Beauty Lessons From Memorable Korean Drama Makeovers
Yes, we love a good makeover, especially in a K-drama. But we can also learn a thing or two about the difference a good lip tint, a waterproof eyeliner, and most of all, some confidence can make in our own self-esteem.
The makeover is practically an institution in Korean dramas. And while most makeovers tend to focus on plastic surgery and drastic weight loss (Birth of a Beauty and Oh My Venus), there have been some memorable Korean drama makeovers featuring nothing more a good application of makeup, a trip to the salon, and some well-fitting clothes. Not only do these makeovers feel slightly more accessible to the everyday drama addict — especially since I know the male lead will love them even if they’re wearing a plastic bag — but I’ve taken away a few beauty (and even life) lessons from these Korean drama makeovers. Here, some of my favorites.
Scent of a Woman: Life’s short so I’ll decide what I look like
There’s nothing like impending death to make you realize that you’ve been missing out on life. The fabulous Kim Sun Ah’s Lee Yeon Jae is a haggard workaholic when Scent of a Woman starts out, but upon receiving the shocking news that her life is soon to be curtailed, she throws her inhibition to the wind and starts living the life she’s always dreamed of. Her glamorous outfits and pretty, luminous makeup looks are reflections of the joy she’s found in daring to live out her dreams, but rather than allowing makeup to dictate her mood, it’s her effervescence that enlivens her complexion. (Just look at her before:)
Rich, subtly tinted lip colors and flawless mascara help mask Yeon Jae’s illness and allow her to have confidence in her appearance. To get that same look, I like Pony Effect Velvet Lipsticks for the way these lipsticks glide on my lips and stay put through a long day. Missha’s Rolly Curl Mascara is just as durable and promises volume without embarrassing smudging or flaking. Hera’s Cell Bio Cream is pricey, but it’s worth the investment, as a little goes a long way, and a nightly application ensures that at least you look like you got eight hours of sleep.
Coffee Prince: Makeovers aren’t easy
Makeup is more complicated than it seems. Coffee Prince’s Go Eun Chan realizes this the hard way when she gets all dolled up to meet Han Sung and ends up overdoing it. To his credit, Han Sung gently steers her to a “real” makeover, complete with luscious brown wig and pretty dress. The point isn’t that Eun Chan has to be made beautiful but rather that she can feel feminine, a feeling that is a luxury in her hectic workday life.
For those of us who are like Eun Chan and know precious little about makeup, I recommend easy products that don’t require too much time or effort. Tony Moly’s Petit Bunny Gloss Bars come in such cute packaging and puts the fun back in makeup, while Innisfree’s Eco Tints give a hint of natural lip colour without going overboard. I also like Clio’s Kill Black Waterproof Pen Liner because it’s the one of the easiest liners out there and gives you neat lines with minimal effort.
Personal Taste: I want people to know I’m a woman!
Sometimes you want a makeover as a gentle reminder to a cruel world that you are a woman and that you deserve to be taken seriously. Son Ye Jin’s Kae In in Personal Taste is administered by her supposedly gay roommate and doesn’t feature a major transformation. She coaxes and begs her erstwhile roommate to give her a makeover not because she feels inferior but because she wants to remind those around her (especially her ex-boyfriend) that she is a human being who deserves to be valued. A new look (even temporary) does not alter a person’s inherent value, but changes can often make people notice you, people who may have taken you for granted. A makeover is so much more than a physical transformation: People’s reasons for wanting change are often complex and speak of a need for a connection rather than mere vanity.
In Kae In’s makeover, the change that stood out the most was her hair. Her character didn’t seem to bother too much with her hair, so when it was curled and coiffed for the makeover, she looked especially elegant.
Your hair is integral to any look, as every woman who has undergone a bad hair day knows. If your hair looks good, two-thirds of the battle is won. But stress, pollution and poor water quality can wreak havoc on your hair, so hair masks like Etude House’s Silk Scarf pampers your stressed-out strands, while a few pumps of Nature Republic’s Argan Oil Essence after your daily styling will ensure your hair is protected as you go out.
W: Another world, another girl
Han Hyo Joo’s makeover wasn’t so much a transformation as a mere change of style. She went from scrubs in one world to designer togs in another. I included this drama because I love her styling in Kang Chul’s world: It’s soft and pretty and everything about her look and makeup is so light and effortlessly put together. It’s proof that smart heroines don’t have to dress like drudges.
Han Hyo Joo has a classically sharp facial structure so products such as BB creams and highlighters work especially well to give her face definition without loading it up with color. If you’re on the hunt for makeup that defines without relying on splashes of color, I recommend Iope’s UV Sun Shield BB Bright, which has SPF 50 for sun protection. Laneige’s Water Supreme Powder Pact controls oily shine and keeps those cheekbones matte, while Too Cool For School’s Art Class by Rodin allow you to highlight with precision.
She Was Pretty: She’s pretty when she’s doing what she loves
One of my favourite makeovers in dramaland has to be Kim Hye Jin’s (Hwang Jung Eum) makeover in She Was Pretty. The drama subverted many of my expectations in that the male lead never pushed a makeover onto Hye Jin. Her transformation emerged out of her own initiative, an initiative spurred by her employment at a fashion magazine. Subsequently, the emphasis is more on a polished, work-ready look rather than a dripping-with-designer model that most Korean dramas consider makeover standard.
One thing I love about Hye Jin was that she retained her distinctive freckles and curly hair towards the end of the drama, as she found her true calling as a children’s fiction writer. The drama advocates using makeup for your own purposes and acknowledges that desires and appearances change: Nothing is static. The most important thing is embracing who you are at whatever stage you are in life. Hye Jin’s styling wasn’t crazy-drastic: It focused on soft skin and dewy lips and cheeks. To achieve that slow suffusion of color, I’d recommend The Face Shop’s Lovely Pastel Blusher in Rose. Lip tints strike the middle ground between lipstick and lipgloss and give a pop of color to the lips. Etude House’s Rosy Tint Lips come in a variety of luscious shades and are long-lasting so you can forgo frequent touch-ups. 3CE’s Pore Silky Balm controls excess oil and makes your skin appear smoother.
Makeovers aren’t just vanity projects. As these Korean dramas show, women have all sorts of reasons for desiring change. Often, makeup and clothes speak volumes about our emotional health and may contribute to a sense of self, a self that is constantly fluctuating and making itself over. If nothing else, Korean drama heroines have encouraged me to be more adventurous in my own style and to experiment with different looks rather than staying in my comfort zone. And I am often surprised — for different looks do not produce a different me, but rather reveal a different facet of me.
What are your favorite Korean drama makeovers?