The Natural look: French vs Korean skincare and makeup

I love both the French and Korean style of makeup. It all looks so dewy and effortless. It’s as if they woke up that way and just rolled out of bed! The “undone” look isn’t quite as effortless as it seems. Sure, it’s less work than carving out cheekbones and eyelids and contouring your nose but the focus is more on taking care of your skin and using makeup to enhance what’s already there.

Both French and Korean women take great care of their skin. Get the basics right and your makeup will always look great.

French women want to look like they barely put any effort in at all and in Korean culture flawless, even skin is a must.

The French use as little makeup as possible for a natural “undone” look where-as the Korean approach is a little more “sculpted”.

french_natural look

French: Dewy healthy skin with a little colour correcting or a tinted primer to smooth out the complexion. Smudged eyeliner or neutral eyeshadow to add depth. Fuller eyebrows lightly filled in to enhance their natural shape. Then, of course, there is the signature Parisian red lip for the effortlessly polished look. Definitely “Your face but better”.


Korean: Youthful, glowing skin with a light dewy finish. Foundation and concealers are applied in a thin layer and powdered with translucent powder only in oily areas. Orange or pink blush high on the cheekbones to sculpt the face. Sharp, defined eyeliner close to the lashline to make eyes appear rounder and lots of mascara to open the eye. Fuller, straighter eyebrows for a youthful appearance. Lip tints and glosses to create a gradient lip. (darker berry or orange colour on the inside and lighter colour or concealer on the outside)

1.Focus on skincare

Both cultures believe in having a good base to start from. French women want a healthy, glowing complexion but are not afraid to look their age (even though they don’t) whereas Koreans prefer a flawless, very youthful appearance.



The emphasis is definitely on nourishing and protecting the skin. The “undone” look requires a good base. 

Cleansing: Micellar water is a staple. It gently removes makeup without disrupting the skin’s PH level. This is usually followed up by a drugstore water-based cleanser to make sure that all impurities are removed.

Day: A gentle toner for oily skin or a nourishing serum for dry skin. Light, dewy moisturisers and cooling eye gels (to get rid of puffiness) that include SPF or a separate sunscreen product.
Night: After cleansing, a richer serum/essence to feed the skin at night or a rich night cream and an anti-ageing eye cream. Facial massage is also encouraged to stimulate circulation and bring a healthy flush to the skin.

Masks and Treatments
The typical French woman will apply treatments at least twice a week. They also go for more professional treatments that include exfoliating or peeling. Over-exfoliating can be damaging AND ageing so it’s best to use a gentle product at home and leave the serious resurfacing to the experts.



I’ll bet most of you have heard of the Korean 10 step beauty regime. Koreans like to layer product and they are really good at it. These steps are a guideline but your skincare routine should really be very personal and geared to your own skincare.

1. Water: Don’t just drink it, rinse your face with some warm water just to get rid of any sweat or impurities that may be on the skin after sleep.
2. Toner: To balance the PH level on the skin surface and soften the skin to receive all the nourishing products you are about to apply.
3. Essense: It also helps to balance the PH of the skin, moisturise and stimulate cell renewal.
4. Ampoule: Like serums, an ampoule is more like a treatment for specific issues like pigmentation or ageing. It’s a quick treat for your skin to treat a specific problem.
5. Serum: A longer-term treatment with an enormous amount of active ingredients. They also treat specific skin issues. They feed the skin and make a noticeable difference to the appearance of dark spots, dry spots or wrinkles.
6. Eye Cream: The eye area dries out very easily because it can’t produce its own natural oils. Gently pat your eye cream onto the eyelid and undereye. NO TUGGING or RUBBING.
7. Moisturiser: Apply a light day cream to seal in moisture and all the treatments you have already applied.
8. Sunscreen: Apply sunscreen every day to prevent sun damage even in winter.

1. Oil Based Cleanser: Oil-based cleansers are great for dissolving makeup even stubborn waterproof eyeliner and mascara.
2. Double-Cleanse: A water-based cleanser will wash away any remaining oil cleanser and impurities.
3. Exfoliate: Manual or peel/chemical exfoliants remove dead skin cells but should only be used once or twice a week.
4. Toner: The same as in the morning. Toner is applied to balance the PH level on the skin surface and soften the skin to receive all the nourishing products you are about to apply.
5. Essense: Apply essences to balance and moisturise the skin
6. Ampoule: Provides the skin with the nutrients it needs to repair damage during sleep.
7. Serum: Another treatment product to treat specific issues like ageing, pigmentation or dry skin.
8. Sheet Mask: These masks are usually deeply hydrating and soothing to the skin. They are a cloth mask, saturated with a fluid that is placed on the face for up to 30 minutes. When the cloth is removed the remaining fluid is massaged into the skin and not rinsed off.
9. Eye Cream: Apply an eye cream to seal in moisture and smooth crepy or wrinkled skin.
10. Moisturiser: A moisturiser is applied to seal in all the layers for the night to allow them to work.

2. Even out the skin

Both cultures enjoy products that multitask. BB creams that provide light coverage with oodles of moisture, concealers that add coverage and primers that treat skin problems for a flawless base.

french skincare


A primer is used to control oil, minimise pores and wrinkles and provide a smooth base for foundation or concealer. It is not meant to mask features but provides moisture for a dewy, healthy look.

Concealers are usually in a lighter formula that is blended into the skin with the fingers to be almost invisible. It is simply meant to minimise the imperfection, not mask it completely. No Instagram triangles with “baking”.

Foundation isn’t usually the full coverage affair we are used to. It might be a light layer in the form of a tinted moisturiser or BB cream or a water-based product. French women don’t like to mask their features. They also don’t like to fuss with layers of foundation. The bare minimum is used to show off all the hard work they have put into their skin. French women spend more on good skincare than makeup.

Powders are not really a thing. They are used to set oily areas but definitely not as a full face mask.

Setting sprays don’t really feature because French women prefer to revive their skin with botanical mists during the day instead of “setting” their makeup in stone for the day. It restores radiance to the skin while moisturising. No heavy cake-face by the end of the day.



Primers are primers, right? Not the Korean ones, no. They are specifically geared towards skin tone, oil control, pigmentation or providing a luminous base for a dewy finish. Blurring and perfecting is definitely a requirement for a flawless, youthful end product. Pore refining products with egg ingredients are very popular.

Concealers are moisturising but quite high coverage so a little goes a long way. Korean girls are very serious about matching their concealer to the skin type as well as their skin colour. Water-based concealers for oily skin and hydrating concealers for dry skin. They prefer to do spot concealing to mask little imperfections instead of large areas of heavy concealer that can look cakey.

Foundation is usually applied with a sponge or cushion. Cushion foundations are very popular because they are light and moisturising with good coverage but without the heaviness. It’s all about even but luminous skin, not a heavy matte mask. They also prefer to use their cushion to add light layers to problem areas instead of concealer.

As with our French sisters, powdering your face isn’t a big deal in Korea. You definitely don’t want to spend hours creating a bright, healthy, dewy look and then destroy it with powder.

Face mists are also more popular than mattifying setting sprays. The idea is to have dewy, moisturised skin. The trend has been leaning over towards dewy instead of the almost “wet look” or “glass skin” in recent years.

3. Blush and Highlight

Blush and highlight are used to bring light and warmth to the face. Both cultures believe in the less is more approach but the application is slightly different.



Blush is used to bring a natural flush to the skin. Applied just below the cheekbones it has a slight sculpting effect. Liquid blushes in a warm pink or peach colour are blended into the bare skin with no visible lines.

Highlighters are applied on the cheek and brow bones to bring light to the face. Usually in a cream formulation applied with the fingers for a natural look.



Liquid blushes in a soft pink, peach or coral are usually applied high up on the cheekbones and along the jawline to sculpt the face. There is also a recent trend to place blush almost under the eyes to mimic the look of someone who is slightly “tipsy”. It is meant to look youthful.

Cream-based highlighters are very popular and are usually dotted on the high points of the face and blended in with a cushion or fingers to be almost invisible.

4. Eyebrows

Eyebrows frame the face and draw attention to the eyes. French and Korean girls both have the same objective but they go about it slightly differently.



There is definitely no over-plucking or shaping with the French ladies. Eyebrows are kept as full and natural as possible because it is believed that fuller eyebrows give a more youthful effect. Stray hairs are removed and the brow shaped to keep it neat but not to change its natural shape.

A sharp pencil or loose powder is used to lightly fill in the brows in sparse areas but nothing like the arched or overdrawn Instagram brows.



Korean women also shape their brows but it is believed that a fuller, straight brow looks more youthful. There are no high arches. Ladies have their brows shaped but not plucked into an arch. Arches are believed to age the face considerably.

Most women use powders to fill in their brows and gel to set them. Powders provide a softer more blurred effect.

5. Eyeshadow, Eyeliner and Mascara



French women don’t like to be told how to wear their Eyeshadow. French girls pretty much INVENTED the smoky eye we all love so much. They use neutral colours and smudged eyeliner to achieve a smokey eye look and to add definition and depth to the eye.

For a softer more natural look during the day, they may simply use a blush colour on the eyelid or nothing at all.

Eyeliner is either very defined for a cat eye effect or smudged for a messy look. Liquid eyeliner is drawn close to the lash line with a small flick at the end to lift the eye. There aren’t usually any long overdrawn lines at the end. French girls don’t like to look as if they have made TOO much of an effort.

For the smudged look, an eyeliner pencil is used to draw a line along the lashline and smudged with a finger or brush to diffuse the line.

Mascara is an option but not a requirement. Some French girls will quite happily go through their morning beauty routine, apply a couple of coats of red lipstick and walk out the door. No foundation, no mascara just lipstick. If they do decide to wear mascara, brown is an option for the day and a few coats of black at night, but there are no rules.



Eyeshadow palettes in Korea are not the multi-colour monsters that are all “on trend” on Instagram. They tend to be quads or singles in light shimmery colours like pinks, peaches, browns and golds. Eyeshadow “crayons” and sticks are also popular in shimmery shades. There are also many cushion eyeshadow pots and shimmer gels for a shiny finish.

Korean girls like to smudge one colour onto the lid for just a hint of colour and shimmer, not as many wildly sculpted cat eyes or “halo eyes”. However, in order to bring a little extra drama or light to the eyes, they apply a gold or silver highlight to the inner corner and the hollow of the eye close to the bridge of the nose.

Eyeliner is used to create the “puppy eye” look. It’s thought to look very youthful. It’s simply meant to make the eye appear rounder and more open. The line is drawn in close to the lashline and downward at the outer corner. Sometimes they add a small flick at the end.

Mascara is applied to both top and bottom lashes to open the eye and add definition. The lower lash line is usually done with a lighter application so it doesn’t drag the eye down. Brown and black are most popular but some coloured mascaras in pink or burgundy can be used on the bottom lashes for a pop of colour.

As a side note, there is a trend to create a very slight shadow just under the eye to accentuate the little eye bags there. It’s considered “cute”.

6. Lips

Two very different approaches here but definitely signature looks.



Everybody thinks of the French girl as the one with the signature red lip and the cat eye. French women definitely love a good red lip. They tend to experiment until they find a colour that compliments their skin tone. It is either worn as a bold, shiny red lip or applied and blotted to create a subtle stain.

Glosses and natural lipstick colours like soft pinks and corals are also popular to be worn with a more dramatic or smokey eye. French women like to choose a feature to accentuate with their makeup and then play down the others so they do not compete.

The matte formula doesn’t seem to be as popular though. Too much effort and it’s such an “Instagram” look that everybody is wearing. French women like to be individuals and use what suits them best, not what everybody else is wearing. Blacks, blues and greens don’t really feature at all unless the wearer is into that sort of look.

korean lips


Gradient lips, I love gradient lips. Korean girls achieve them in a few different ways but they are masters at using lip tints. Pinks, corals and oranges seem to be very popular but they also use deep reds and almost burgundy colours for a more dramatic look.

The tint is applied on the inner lip and blended with a finger to be lighter going outward. They definitely like to confine the colour to the centre of the lip to give a fuller effect. They then use a concealer or their cushion foundation to very lightly erase their own lip colour and the lip line. Sometimes they apply a gloss over it for a little shine.

A tinted gloss is very popular for a simpler more youthful look. It is also applied to the lip tint to blur out any harsh lines and for a little shine.

Lipsticks are used in very sheer formulations because Koreans believe that the very defined lip ages the face. Lip liners will be used to stain the whole lip with a colour but the edges will be blended out to get rid of harsh lines.

Which do you prefer? The UNDONE Parisienne look or the youthful and sweet Korean look?




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