The Difference Between J-beauty and K-beauty

The Difference Between J-beauty and K-beauty

If you’re a beauty buff (or even if you aren’t), you probably know that South Korea has been the darling of the beauty industry for the past few years. It’s not hard to see why—the meteoric rise of K-pop idols with flawless faces, as well as a few viral beauty trends, have thrown a spotlight on K-beauty, and people all over the world want to know their secrets.

But Keshoume is a website about Japanese beauty—not Korean. So why blog about it? Well, simply because a crash course in Asian beauty might help aspiring gurus become more informed consumers. When shopping for the product of your dreams, you should know about the differences between J-beauty and K-beauty, the awesome things they have in common, and how they’re bringing people’s beauty routines to the next level all around the world. 

Japanese Tradition

I gave a quick rundown of J-beauty routines in another article, but it bears repeating: Japanese beauty is all about simple, practical products with traditional ingredients, and using them day in and day out for a perfected, natural look. It’s not exactly new to Westerners, either—brands like Shiseido and SK-II have been delivering understated but effective products to devotees in the Western hemisphere for decades. Skincare comes first and foremost in Japanese beauty, and most Japanese women forego bold lips and flashy eyeshadow in favor of smooth, pale skin with a natural glow. This is achieved through a meticulous process of “double-cleansing,” or washing with oil followed by a water-based cleanser, applying toners, conditioning, and layering on sunscreen. Most Japanese products rely on tried-and true ingredients like green tea, sake, and seaweed. Simply put, with J-beauty, less is more, and Westerners have been loving the results for a long time now.

Korean Innovation

If Japan is steadfast and traditional in its beauty routines, Korea is boldly charging forward, willing to try anything once. Innovation is the name of the game in K-beauty, in keeping with a customer base that is highly selective, knowledgeable and adventurous with their products. Just like in Japan, skincare is deeply ingrained into Korean culture. The infamous ten-step Korean skincare routine has been breaking the internet recently, and Westerners (who usually scrub with soap and water and call it a day) are definitely curious to see what else K-beauty has to offer.

One of the most popular current staples of K-beauty is the sheet mask—but, true to form, they’ve branched out into lighter-than-air splash masks and heavy-duty rubber masks. Neither is K-beauty shy about experimenting with ingredients, and it’s got people swearing by the restorative powers of salmon eggs or snail mucin.

This adventurous attitude shows in the popular makeup styles, too. When compared with the conservative looks worn by Japanese women, young Korean women seem more willing to wear a bold lip or dark eyebrows, like K-pop megastar Hyuna, who’s rarely shown without bright red lipstick. K-beauty also goes out of its way to create cute, interesting product packaging (I’m currently obsessed with this snail cream that comes in a snail-shaped jar). 

Common Ground

While there are a lot of subtle differences between beauty routines in Japan and Korea, they have plenty in common; namely, skincare reigns supreme. Whether you like J-beauty’s traditional, top quality products or K-beauty’s trendy formulas with funky packaging, skincare products from either are among the best in the world, so it’s hard to go wrong.

Aside from skincare, Japanese and Korean beauty also shares its understated approach to makeup. Like I said, there are small differences in color and product preferences, but on the whole, East Asian women wear soft, natural makeup with very little of the glitz and glamor you find in the West. You’ll be hard pressed to find bright purple lipstick or glittery eyeshadow at a beauty shop whether you’re in Japan or South Korea.

As opposed to Western showiness with makeup, women in Japan and Korea value youthful perfection and an overall cute appearance. This shows in Japanese women’s love for eyeliner, mascara and eyelash curlers that create large doe-eyes, and in Korean women’s fixation on aegyo-sal, literally “charming fat”, underneath the eyes that creates a youthful, always-smiling appearance.

In short, there are differences between J-beauty and K-beauty, but neither one is better than the other, and they both can work wonders for your daily beauty practices. And if you’ve been on the K-beauty trend but want to give Japan a shot, check out our stock here at Keshoume—you might find the perfect thing for your routine. 

Rowan Thompson - June 1, 2020

“J-Beauty Vs K-Beauty: What's The Difference?” Blog | HUDA BEAUTY, 1 May 2018,

McIntyre, Megan. “Please Don't Call J-Beauty 'the New K-Beauty'.” Fashionista, 12 Mar. 2018,

Tsai, Victoria. “K-Beauty Versus J-Beauty.”, 16 Jan. 2017,

Uyehara, Mari. “Why You Should Consider a Japanese Beauty Routine.” Vox, Vox, 1 Nov. 2017,


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