

The industry kept growing and gained such popularity and patronage that the Japanese and Chinese also learned how to make it.

Korean Skin Whitening
Koreans have a special likeness for white skin. In fact, I think the better word for it is, “idolize”. Yes, they idolize white skin.

In the mental picture I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I have a vivid picture of what I also see when I think of Koreans: their pure white skin!

In those days, having a white skin, to them, was a statement of beauty. That is why they purchased a lot of products and regiments that promised to whiten their skin.

This culture is still on till today. It is inspired by their belief that white people are better than them while darker people are not. Having a white skin speaks volumes of one's class. It is an evidence that you don't spend hours working under the sun, slaving away in manual labour to earn a living.

Skin-care experts have created a booming market off the burning desire by the consumers to be white.

Finally, Korea has become an international household name in producing skin care and beauty products. The market is growing daily and their consumers trust their products.

So, I hope I fulfilled my promise of stuffing you with the history of Korean skin care. Did you enjoy it? What new thing did you learn?