Japanese Vs Korean Makeup: Spot The Difference

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If you’ve ever wondered what the biggest differences between Japanese Vs Korean makeup are, you’ve come to the right place!

There are definitely obvious similarities in how Japanese and Koreans do their makeup. However, there are also subtle differences that make J-beauty and K-beauty stand on their own.

Makeup trends in the Japanese and Korean communities are continuously evolving, but each of them has distinct makeup application techniques and preferences that tell them apart from each other.

In this article, we’re going to dive deeper into these differences and hopefully, you can have a better understanding of how Korean makeup trends and Japanese makeup styles stand out on their own.

Note: While these makeup techniques and trends hold true on a larger, generalized scale, it of course doesn’t mean that every woman in Japan or Korea follows these exact practices!

Japanese vs Korean Makeup

What is Japanese Makeup? 

We would argue that one of the most desirable outcomes of a Japanese makeup look is achieving round, doll-like eyes. Like Koreans, Japanese tend to keep their makeup quite simple, but it’s not uncommon for them to use fake eyelashes and circle lenses to exaggerate the size and color of their eyes.

This look is sometimes also referred to as the “kawaii” look, which focuses on achieving a cute and innocent look, leaning towards a more child-like, youthful appearance. 

In the past decade, Japanese beauty standards seem to have evolved into more of a minimalistic approach, perhaps influenced by K-pop and K-dramas which are also popular in Japan.

Long gone are the days when gyaru makeup and other subcultures had more mainstream appeal: nowadays, the focus is on skincare, as seems to be the case increasingly around the world.

What is Korean Makeup?

Korean makeup has always been focused on the skin. Their preferred makeup style puts a lot of emphasis on a youthful and glowing appearance, which is the reason why a lot of Koreans are heavily invested in making sure that their skin is flawless and spotless. 

South Korean women have popularized the 10-step beauty routine in order to achieve dewy skin, also known as glass skin. But why are we talking about skincare? Well, simply put – Koreans believe that you can’t achieve the perfect “no-makeup makeup look” if you have bad skin. 

In terms of makeup application, Koreans have their own signature techniques and preferences. For instance, they like using BB creams instead of foundation because it makes their skin look hydrated with a subtle hint of sheen. 

Nowadays, Korean women’s signature makeup and their extensive skincare routine are even more recognized in the beauty community because of Kpop idols and Korean superstars that are dominating the music and entertainment industry.

This is the main reason why there’s been a surge of interest regarding Korean beauty (but yes, the products work incredibly well, too!).

7 Differences Between Japanese vs Korean Makeup

Here we’ve listed the major and notable differences between Japanese and Korean makeup in a side-by-side comparison. Let’s start!

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Foundation/Base Makeup

When it comes to picking a foundation or base makeup, the Japanese prefer a more matte look. This is because they believe this gives a more natural look. They often go for a foundation color that is closest to their skin tone or slightly lighter.

Meanwhile, Koreans like using “blemish balms” or what’s popularly known as BB creams. It’s a sheer alternative for foundations that provides other skin benefits. BB creams (and complexion correcting CC creams) are usually lighter than ordinary foundations which is why you’d notice that their faces are slightly fairer in complexion than other parts of their bodies. 

Both Korean girls and Japanese girls prefer their skin to be as white as possible, so they make sure to stay out of the sun at all costs. In addition to using sun protection with SPF, it’s not uncommon to see Japanese women with sun-protecting umbrellas during the summer to make sure they maintain white skin.


Japanese like following the natural shape of their brows which is why their brow shapes will vary. The shape can be straight or slightly angular, all depending on their natural arch. Japanese women also prefer using brow powders and pencils in order to prevent their brows from looking boxy. 

In contrast to this, Koreans mostly prefer eyebrows that are flat and soft in order to achieve a more youthful look. There are no arches or angles when it comes to doing their brows. In order to achieve this, they use light and soft strokes to prevent eyebrows from looking unnatural and heavy. 


Both Japanese and Korean like using shimmers on their eyelids, but the product placement is noticeably different. 

Japanese like using shimmering eyeshadows on their lids. The sparkly effect makes their eyes look bigger – which is what they’re trying to achieve.

You’ll also notice that they’re more experimental with their colors and won’t shy away from using eyeshadows with hints of coral orange, pinks, blues, purples, or greens – often complemented by a pair of false lashes.

Koreans like to stick with sheer eyeshadow colors. In fact, you’ll often mistake them for not wearing any eye makeup unless you look closely. They do like using shimmer or glitter eyeshadow but put it strategically in areas near their tear ducts and under their eye in order to achieve a more youthful look. 

Eye liner

Both Korean and Japanese women aim to achieve innocent-looking eyes, which is why they love using eyeliner to open up their eyes. However, similar to how they do their eyebrows, their preferences are not the same. 

Japanese people like using liquid eyeliner to achieve a cute cat-eye. Their lines are slightly more thick in order to give their eyes a rounded look. Part of the illusion is wearing contact lenses to complete the doll-like look. 

Koreans, on the other hand, like to apply their eyeliner thin and almost unnoticeable. Instead of an upward flick, the wings tend to point straight or downwards also known as the “puppy liner technique”. They do this to achieve an innocent-looking kind of eye makeup. 


Japanese and Koreans usually go for the same shades of blush, partly because they both have similar skin tones. However, the blush placement is different for both. 

In Japan, women like to put their blush almost directly under their eye area in an inverted triangle shape. This gives a “drunk blush” or “hangover blush” effect which is very popular in Japan. Some of the most popular blush colors include pink, cherry, and nude. 

Meanwhile, the use of blush in South Korea is almost non-existent. Korean women use it ever so subtly and prefer colors in the shade of peach, light pink, and nude. The product placement is also different as they prefer applying blush directly on their cheekbone or slightly under it. 


Lip makeup in Japan and Korea also differs, but only slightly. 

Japanese women like to keep their lips glossy, which is why the use of lip gloss is prevalent in their beauty community. They’re also not afraid to use colors as they prefer using lipsticks in a more obvious shade of red or pink. 

In Korea, the women have always stuck with gradient lips, wherein the color of the lips is deeper on the center and blurs outwards. To achieve this diffused effect, they like using different shades of lip products or slightly smudging out the product at the corners of the mouth.

Contour and Highlight

Both Japanese and Koreans don’t like using contour or creating shadows because doing so will make their faces look more angular, thus making them look more mature. This trumps their desire to look more youthful and innocent. 

However, a subtle hint of highlight is used quite commonly to draw attention to high points of their faces, like the tip of the nose.

So, there you have it! We hope that you’ve enjoyed learning about the differences in Japanese vs Korean makeup. For more beauty-related articles, check out more from the posts below!

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