Articles, Body Image, Confidence, Lifestyle, Makeup

The Toxicity of the Korean Beauty Standard

Across the globe many girls, especially teens, have become self-critical of their physical appearances with the help of social media.

However, in one particular country, South Korea, it is has been notoriously known for its widespread, uniform fixation on certain facial and bodily features, prompting many to spend a fortune on cosmetic surgery and to desperately conform to social expectations. South Korea has been rendered the “capital city of plastic surgery.”

What are the Korean beauty standards? The ideal look involves:

  • double eyelids
  • a v-line jaw
  • pale skin
  • big eyes
  • a slim body
  • and a thin high nose


In fact, the word “ulzzang” literally means “best face.” and the chase for this title proved the detriment of the standard. Many argue that the modern Korean beauty standards are due to Western influence, whereas others believed it originated in a traditional ethnic “look” seen in pre-colonial art.

External cultural pressure to conform to these specific standards has been responsible for the high rate of eating disorders and the prevalence of plastic surgery offices.

When visiting Seoul over spring break, I vividly remembered seeing cosmetic surgery advertisements and clinics on every corner turned – on the bus station or coffee shop wall. This should not be normalized nor an issue that can be overlooked.

Moreover, most of my Korean friends told me getting surgery was going to be their graduation present, which baffled me completely. They were getting double eyelid surgery, which cuts into the hooded eyelids forming a prominent lift crease, ultimately giving the person larger eyes.


Current Issues with Korean Plastic Surgery

The desire for plastic surgery was not the only thing fueling the emphasis on appearances. K-pop, a blossoming music industry in the country, had stars that have undergone several procedures to fit the mold of their beauty standards, with little regard to the fan bases that consist of young adults.

On top of that, makeup brands also market to girls to normalize these unattainable beauty standards. The models featured on advertisements are usually those who embody the “epitome of beauty” in the public’s eyes, and yet the photos are edited to make the person’s eyes wider and face paler. This creates a false image that many purchase cosmetic products for, clearly damaging one’s self-confidence. 


The Toxicity of Korean Beauty

Getting plastic surgery does not repair internal feelings of insecurity or solve any problems. It is merely a mask that provides a false sense of comfort and confidence. Many cosmetic companies make income off of others insecurities and yet, the prevalence of media tries to sell us a highly idealized version of beauty that in fact does not actually exist.

The bottom line is, I hope these societal beauty standards get eradicated and girls can truly accept and embrace their beauty, no matter their eye shape, skin tone, and jaw shape. The unrealistic, ideal beauty standard does not need to be achieved. 


For more information on not just female Korean Beauty standards, click here


And, don’t forget to check out these two articles from our GirlSpring contributors on more Unrealistic Korean Beauty Standards from Lauren Choi and Societies Overall Beauty Standards from Imfeelin22

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1 Comment

  • Juhi Arora

    Very powerful article & amazing to bring attention to the unrealistic beauty standards!

    April 21, 2023 at 4:21 pm
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