Please upgrade your browser for the best Refinery29 experience. Read more.
You’ve heard it all before: "American BB is not like the Korean BB; Korean makeup is a decade ahead in science." Yet, when you ask around as to why, what, and how the Korean approach to cosmetics — especially to base makeup — is so different, the answers tend to be shapeless. The word multitasking is thrown around much in the same way world peace is used in a Miss Universe interview, and it means just as little when unexplained. While it is true Koreans have some of the snazziest products around (priming powders, anyone?), it's not only our products that are multitaskers — we are, too.
In Western cosmetics, the product is expected to perform. It has to do so in coverage, tone, and skin type for every millimeter of your face to be considered a quality primper. This then leads to the inevitable need for you to relegate yourself to a specific skin category. And, this expectation for the "perfect foundation" to fight all of our complexion’s shortcomings puts enormous pressure on finding that Holy Grail item, when, in reality, your face is a complex canvas of micro-climates of varying needs.
In Korea, it's you who must work to get the look, not the product. The Korean phrase for applying base makeup literally translates to "expressing the skin," the diction revealing the care with which this act is carried out. Because you are your own makeup artist, the products are mere players in your hands, fluid in purpose and method. If your skin type is different from forehead to cheek, for example, you may use two different foundations or a mist to change the texture of the product when it's applied to different parts.
A Korean woman doesn't wait for some miraculous, chameleon foundation but instead concocts a base/touch-up combination and application that caters to her specific needs. This sense of artistry and creativity in consumers is what led to inventions of BB creams and cushion compacts, multitasking products with components that are carefully calibrated to cancel out each other’s faults, mirroring what the consumers have been doing for years.
Even if you don’t have Korean products, you can customize your own skin expression according to these methods while using your own cosmetics. Koreans believe all women are beautiful when they spend time on themselves, so remember to slow down and make deliberate, slow movements. When it comes to their skin, Koreans strive for perfection — and perfection takes time.
Click through to see four different, common methods of skin expression, and learn how to do them yourself.