A Step Back In Time: The History Of Korean Cosmetics

Yes, we all now love Korean cosmetics and they are known for being some of the best and most effective cosmetics in the world but let's take a look at how it all started.

Let's take a step back in time and look at the history of Korean cosmetics!

history of korean cosmetics

Ancient Chosun Era (Korean : 고조선 시대)

The origin of Korean cosmetics began from Ancient Chosun era. In Ancient Chosun era, they used ornaments and colored them to show their social position class and religious symbols.

People in Ancient Chosun era glorified fair skin. People in Manchu applied some lard to their bodies and it prevented them from frostbite and softened their skin. Preventing frostbite by adding lard in winter was the origin of Korean cosmetics.

The myth of Dangun also reveals traces of primitive cremation. Considering that wormwood and garlic are excellent cosmetic ingredients in the winter, the ancient Koreans seem to have been able to protect their skin in the winter.

It is interpreted as a Taoist magic to transform the sun into a white skin for 100 days after eating mugwort and garlic, and avoiding sunlight and garlic, because the hierarchy of ancient societies were white men.

ancient korean cosmetics

<Accessories and ornaments in Ancient Chosun Era>

The Three Kingdoms of Korea Era (Korean : 삼국시대)

The history of makeup in Korea began from this era.

1. Goguryeo

A round face, thin eyebrows and hairdressing had been in fashion, affected by China.

People were absorbed in makeup, regardless of status or the rich and the poor.

According to ancient tomb mural in Susan-ri and Ssangyoungchong, the makeup of women who looked like noblewomen or maids was generalised.

The main character of Ssangyoungchong painting all looked like maids or noblewomen, they all comb their hair beautifully, trim their eyebrows, and wear rouge on their cheeks.

ancient korean makeup

2. Baekje

There is no concrete record of the makeup of the Baekje people.

Judging from the fact that Japan has learned to produce cosmetics and makeup techniques from Bakje, it must have had advanced technology.

There is also a record of the fact that Baekje people wear light makeup, which is believed to be a sign of high cosmetic technology.

Hair and make-up have become status symbols.

When Japan lacks cremation in Japan, according to Japanese literature, they have learned cosmetics and cosmetics manufacturing techniques from Baekje.

ancient korean cosmetics

3. Silla

The Silla people believed that beautiful souls are possessed in their beautiful bodies.

Hwarang who were men wore makeup, jade rings, bracelets, necklaces, jewellery, and other accessories.

Especially in 692, a Buddhist monk won the award in Japan for making lead powder, which means that the manufacturing techniques of Silla's cosmetics were superior to those of Japan but also means in the 7th century, it was an unprecedented invention in the world of cosmetics that had already been developed in Silla.

The manufacturing technique of cosmetics was developed, resulting in making face powder and rouge and using it on cheeks and lips.

ancient korean makeup

<The guessed image of Hwarang>

Unified Silla Period

Affected by China, make-up etiquette became somewhat more extravagant than before reunification.

The creation of lead powder was a groundbreaking invention in the makeup of cosmetics.

As braided and knotted hair became prevalent, the cosmetics, headband made of gold, and rings became ubiquitous, cosmetics showed considerable improvement.

Women were addicted to extreme luxury and beauty (pretty much like we are now).

history of korean makeup

<Raw material of cosmetics in Silla>

Goryeo Dynasty (Korean : 고려시대)

During the Three Kingdoms Period, cosmetics manufacturing techniques were excellent and the techniques of Japan and China learned it, and cosmetics techniques reached a high level.

All living things have become extravagant, including clothes, accessories, as well as, cosmetics in Three Kingdoms Period.

Among the politicians of the Goryeo Dynasty, they insisted that the collapse of Silla was caused by a sumptuous trend and some of them insisted prohibiting extravagance.

However, Silla inherited the political, economic, and military system of Silla, and inherited the customs and social customs of Silla, therefore the Goryeo Dynasty has also succeeded and advanced Silla's cremation trend.

The fact that levels of makeup during the Goryeo Dynasty were excellent and people in the Goryeo Dynasty were interested in cosmetics was amply demonstrated, with the fact that During the Goryeo Dynasty, bronze mirrors were more manufactured and made more elaborate than Three Kingdoms of Era and Chosun Dynasty.

It is believed that the cosmetics culture of the Goryeo Dynasty was widely believed to have spread greatly to China, especially the Yuan Dynasty.

koren cosmetics history

Chosun Dynasty <Korean : 조선시대>

The ruling class of the Joseon Dynasty emphasised frugalness as the ruling class of Goryeo Dynasty did during the early days of the Goryeo Dynasty.

Women have emphasised inner beauty rather than outer beauty. But, the production of cosmetics in the Joseon Dynasty was not reduced or ignored, and the subdivision of the cosmetics was promoted.

During the holiday season, the eyebrow was rounded and naturally colored and they gently put the peach powder on the lips. Makeup and ornamentation were only offered for outings, meetings and rituals, and only ginseng, court ladies and musicians wore thick make-up.

Men in the Joseon Dynasty had two different ideals about women. Ideal ginseng was the woman who has a fair skin, peach colored cheek, cheery lips, hair which reminds of cloud and a slim waist. The ideal daughter-in-law or wife was the woman who is healthy and has an amicable personality and a faithful woman. Judging from Yeoyonggukjeon(여용국전(女容國傳)), it compares women's makeup to national politics, and it mentioned 18 kinds of cosmetics and makeup tools and peddlers for cosmetics, Maebungu, existed, it is believed that the production and sale of cosmetics in the Joseon Dynasty was widely diversified to show signs of industrialization.

Judging from Yeoyonggukjeon(여용국전(女容國傳)), it compares women's makeup to national politics, and it mentioned 18 kinds of cosmetics and makeup tools and peddlers for cosmetics, Maebungu, existed, it is believed that the production and sale of cosmetics in the Joseon Dynasty was widely diversified to show signs of industrialization.

Sources: blog.naver.com, en.wikipedia.org

Today, the Korean cosmetics industry is setting the pace for global beauty, driving the most growth and adopting new influences while keeping the product quality and constantly researching for new, innovative products. 

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The History of Korean Cosmetics

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