Korean Beauty Standard: All in the Head

Symmetrical face with soft, clear and supple skin, a full head of  shiny, healthy hair. Though these desirable attributes of a beautiful face are almost universal in their appeal, “ideal beauty” tends to differ greatly depending on the part of world you’re in – -think sun-kissed California beach babes with their tanned and toned bikini ready bodies or pale, porcelain face East Asian beauty with delicate features.  While it seems that much of the developed world hold on to the “skinny ideal” as widely advertised by the media, there is always some room for variety in terms of facial features, skin color and body shapes.

In South Korea, ideal beauty is more clearly defined.

Small Face Obsession

Having a “small face” is a basic requirement for a pretty face. The preference for smaller-sized face over medium or large ones is not really a Korean-only anomaly. In the modeling world, having a small head is not uncommon. A small face makes the rest of your features stand out. But Koreans are more than a little obsessed with face sizes. For example, when taking “selcas” (selfie for the rest of us), especially in a group setting, both girls and guys employ tactics like standing the furthest away from the camera or covering parts of the face with hands/other props to make their faces seem smaller.

They also have this “CD test” thingy. In this test, a piece of compact disc is held up against the face. If most of your features are covered by the disc, then you have a small face.

The scientific Korean head size test: If your features are obscured by holding a CD in front of your face, you have a small face

The scientific Korean head size test: If you can hide behind a compact disc, you have a small face.


V-Line, Egg-Line

Apart from the size of the face, the shape is also important. A V-line jaw, where the lower half of the face has a distinctly V-shape with a small,pointed chin, is prefered over a stronger, square jaw with wide or round chin. The “egg-line” face, an oval face shape with softer chin is also a popular feminine face shape. Yoona of Kpop group Girls’ Generation has this face shape.

Yoona of Korean Kpop group Girls' Generation has a small face with an "egg line" jaw shape.

Yoona and her enviable "egg-line"


Korean Kpop singer G.na has a very small face and V-line (sharp pointy jawline), both desirable traits.


Kpop singer G.Na (blue arrow) has a very small face and a sharp, V-line jaw. Even when standing in front of a crowd, her head looks significantly smaller than most of them.


Achieving a Smaller Face

Those wishing to have a smaller face with better shape may consider surgery to decrease the size of the zygomatic bone (cheekbones), mandibular jaw reduction surgery or botox injections on the jawline (which relaxes the muscles that make a jaw looks square, effectively narrowing the bottom half of the face).

There are also facial massage techniques which claim to reduce water retention and bloating of the face to aid in achieving the illusion of a smaller face.

The Problem with Small Heads

Not everyone in Korea is happy with a small head though. In the case of this man (the same guy who passed the CD test), having a small face is a burden. According to him, no girls would want to date him because the diminutive size of his head makes  ladies feel self conscious about their own (comparatively larger) faces. It’s interesting to note that in Hollywood, leading actors usually have heads larger than the female love interest (listen to Michael Caine’s interview on this).

This Korean man with small face (in the middle) is unhappy with his diminutive head size. According to him, girls do not wish to date guys with faces smaller than their own.


Question Time!

So, do you take notice of head sizes? Is there a certain face shape that is considered to be more beautiful in your culture?

Ladies, would you date a man whose head size is significantly smaller than yours?


What is Different About This Michelle Obama Picture?

Notice anything unusual about this portrait of US First Lady Michelle Obama?

Michelle Obama after digital makeover - eyebrows are less arched

Yes, we gave her an eyebrow makeover. Softening the angle of her normally highly arched brows gives her a gentler face.

Michelle Obama original picture - before digital eyebrows makeover

Which do you prefer? Her usual I-mean-business brows or the softer, edited one?

Michelle Obama - before after eyebrow makeover

Photo source


Eyebrow Shaping Tip — One Golden Rule for Every Face? Part 2

We came across another formula for “perfect eyebrows” recently. It involves angles instead of vertical alignments. Proponents of this template to beautiful brows suggest using a tweezer or brow pencil to draw three imaginary lines that extend from the side of the nostril (see cyan lines on Angelina Jolie below). The first line is aligned to the inner corner of the eyes or tearduct (cyan line A). This is the point where the inner eyebrows should start.  The second imaginary line runs from the side of the nose to the outer side of the pupil staring straight up (cyan line B). The point where this meets the eyebrow is where the brow arch should ideally be (an alternative angle for this starts at the middle of your nose and extends to the middle of your pupils). The third line is drawn to the outer corner of the eyes (cyan line C). This is where the tail of the brow should end.

Angelina Jolie eyebrow shaping tip for the perfect face

Eyebrows That Conform To Formula

Here’s Keira Knightley again, whose eyebrows began this brow-raising discussion.

Keira Knightley's face shows that her eyebrows match her nose to eye angle perfectly

Zhang Ziyi’s delicate features are nicely pulled together by her well-defined brows.

Zhang Ziyi eyebrows are shaped nicely for her nose. It conforms to the eyebrow-shaping tip of aligning the inner part of your brows to an imaginary line that stretch from the sides of nose to the inner eyes

Beautifully shaped eyebrows on Alicia Keys.

Alicia Keys eyebrows are beautifully trimmed to suit her face

Though smiling wide and not the best picture to present this theory, Oprah Winfrey’s eyebrows seem to conform to this beauty formula.

Oprah Winfrey eyebrows are a good complement to her wide set eyes

Eyebrows That Do Not Conform To Formula

The trend for most Korean women in the media industry seem to favor thicker, straighter brows as apposed to thinner, arched ones. Done correctly, it creates a more youthful appearance. Actress Han Ga In is one of them. Han Ga-In’s eyes are beautifully framed by her thicker brows. The inner corners of her brows are aligned to her nose bridge instead of the imaginary line as shown.

Face of Korean actress Han Ga In- pretty eyes with nicely defined eyebrows, lines at sides of nose and inner corner of eyes shows that her eyebrows do not conform to the brow shaping tip

Lee Hyo-Ri is another attractive Korean singer/actress who has thicker, less arched brows framing her eyes. You can see that her brows a drawn closer than what is said to be the perfect eyebrow standard (indicated by cyan lines).

Face of korean beauty, singer-actress Lee Hyo-Ri -  lines at sides of nose and inner corner of eyes shows that her eyebrows do not conform to the brow shaping tip but she still have very pretty eyes with well shaped eyebrows

Camilla Belle’s eyebrows are luscious, thick and beautifully well-defined. They match her eyes and the rest of her features perfectly. Does it conform to the perfect eyebrow shaping formula? The brows look vertically aligned to the nose bridge however don’t conform to the the above formula.

Camilla Belle has thick, dark eyebrows which beautiful frames her dark features

Her eyebrows neither start at her brow bone meets the nose bridge nor on the same plane of the perfect brow line A. But who can deny Aishwarya Rai’s beauty?

Aishwarya eyebrows are nicely arched

Debenhams Reveals What Goes Into Image Retouching of a Swimsuit Model

Debenhams Swimsuit campaign showing photos of a model before and after retouching

Photos: Debenhams

Similar to what Britney did in her Candie’s ads exposing her unretouched image alongside the touched up version, Debenhams, a UK department store selling swimwear, has chosen to show an unedited photograph of a model next to the retouched photograph with a sign written “We’ve not messed with natural beauty, this image is unairbrushed. What do you think?”

Debenhams retouching notes on a swimsuit model showing what goes into a "perfect" photo

Photos: Debenhams

Debenham creative director Mark Woods through this campaign shows us what goes on in the editing process, in the creation of a perfect beauty as we see on every cover photos and advertisements. From the image above, about 11 touch ups have been clearly indicated, ranging from skimming of the legs, waist, arms and shoulders to smoothing of the face.

Notes on the retouched photograph:

  • skintones made warmer
  • face smoothed, blemish removed on lip, skin under eyes smoothed
  • outline of hair smoothed
  • underarm cleaned up
  • hair removed
  • shoulder skimmed
  • shadow on cleavage enhanched
  • arm skimmed
  • removed fold of skin
  • waist skimmed
  • leg skimmed (both sides)

Through this campaign, the company hopes to raise awareness of the negative impact that a digitally enhanced beauty can do to both men and women. Besides creating an unrealistic perception of female beauty, it also diminishes the self-esteem of women who obsessively make comparisons of themselves to models and celebrities, most of whose images have undergone the same processes in the editing room.

Will we see more natural beauty in future ad campaigns? Will more retailers follow suit in being more honest about digital manipulation?

Being humans, we are naturally attracted to objects of beauty, be they people or things and ad campaigns for years has been using images good-looking women and men to sell products and capture people’s attention. Until our perception of what constitutes perfect beauty — unusually smooth skin, no loose skin or fat in sight, very tiny waists, large breasts, etc — change, digital enhancements will still have an important role to play in the advertising industry.

Eyebrow Shaping Tip — One Golden Rule for Every Face?

In the previous post, we analyzed Keira Knightley’s eyebrows. It was suggested that Keira’s eyebrows are too dark and close together and that her brows should be trimmed in such a way that inner ends are vertically-aligned to the sides of her nostril.

A quick Google shows that the Internet is rife with tips on how to properly shape eyebrows in order to attain the perfect set of brows to frame your eyes. Many of these rules seem to suggest that the eyebrow line should be in vertical alignment with either the tear duct or the sides of the nostrils for ideal results.

Here’s a classic beauty — screen legend Elizabeth Taylor. She has thick, dark eyebrows framing her beautiful blue-violet eyes. Cyan lines are used here to show the vertical alignment of the eyebrows to the tear duct. In her case, they align almost perfectly to her tear ducts and sides of the nostrils.

Elizabeth Taylor's eyebrows -- beautifully proportionate to her face

American R&B singer Alicia Keys, who is bi-racial (half white, half African American) also conforms to this standard. Hers is run vertically aligned to the inner sides of her eyes.

Alicia Key's eyebrows -- beautifully proportionate to her face

Aishwarya Rai is a popular Indian actress and former Miss World. The Bollywood babe is often labeled as “the most beautiful woman in the world”. Her eyebrows conforms to the rule too.

Beautiful Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai - eyebrows are proportionate to her face, nicely framing her eyes

So if these beauties conform to the rule, does it mean that it holds true for everyone? Well, it depends on a number of factors, one of which is how wide apart the eyes are set.

Here’s Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi, famous for her roles in films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of a Geisha. She is delicate beauty with fine features and her eyebrows are set closer compared to the inner edges of her eyes.Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi beautiful face with proportionate eyebrows

Picture on the right below is what Ziyi would look like if her brows start flushed to the inner corner of her eyes. Looks a little short in relation to the rest of the features on her face.

Zhang Ziyi digital makeover -- now with shorter eyebrows

Popular US TV personality, talk show host Oprah Winfrey is also someone who proves that beautiful brows need not conform to the so called golden rule.

Oprah Winfrey's face showing her eyebrows in relation to her eyes and nose

Trimming her brows at the center will emphasize her wide-set eyes.

Oprah Winfrey digital makeover - her eyebrows are trimmed to be in line with the inner corners of her eyes, emphazing her wide-set eyes