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Who Knew: Men in South Korea Really Do Carry Makeup Bags

September 18, 2012

South Korea, where men dominate in the socially conservative country, is also the world's largest consumer of male skin care products.

For the macho men of the small peninsula, advancing in the increasingly competitive job market means one thing: wearing makeup. And lots of it.

Related: Is Your Guy a Metrosexual?

Before important meetings or interviews, men apply foundation to conceal blemishes. They carry cosmetics pouches with them throughout the day to do touch-ups. Korean Air offers makeup classes for male flight attendants once a year and nobody bats an eye when a woman applies her lipstick on her boyfriend's lips in public.

Related: What Men Really Notice About Your Makeup

In fact, South Korean men spent $495.5 million on skin care products last year, which accounts for nearly 21 percent of global sales, according to global market research firm Euromonitor International.

For Korean men, having flawless skin is not just a beauty ideal, but "a marker of social success," according to Roald Maliangkay, head of Korean studies at Australian National University.

South Korean men say wearing makeup creates confidence in a culture where a common catchphrase is "appearance is power."

"Having a clean, neat face makes you look sophisticated and creates an image that you can handle yourself well," says 24-year-old student Cho Won Hyuk. "Your appearance matters, so when I wear makeup on special occasions, it makes me more confident."

While men's fashion and grooming practices in the U.S. have increasingly become more effeminate, does South Korea mark the coming trend of men populating our cosmetics counters?

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