Cultural differences mirrored in evolving cosmetic fads

American and Asian makeup trends deviate to reflect the divergences in international standards of beauty

In ancient Chosun Korea and during China’s Qin and Han dynasty, women darkened their eyebrows with charcoal and powdered their faces to create white complexions. On the other side of the world, in early 20th century America, women used lemon juice for pale faces and massaged and applied hydrating creams for supple skin.

Beauty trends and standards across the world have always varied across cultures. Even today, the makeup trends and inventions in Asian culture are unlike those in western culture.

In Asia, most beauty products are centered around hydration. Although also commonly seen in America, masks and facial pads are particularly popular in Asia, especially in the form of tissue and sheet masks. They are usually used to hydrate the skin and often include collagen — a protein that helps rejuvenate skin cells and creates supple, firm skin. Facial mists are also popular in Asia. Focused on external hydration, facial mists refresh the skin throughout the day and are often used for therapeutic and calming purposes.

Many people in Asia aim for a dewy, flawless complexion but also want products that protect the natural skin and preserve it. Blemish balm (BB), color correction (CC) and daily defense (DD) creams are all-in-one products created to do just that. BB creams, the most basic of the three, replace sunscreen, lotion, foundation and primer. The cream provides coverage along with skin moisturizing and protecting features. CC creams and DD creams provide the same features as BB creams, but CC creams have a lighter essence and help improve skin tone while DD creams target dry areas.

Recently, BB, CC and DD creams in compact cushion form have become very popular. In this form, a sponge is soaked in the cream and put in a container that is then sold with an applicator sponge. This compact is extremely common in Asia, as it is more portable and allows for more quick touch ups throughout the whole day.

Another trend in Asia is whitening skin products. Many moisturizers and facial creams include ingredients meant to lighten skin and get rid of blemishes such as acne scars and freckles.

Asian beauty standards  favor light, natural makeup. Besides a minimal amount of lengthening, thin mascara and tightlining, or applying eyeliner in the upper waterline, there is not a heavy emphasis on eye makeup.

Asians favor bright colors — reds, pinks and oranges — for their cheeks and lips. Instead of a simple solid colored lip, a popular trend in Asia is to create ombré lips with a vibrant, concentrated color in the center of the lip that blends out, creating undefined lip lines.

In America, makeup trends are much more dramatic. Just like in Asia, American beauty standards call for flawless, clear skin. However, the difference is that American beauty products focus a lot more on coverage and covering blemishes. It is common for people in America to use four layers of product — primer, concealer, foundation and powder — to even out the skin.

At the same time, Americans favor more bold, sharp, arched eyebrows that are heavily filled in to match the heavy eye makeup. Beauty trends in America include dark, smokey eyeshadow paired with thick, winged eyeliner and clumped voluminous eye lashes.

To add to the dramatic effect, American makeup uses much more contouring and highlighting to bring out the cheekbones, thin the jaw line and give color to the face. Recently, clown contouring has become a popular makeup trend.

Clown contouring is an extreme method of applying shadow, highlights and blush to the face. Before being blended, the placement of the various products is similar to clown makeup, hence the name “clown contouring”.

Another recently emerging makeup trend is strobing. Instead of applying bronzer in contour areas, the opposite is done; highlighter is applied in highlighted areas and where light would naturally hit the face. This allows for certain areas of the face, covered in highlighter, to stand out.

For the most part, American makeup trends tend to use many neutral colors. Many people find nude colored lipsticks to be more attractive. On the other hand, it is also popular to use more dark contrasting colors like deep reds or even purples.

Both Asian and American cultures aim for the same goal of achieving beauty, and both countries take different approaches.  Because of the countries’ different interpretations  of using makeup to attain perfection, Asia and America have come up with varying trends and beauty innovations.