Beauty on the Street: The Different Makeup Looks of Seoul

makeup looks of seoul

Seoul is not all about Gangnam style. Different districts have a different feel and aesthetic (and unofficial dress code!). To help you fit in, here’s our guide to the various makeup looks of Seoul, from Gangnam to Hongdae to Itaewon.



The metropolis of Seoul is home to more than 10 million people. With the fourth largest metropolitan economy in the world, its population density is twice that of New York. Combine that with the approximately 10 million visitors it gets every year, and you’ve got one crowded metropolis.


But Seoul is not just a big city. There are numerous districts within Seoul, each with its own flavor and style. Gangnam — made famous by Psy’s 2012 global hit song — has a definite look and aesthetic, while Hongdae, the area surrounding the artsy Hongik University, can feel like an entirely different world. And then there’s Itaewon, a mini United Nations for all the different nationalities and cuisines represented here. Here, we look at the different neighborhoods of Seoul and break down the prevailing beauty looks of each.




makeup looks of seoul
The bright lights of Gangnam in Seoul.


When you think Gangnam, think of the hustle and bustle of New York’s Manhattan. In this district, skyscrapers and neon lights prevail, and there is never a shortage of people hustling to get from one place to another. By day, professionals swarm the area, and the action only increases at night.


Gangnam is famous for its luxury boutiques. Think posh, high-end labels like Louis Vuitton, Cartier, and Valentino, as well as Korean designer labels like Steve J & Yoni P. The architecture there is very modern, and buildings sometimes look quite futuristic. The cars you’ll see in Gangnam? Porsche, Lamborghini, Maserati. If you want to see how the well-to-do Korean youth spend their time, Gangnam is the place to be.


Of course, Gangnam itself is divided into smaller neighborhoods. There’s Cheongdam-dong, the poshest of them all; Apgujeong, where cosmetic surgery clinics reign; and Sinsa-dong, home of the trendy street Garosugil. Each area is known for different things, but all are high-end or global brands. Cheongdam boasts designer boutiques like Gucci, Kenzo, DKNY, and Prada, while Apgujeong and Sinsa’s gingko tree-lined Garosugil specialize in local designers with a more artsy sensibility and chic restaurants and bars. Garosugil is also home to many stylish beauty boutiques, including the cult favorite Gentle Monster, Moonshot, and Su:m37.


Check out vlogger Joan Kim’s day in Garosugil.

Gangnam’s beauty look


Gangnam beauty celeb icon: Song Hye Kyo


Beauty must-haves: Light foundation, a little bit of blush, mascara, and a lip tint.


Beauty brands: Dior, Romand, Sulwhasoo


It makes sense that the people you see in these areas are very fashion-conscious and take great care in their makeup looks and outfits. Minimalism is the go-to for the well-to-do, and people in Gangnam or Cheongdam dress quite elegantly — no sequins or an overload of makeup here. The Gangnam locals prefer classic looks: ladylike skirts, dresses, high heels for women and suits for men. A designer bag is a must, and jewelry is small and delicate. (Remember, minimalism is key — nothing big or too shiny.)


makeup looks of seoul
Left: A Gangnam look, courtesy of Right: Song Hye Kyo epitomizes the elegant Gangnam look in a spread for Marie Claire China.


The makeup look for women in Gangnam is similarly classic: natural and chic. The most important aspect of a Gangnam makeup look is perfect skin, a no-makeup makeup look. Unlike in the West, there is no contouring, just a pretty flush in the cheeks. Eye makeup usually includes shimmery eye shadows in pastel tones, with a bit of eyeliner and mascara. Instead of false eyelashes, you’ll see a more luxurious version — eyelash extensions. For eyebrows, women in Gangnam prefer lighter shades for a more youthful look. And to complement the natural makeup look, they prefer lip tints for just a hint of color.




makeup looks of seoul
Manchul Kim/airbnb


On the other side of the spectrum is Hongdae. If Gangnam, Cheongdam, and Garosugil in Sinsa are areas to sip, stroll, and peruse, then Hongdae is an area to shop, listen to music, and party!


Hongdae is the area surrounding Hongik University, a top architecture and art college in Korea. This area is a haven for people who are into art and music; musicians and artists perform right in the middle of the streets. Because it’s essentially a college town, you can find tons of stores and restaurants at affordable prices, as well as no shortage of bars, karaoke, and nightclubs. Life at Hongdae starts when the sun goes down; that’s when Hongdae lights up in neon and loud music.


Hongdae’s beauty look:


Hongdae beauty celeb icon: Makeup artist Pony.


Beauty must-haves: Bold pops of color, well-defined brows, and bleached hair.


Beauty brands: 3CE, M.A.C, Too Cool For School


People who love to hang out in Hongdae are eclectic and have their own style. You’ll see all sorts of makeup looks and fashion styles here. Young women are often seen in colorful clothing, hats, sneakers, and backpacks.


makeup looks of seoul
Left: The eclectic Hongdae look, courtesy of Right: Celeb makeup artist Pony.


The makeup and hair looks here are also diverse. The typical Hongdae makeup look consists of eyeliner, lots of foundation, and bright lipstick. There’s also a lot of false eyelashes, dark lips, and well-defined eyebrows. Women here want to stand out, so bleached hair and bright hair shades abound.





makeup looks of seoul


Itaewon is a microcosm of the world. You can find virtually any language and any nationality here, whether it’s American, Chinese, Japanese, French, Brazilian, Russian, Turkish, Arabic, Mexican, Indian, or Mongolian. Every store and every restaurant has at least one person who speaks English (or practically any other language that you need). And what Itaewon lacks in designer stores it makes up for in authentic restaurants specializing in cuisine from all over the world. Itaewon is also a spot for nightlife, with plenty of nightclubs and bars catering to foreigners and locals alike.


Itaewon’s beauty look:


Itaewon beauty celeb icon: Jessi


Beauty must-haves: False eyelashes, a smoky eye, bright lipstick.


Beauty brands: Ameli, Tony Moly, Urban Decay



makeup looks of seoul
Left: Partygoers in Itaewon, Right: Rapper Jessi.


Because a lot of foreigners live and work in Itaewon, you can expect that the makeup looks and style of the people who frequent this area have a strong Western influence, especially if you’re going clubbing. False eyelashes, bright lipstick, lots of contouring, and a smoky eye are the norm. Club wear is similar to what you’d find in the West.


Of course, whether you’re shopping in Gangnam, partying in Hongdae, or dining in Itaewon, the only real beauty must-haves you need are a bright smile and an open attitude. With those two things, you’re guaranteed to fit right in and have a great time.


Have you ever been to these districts in Seoul? Of the different makeup looks of Seoul, where do you think you’d fit in?



Everything You Wanted to Know About Lip Tints

lip tints banner

Whether you’re looking for the K-beauty ombré gradient lip or juicy, long-lasting color, the next generation lip tints are lightweight, rich in color, and last from leisurely brunch to the beach to club hopping.



Lip tints have become all the rage in beauty, not just in Korea and the rest of Asia, but in Western countries as well. Do a search on YouTube for “lip tint” and you get over 91,000 videos. Sephora has a whole category dedicated to lip tints (also called lip stains), and you’d be hard pressed to find a K-beauty makeup brand that didn’t offer their own lip tints.


Singer and actress Suzy for The Face Shop. lip tints
Singer and actress Suzy for The Face Shop.


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “tint” as “a usually slight or pale coloration,” and that’s exactly the effect of the original lip tints. Lip tints took off in the Korean beauty scene for its ability to create the perfect gradient lip. Also called an ombré lip, the hallmark of a gradient lip is a brighter color on the inside of the lips that fades as you get closer to the edge of the lips. It’s been the lip look of choice for many Korean celebrities over the past few years. Actress, singer, and model Suzy uses lip tints in almost all her makeup looks. Actress and singer Krystal of the girl group f(x) is a spokesperson for Etude House, which is famous for its amazing lip tints. And singer Taeyeon, formerly of Girls’ Generation, is shown with a gradient lip in many of her promotional photos. (The long-lasting wear of a lip tint must be an advantage during concerts.)


Korean women like the gradient lip for its youthful, natural appeal, though in recent months, more and more celebrities seem to be wearing a more subtle version of the gradient lip, with a soft, diffused look rather than an obvious fading. (A “blurred” lip is also a trend from the spring 2017 runways.) So whether you like an ombré look or a full-on over-lined lip, the easiest way to achieve the lip look of your dreams is with a lip tint.


What is a lip tint (and how is it different from lipstick and lip gloss)?

missha tint madeleine_pink_1 lip tints
Missha Lasting Painting Tint in Madeleine Pink.


Lipsticks and lip glosses contain waxes and oils, which is what causes them to slip and slide off your lips. A lip tint, on the other hand, typically has a liquid or gel base, sometimes even a mousse texture. Within this base are pigments that cling to the lips long after the watery base has evaporated. What that means is that lip tints don’t budge and last all day. There’s no need to touch up and no dreaded lipstick mark on your cup of coffee or glass of wine. It’s especially popular during the summer months. And depending on the shade, lip tints impart a more natural look than lipstick while still giving lips a juiciness and long-lasting color. (It’s also a more affordable and far less painful option than permanent lip makeup, where lip color is essentially tattooed onto the lips, which was a thing in Korea for a while.)


While the original lip tints were a bit drying, today, most makeup brands add moisturizing ingredients to keep lips soft and hydrated all day. And because lip tints are highly pigmented, a little goes a long way, so your lip tint should last you at least several months.


So what are the different types of lip tints?

When it comes to lip tints, we’re spoiled for choice, as beauty companies come out with more and more formulations and textures. Here, some of the more popular types of lip tints.


Liquid lip tints


etude house twin shot tint lip tints
Etude House


The most popular type of lip tint is the liquid lip tint. These are incredibly easy to apply. For a gradient lip, just use the wand to swipe along the inner edges of the lips and press your lips together a few times to diffuse the color. For a softer, more diffused look, apply tint over more of your lips and press lips together a few times.


At first, you might think that liquid lip tints are tricky to apply because of its watery consistency. But just follow these tips for easy application. First, apply a lip balm or some sort of moisturizer on your lips before using a lip tint. This will make your lips softer so that the liquid lip tint doesn’t dry as quickly. Second, to avoid overdoing a lip tint and ending up with a “fake” look, apply it only onto your lower lip and press your lips together. This will help the lip tint spread evenly onto your lips. If your lip color starts creasing after you apply a liquid lip tint, blot your lips with a damp tissue to remove excess tint for a more natural look.


Peel-off lip tints


berrisom peel off lip tint cropped2 lip tints
Berrisom Chu My Lip Tint Pack


The peel-off lip tint is a true novelty. These types of tints, which leave a deep stain on the lips that last for up to 12 hours, differ from your usual lip tint in its application. First, apply a thick layer of this product on your lips and leave it on for at least 10 minutes. After the tint has dried, simply peel off the film. The color pigments absorb into the lips, and the resulting stain looks rich and juicy, not dry.


Tint sticks


holika tint stick cropped lip tints
Holika Holika Honeydew Stick Tint


The name says it all — tint sticks come in the convenience of a lip balm or lipstick bullet but gives the look of tint. Their texture is creamy and lightweight, and since tint sticks have more moisturizing ingredients, they make dry lips look fuller and softer than liquid lip tints. The best part is that these lip tints act like typical lip tints in that the color lasts all day, even after the initial shine has worn off.


Matte lip tints


lip tints
Etude House Vivid Pop Stick


In response to the growing matte lip trend worldwide, K-beauty companies have come out with matte lip tints as an alternative to matte liquid lipsticks. Like a typical lip tint, matte lip tints have an incredibly light texture that feels like you’re wearing nothing at all. (Etude House offers matte shades in a crayon and a cushion.) They also don’t feel dry on the lips or dry out the lips, so there’s no cracking or creasing. Matte lip tints also tend to have a high-end feel that you notice as soon as you apply it to your lips. They offer smooth color and full coverage with a gorgeous velvet finish.


How do you use a lip tint?

The lip tint is quite versatile. You can create a gradient lip but also use it for a diffused look or a full-on coverage lip color. Just follow these steps.


Gradient lips

  1. Apply your tint on the inner area of your lips.
  2. Press lips together a few times to diffuse the color.
  3. Use concealer or BB cream to neutralize the outer edges of your lips.


Diffused lips

  1. Apply a light layer of the tint to most of your lips, avoiding the edges.
  2. Press lips together a few times to diffuse the color.


Full coverage

  1. Use the tint to outline your lips.
  2. Fill in lips with the tint.


Have you ever tried a lip tint before? What are your tips and tricks for using a lip tint?



Affordable K-Beauty Dupes For These Beauty Vlogger Faves

K-beauty dupes

Coveting the gold face oil of the moment or the eyebrow pencil making the rounds on social media? These K-beauty dupes are just as good, if not better, and they’ll save you a pretty penny.



For women all over the globe, it is essential to have healthy and glowing skin. Particularly in Korea, skincare takes up a big part of a woman’s daily routine. Among the vast number of facial creams, masks, and serums that aim to make your skin look perfect, one useful and important product is a facial oil. And the trendiest, most Instagrammable facial oil right now is the Farsali Rose Gold Elixir.


The Rose Gold Elixir is a mix of a variety of botanical oils, including rosehip seed oil and pumpkin seed oil, as well as flecks of 24k gold. This oil, like other facial oils, has vitamins, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids that are essential for healthy skin. Leading beauty bloggers and makeup artists around the world use the Rose Gold Elixir as a prep step before applying foundation.


Of course, the downside of the Rose Gold Elixir is that it’s $54 for a 30ml bottle. (It’s also not easy to get since their site and Sephora only ship to certain parts of the world.) Fortunately, you don’t have to buy a plane ticket to get your hands on a facial oil that will do double duty as a moisturizer and makeup primer. Just look to these K-beauty dupes for alternatives that are not only just as good or better, they’re more affordable.


If you like Farsali Rose Gold Elixir, try Missha Time Revolution Vitality Oil


missha oil dupe K-beauty dupes


Missha Time Revolution Vitality Oil is an anti-aging powerhouse, revitalizing, hydrating, and soothing skin. It absorbs quickly with a non-sticky finish, thanks to the dry texture of the oil. After the first application, dry spots are gone and skin looks soft and smooth.


What makes the Vitality Oil so good is its six plant oils, including rose hip oil, pomegranate seed oil, Camellia oleifera seed oil, jojoba seed oil, and black cumin seed oil; botanical extracts; and squalane. Pomegranate oil, in particular, is full of vitamins that help stimulate the synthesis of collagen and protect skin from environmental hazards. It even helps minimize dark spots and post-acne scars. Another important oil, moringa, speeds the healing of damaged skin and relieves irritation.


Like the Farsali oil, the Vitality Oil makes a great base or primer for makeup. Just apply two to three drops all over your face with your fingers or a beauty blender for a glowing and natural makeup look. (It’s also what keeps Korean actress Son Ye Jin looking so radiant all the time.) The best part of all? Missha Time Revolution Vitality Oil is $28 for 30ml, almost half the price of the Farsali oil.


If you like Anastasia Perfect Brow Pencil, try Etude House Drawing Eye Brow Duo


eyebrow pencil dupes K-beauty dupes


Anastasia Beverly Hills started out beloved by professionals in the beauty industry to create their makeup looks. But these days YouTube beauty vloggers and amateurs alike are flocking to Anastasia for their beauty looks. In particular, their Perfect Brow Pencil can be seen all over social media. Available in eight shades, it’s a brow pencil on one end and a spoolie brush on the other. While the brow pencil is $23, shipping outside the U.S. can be pricey. But why bother with the hassle when K-beauty offers you a better, more affordable equivalent?


Korean brand Etude House is famous for its cute pink designs, unique patterns, and easy-to-use products. And their Drawing Eye Brow Duo is no exception. The convenient double-ended design features a pencil on one side and a small blending sponge on the other. But it’s not just a sponge — it contains a brow powder so you can fill in sparse areas and blend for the perfect brow shape. It’s a brow pencil and powder in one!


The texture of the pencil is also great — smooth and soft, which makes it incredibly easy to use on your eyebrows. It’s not too heavy, and it leaves your eyebrows looking natural while giving them a clean and beautiful shape. The Eye Brow Duo comes in four shades — #1 Dark Brown, #2 Light Brown, #3 Grey Brown, and #4 Red Brown — so it’s perfect for any hair color and skin tone. And one more advantage of this pencil over the Anastasia one? Its price — $11 — which is more than half the price of the Anastasia Perfect Brow Pencil.


If you need more proof, just look at this makeup look by Park Hye Min, otherwise known as Pony, one of the most famous Korean beauty vloggers around. Pony created this look using the Etude House Drawing Eye Brow Duo in #1 Dark Brown, and her eyebrows are on fleek.



Have you found any K-beauty dupes for your favorite beauty products? Share your discovery in the comments below!



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