The History of Korean Makeup 1980s - 2020s

by Isabel Bang


From the 1980s, coloured television became more accessible in Korea. This is when multicoloured eye shadows trended between celebrities on TV, and then onto the public. From pink, blue, to green, bold colours were used for eyes and scarlet red for lips. Along with the colourful makeup, strong contour and cheekbone highlights also became the in-style for a more defined face shape.  


This was the era where the single makeup trend dominated the whole country - thinly arched eyebrows, bold lip line, and clear skin. Compared to the decade before, Koreans put more emphasis on clearer and healthier skin, then makeup was just a plus method to express one’s individuality. Losing the rainbow coloured eye shadows, the makeup became a lot more subtle. Fun fact: the 1990s was when women started actively working in the social field, hence the glamour and charismatic look was more searched for than just lookin’ pretty.


Skincare and smooth skin became an even more important aspect of beauty. The clear and moistfull-looking base makeup was the main focus in the 2000s. Natural makeup was in fashion, with glossy lips and the least colour on the eyes as possible - with maybe some peachy cheeks for the natural rosiness. As for the eyebrows, they were either just groomed and not drawn on at all, or only subtly filled in with brow powder.


Unlike in the 1990s when the mature look was favoured, the so-called “Dong-An” (babyface) and “Gwa-Zup” (fruity) makeup started trending in the 2010s. Straight eyebrows were preferred over arched ones, and pastel colours like pink or coral were used most. For the fresh fruity look, blushers were a must - also used most in light pink! As for the lips, this era was when “lip tints” emerged with different textures and colours. Glossy, yet non sticky lip tints were preferred for the fruity makeup, and matte lips were loved for daily makeup. The natural-looking gradation lip makeup also started from the 2010s.

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