Skin care is important to Korean men and they are paying a lot of money to have beautiful skin. According to data compiled in April by Euromonitor, a market-research firm, Asia counts for 64 percent of the sales of men’s skin cremes, skin lighteners and lotions, and Korean men pay the most per person. Companies such as Estee Lauder have jumped on the band wagon and are ready to provide Korean men with whatever they desire.
A company called Lab Series has been offering grooming classes to men in Korea and these men learn how to use their various products in the class. The population of men that participate in these classes are young and usually in their 20s or 30s. While Korean men are not reticent about purchasing and using skin care products, they still are not ready to stand at the cosmetic counter in the department store along with all the women. Korean men seem to not want to man up to the skin care sales clerk in the department store.
It should not be surprising that Korean men have an interest in skin care. The bath house culture in Korea, which is very old and widespread, has already laid a cultural basis for this trend. It is common practice to visit the bath house often and spend hours on cleansing the skin. In fact, the entire family goes to the bath house and the women spend time with their daughters and teach them what to do and the men do the same with their sons.
Bath houses have much more than showers and people do much more than soap up in a shower for a few minutes and then call it a day, which is the common practice in the United States. Bath houses are meant to be enjoyed and have a quiet meditative atmosphere. Spending a morning at the bath house clears the mind. When one enters the bath house, a must is to take a cleansing shower, washing all parts of the body (people will watch to make sure everything has been cleaned). The next step is to sit in the hot whirlpool for a while to increase the circulation. Then a choice is made to enter either a dry sauna or wet sauna to excrete toxins from the skin in sweat. Sweating is exceptionally healthy because toxins being released from the skin is a prime way to detoxify. A dip in the hot pool or cold pool is optional.
One of the most wonderful experiences in a bath house is to get a body scrub, which usually costs a reasonable amount of money. The body scrub process is to lie on a plastic covered table while someone uses a glove, which is like the scratchy pad used to clean pots and pans, to scrub all areas of the skin, except for just a few sensitive areas, so that the top layer of skin, which is dead skin cells, is gone. It hurts a bit but when the body scrub is finished people feel like they are renewed. All the dead skin cells are exfoliated and the new layer of exposed skin is baby soft. It is a luxurious experience.
It is no wonder that Korean men are paying attention to their skin and that sales are booming for skin care products designed for men. Growing up in a culture that practices good skin care makes it only natural and logical. The hope for other cultures is that a business trend will develop such that bath houses and body scrubs will become available so that all cultures would be able to enjoy this wonderful, healthful practice.
By Margaret Lutze
The Wall Street Journal