By now, most of us are well-accustomed with the wonders of Korean skincare. However, Korean makeup has gone global too, and it isn’t just reserved for Asians. Fruit-inspired shades, glittery lids, and glossy lips were mega hits in 2020, and it’s easy to see why. They’re incredibly flattering and fun to wear – plus, they bring out the youth in all of us.
Like most cultural phenomena, however, Korean makeup trends are ever-changing. What was big last year may not be as popular this year. From what we’ve observed thus far, we’re seeing the glass skin look give way to a similar trend known as “mirror skin”. Elsewhere, “brick”, “chilli”, and “milk tea” shades are being passed over in favour of mauve and other shades with a splash of grey in them.
To find out what’s hot and what’s not, we rang up three K-beauty experts and got them to share 2021 Korean makeup trends we can expect to see. Keep reading to find out how you can try these trends out yourself.
Korean makeup trends in 2021: Mirror skin
We’re familiar with glass skin and cream skin, and the latest trend is in a similar vein: mirror skin. Yup, we’re talking about skin that’s so glowy, it’s almost reflective.
“We are constantly inspired by Korean makeup artists and their tips and tricks to achieve that effortless, dewy glow,” Christine Chang, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Glow Recipe says. “We’ve seen makeup artists use oils and even Vaseline to get that glowing finish, but right now skincare-makeup hybrids are definitely popular.”
For Jane Park, HERA’s Global Makeup Artist, both glass skin and mirror skin simply refer to healthy skin with a smooth surface. To achieve the look, however, it all starts with skincare, specifically your cleansing step.
“We realised that not a lot of people use oil cleansers. For me, I will always use an oil cleanser like HERA’s Gentle Cleansing Oil. It removes heavy makeup and dirt, but it also helps dissolve the whiteheads and the blackheads,” Jane shares. After which, she’ll follow up her routine with a facial mist, serum, and moisturiser to lock in hydration.
Cynthia Oh, a local makeup artist and go-to pro for Korean makeup looks, agrees, saying that the key to the look is your base. “If your skin is good in the first place, it will be much easier to achieve it,” she says. “A little hack is to first prep your skin with a good hydrating mist, then add a few drops of serum or ampoule to your foundation to create an illuminating effect.”
If your skin is looking healthy and you don’t want to layer on any foundation, try Glow Recipe’s newest launch, the Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops. It’s a first-of-its-kind highlighting serum that fuses skincare with makeup.
“We were able to harness only skin-beneficial ingredients like watermelon and niacinamide to create a reflective glow without the use of mica, glitter, and pearl and without a residual grey cast on the skin that can occur from traditional makeup highlighters,” Christine explains.
Makeup products to help you achieve mirror skin
For those who are struggling with blemishes and/or pigmentation, concealing them with a foundation or concealer may not be enough. In fact, both Jane and Cynthia recommend going in with a green concealer first to colour-correct your spots.
“To cover the redness, I recommend using a primer like HERA’s Magic Starter SPF 25/PA++ Face Primer & Corrector in No.3 Mint. The key to achieving mirror skin is to use less foundation or concealer and make sure the skin is well prepped before applying the foundation,” Jane elaborates.
To achieve mirror skin, she recommends using a foundation that settles to a glowy, dewy finish. “HERA’s Glow Lasting Foundation (left) is a perfect foundation to achieve that mirror skin. It delivers a hydrating glow to your skin, making the high points of the face beam under the light while still covering any blemishes,” Jane suggests.
You can also try a couple of our favourite glow-imparting foundations, such as the Laura Mercier Flawless Lumiere Radiance-Perfecting Foundation (centre) and the NARS Sheer Glow Foundation (right). Both deliver buildable coverage and a healthy glow to bring you a step closer to mirror skin.
For better adherence, Jane proposes using a makeup sponge instead of a brush to apply your foundation. With a light hand, dab on a thin layer of foundation all over your face first. Then, go in with more layers only on blemishes and/or pigmentation. The trick is to keep it sheer, perfecting the areas that need extra coverage.
Korean makeup trends in 2021: Monochromatic mauve makeup
Warm “chilli” and bubble tea-inspired “milk tea” shades were all the rage in 2020, but this year, they’re being swapped out for mauve colours. Spotted during Fashion Week in New York and Milan’s Spring/Summer 2021 shows, cool-toned mauves are making moves, earning it a spot on our list of Korean makeup trends in 2021.
Purple and pink makeup usually attract a bolder type of makeup wearer. However, mauve sits in the middle, and it’s one colour in both families that suits just about anyone, whether you’re a minimalist, maximalist, or somewhere in between.
“Mauve brown contains more grey and blue with a pale tint of magenta,” Jane defines. “I think overall, colours with a hint of grey are becoming a trend as it somehow gives a ’90s vibe to the look.” A ’90s resurgence is well overdue in our eyes, and we can’t wait to see more mauve-toned makeup looks popping up on social media. Who knows, maybe over-plucked, skinny brows will make a comeback too.
Makeup products to play with
To achieve a low-maintenance, “fatigue chic” look, Jane recommends a shade like HERA’s Sensual Powder Matte in Rosy Seude (left). It’s a rose-brown lip tint that you can also use on your eyelids and cheeks in a pinch.
You can also try Maybelline’s Superstay Crayon in Enjoy The View (centre), an eight-hour matte lip colour that glides on like butter. It has a built-in sharpener to keep the tip fresh for precise application. Likewise, this lippie doubles up as eyeshadow when you need it to.
Bring the trend to your eyes with ColourPop’s Making Mauves Eyeshadow Palette (right). This nine-pan palette will help you create a soft glam look with rich mattes, pigmented metallics, and foiled finishes. If you love the brand’s Super Shock Shadows, you’ll adore the shimmery shades, which lend a ton of dimension to any eye look.
Korean makeup trends in 2021: Taupe eye makeup
Last year, the trending eye makeup shade was “peanut butter”, a light brown that exudes natural sophistication and versatility. This year, however, the spotlight will be on taupe, the not-so-distant cousin of its predecessor.
“I can see that people are now wearing more taupe or brown eyeshadows with minimal eyeliner and more mascara,” Jane observes. “Another eye makeup trend would be rimmed smokey eyes using black eyeshadow.”
Taupe is one of the most underrated eye makeup shades, in our opinion. Warm brown tones whisked in with gorgeous tinges of grey, this hue is certainly not as dull as people once thought it was. A wash of taupe over the lids can add dimension to your eyes and give you a hint of slept-in glamour.
It’s subtle enough to satisfy anyone who adores minimal makeup, yet it can also be amplified with glitter, eyeliner, and lashings of mascara to look dramatic.
Get the look with these makeup products
Jane recommends using HERA’s Shadow Duo in No. 2 Intuitive (left) to achieve the eye makeup look. Simply apply the lighter brown all over your lids and the darker taupe closer to your lash line. After which, you can lengthen and volumise your lashes with a few coats of mascara.
You can also dip your brushes in Cynthia’s recommendation, Dasique’s Eyeshadow Palette in 01 Sugar Brownie (centre). These easy-to-blend, pigmented, buildable shadows come in matte, shimmer, and glitter finishes to help you create ultra-wearable, versatile eye looks.
If you’re hesitant to add another palette to your collection, try a creamy eyeshadow stick instead, such as the Surratt Beauty Smoky Eye Baton in Cendres 3 (right). It’s a flattering taupe with the slightest, finest hint of shimmer. One end of the baton has the shade in an eyeliner format, while the other end dispenses an amped-up, shimmery version of the shade to create an easy, sultry eye look.
Korean makeup trends in 2021: Say goodbye to gradient lips
Once a well-known staple in K-beauty, it seems like gradient lips are taking a long hiatus. Also known as “popsicle lip”, the gradient lip trend has been around for years, where it makes one appear more youthful with its just-bitten effect. However, Jane admits that the trend won’t be returning anytime soon.
“Back in the day, gradient lips were usually created with either cherry red or orange water tints and everyone didn’t mind wearing the same shade as everyone else,” she analyses. “I think people in Korea have now come to realise that not everyone has to wear the same colour. They want to go for a lip product that really suits their skin tone. They want to wear colours that they can really express themselves in.”
Since then, we’ve seen more women either wearing more experimental colours on their lips or sticking to their classic MLBB (an acronym for “my lips but better”) shades. For those who are in either camps at the moment, trying out a mauve lip colour sounds like a natural transition.
Korean makeup trends in 2021: Embrace your natural brows
One thing that caught Jane’s attention during Fashion Week was bleached and natural brows. “People tend to put less emphasis on brows now. They just brush them up using a brow mascara or just fill the gaps using a brow pact,” she shares.
For years, straight, blocked, archless brows have been a defining trait in Korean makeup looks. It mimics the way your brows look when you’re younger, hence, making you appear more youthful. Now, more Koreans are embracing their natural brow shape, darkening them occasionally to frame their faces a little better.
Instead of using a brow pencil, try a brow powder like HERA’s Brow Designer Pact (left). “This is one of my favourite products from HERA because it is so easy to use,” Jane shares. “Just fill in any gaps in the brows and blend using a screw brush. This is so much easier and brows look naturally nicer as well.”
You can also go for Shu Uemura’s Brow:Palette (centre), a two-pan brow palette that’s designed for beginners, so it’s perfect for you if you’re a makeup novice. Another favourite of ours is Benefit Cosmetics’ Foolproof Brow Powder (right). You can get a soft, natural look with this velvety smooth formula – not a harsh line in sight.
With all the mask-wearing we have to do these days, it seems that keeping it natural and minimal overall has become a trend that’s taking off all on its own.