Korean dermatologist demystifies K-beauty for the world

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                          Korean dermatologist demystifies K-beauty for the world

                          Chung Hae-shin, a cosmetic dermatologist currently working at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, performs a skin care procedure on a patient. [CHUNG HAE-SHIN]

                          Chung Hae-shin, a cosmetic dermatologist currently working at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, performs a skin care procedure on a patient. [CHUNG HAE-SHIN]

                          When it comes to K-beauty, what people outside of Korea are really curious about is usually not makeup, but skin care products. They want to know the secrets to younger-looking, glowing skin, and many have turned to Korean skin care products for a solution.  

                          Chung Hae-shin, a cosmetic dermatologist, has recently published an English language book on K-beauty in attempt to answer the many questions that people have when it comes to Korean skin care. Titled “K-Beauty: The Facts,” Chung’s book is the first English book on K-beauty written by a Korean dermatologist.  
                           
                          According to Chung, she wrote the book while she was working as a visiting adjunct professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School’s Massachusetts General Hospital in 2018. The book, she says, is not for Koreans, but for people outside of Korea who are interested in K-beauty.  
                          “I have over 20 years of experience performing various cosmetic dermatology procedures in Korea, so I have had several opportunities here to present about K-beauty,” said Chung in an email interview. “The U.S. dermatology circle has been showing interest in the cosmetic dermatology procedures being performed in Korea, and my colleagues here encouraged me to publish a book.”  
                           
                          The subtitle of Chung’s book is, “Korea’s Top Dermatologist Reveals the Insider Truth about Korean Skin care.”  
                           
                          Revealing the truth?  
                           
                          Chung says that people outside of Korea want to know the secret to the glowing skin that many Koreans have, and she said that she’s revealing the truth in the book.   
                          “Koreans think it’s a matter of course, but all those daily skin care routines we do in front of the mirror that take up a lot of time and effort can seem like ‘too much’ to the eyes of foreigners,” said Chung.  
                           
                          Chung's book on K-beauty titled "K-beauty: The Facts."

                          Chung's book on K-beauty titled "K-beauty: The Facts."

                          For example, people rarely see dermatologists in the U.S. unless they have serious skin problems. In addition, cosmetic dermatology procedures are performed on a specific group of patients. The average skin care done by Americans is quite simple compared to that of Koreans.  
                          Maybe because of this, K-beauty is getting a lot of attention in the United States.  
                           
                          “When I was in Korea, I thought the craze over K-beauty abroad was a little exaggerated. But I can feel the tremendous popularity of Korean beauty products after moving here. Korean skin care routines are introduced on TV shows and I see a lot of Korean cosmetics products at supermarkets and department stores,” said Chung.  
                           
                          “Now it’s very common to see beauty magazines spare pages to introduce brand-new cosmetics from Korea and elaborate on how Koreans take care of their skin.  
                           
                          “Since Korean cosmetics companies are always quick to read the needs of consumers, they come up with interesting and novel products, which makes American companies want to keep an eye on the trends [that Korean companies make.]”  
                           
                          Of all beauty product consumers, millennials are especially fond of Korean cosmetics.  
                          Behind the enthusiasm for K-beauty, however, there are some popular myths that need to be corrected. One of them is the so-called 10-step skin care routine.  
                           
                          In reality, few Korean women apply 10 different cosmetics every day, but the 10-step skin care routine is usually the first thing that people overseas come up with when they think of K-beauty.  
                           
                          “Foreigners literally understood the 10-step skin care as a routine that requires 10 stages with 10 different products, but these days they understand that the 10 steps are a symbolic expression of stressing how each stage is important, such as double cleansing, sun protection and moisturizing.”  
                           
                          In her book, Chung says that K-beauty has been packaged with too much fantasy and exaggeration in the West, and she instead approaches it from scientific, historical and cultural points of view.  
                           
                          She starts with the truth about the 10-step skin care and delves into the background history of why Koreans stick to double cleansing methods, why they care for exfoliating dead skin cells and why they are passionate about using sunscreen.  
                           
                          Chung also points out some practices in K-beauty that aren’t helpful, such as applying a moisturizer multiple times or the frequent use of facial sheet masks. She says they do not have very dramatic effects.  
                          “There are some good things about K-beauty that are acceptable, but on the other hand there are some irrational and even obsessive ideas,” added Chung.
                           
                          But overall, Chung believes that the power of K-beauty comes from its excessive nature.  
                          “I perform cosmetic procedures like anti-aging here at Massachusetts General Hospital, but the ones I did in Seoul were more sophisticated," she said. "Since there is a high demand for anti-aging cosmetic procedures in Korea, the procedures were able to develop to this high level. In addition, a new task was given [to dermatologists] recently to do our job right while also making sure the effects look natural at the same time.”  
                           
                          Chung gave tips on a direction the K-beauty industry should head for. 
                          “BB creams and cushion packs were hit products, and they played a role in promoting K-beauty to the world. We have to keep developing new products, but previous hit products should be reinterpreted, too.”  
                           
                          When asked to pinpoint the virtue of K-beauty, Chung said, “People are willing to solve their skin problems and they put a priority on their skin health in every way.” But Chung said “high dependence on cosmetics, obsession with appearance and too much attention to ingredients” are some of the negative sides of K-beauty.  
                           
                          Chung will stay in the United States for the time being. Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, her research has come to a halt, but before the virus spread, she was carrying out joint research over how whitening treatments turn out for people of different ethnic groups.  
                           
                          “With more than 58,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Massachusetts alone, every day has been turned upside-down. I’m closely monitoring the the local atmosphere that has become unfavorable to China and other Asian countries [who some consider] responsible for the spread of the coronavirus.
                           
                          “The news of the Korean government taking the coronavirus under its control is hitting the air, but still there is this resentment among Americans regarding Asian countries. I hope the positive news about Korea will gradually change public sentiment.”
                          Chung is preparing for her second book by working with a cosmetic critic she worked with for her first book. 
                           
                          The second book, slated to be released sometime in October, will contain information about some Korean functional cosmetics with herbs.  
                          She already decided on a theme for her third book, and it will touch upon the issue of cosmetic procedures.  
                           
                          “If you are too obsessed with the way you look, it will make your life miserable. But your endeavor to be beautiful can make your body and soul healthier if it is not too much. The philosophy of K-beauty is to keep trying to improve your skin,” said Chung.
                           
                          “I hope K-beauty won’t end up as a passing fad.”  
                           
                          BY YOO JI-YEON   [kjdculture@joongang.co.kr]
                           
                           
                           
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