Seoul: South Korean men have become the world's biggest male spenders on skincare, a market that grew by 44 per cent in the country between 2011 and 2017, a media report said on Friday.
A recent survey by data and analysis consultancy service, GlobalData, found that about three quarters of South Korean men undertake a beauty or grooming treatment -- from salon hair treatments to at-home facials -- at least once a week, CNN reported.
This figure is even higher for Generation Z respondents, with 58 per cent of those born after 2000, saying they pamper themselves with "lengthy" beauty or grooming treatments at least once per week, compared to 34 per cent of South Korean men overall.
This phenomenon can be explained in part by the influence of K-pop (Korean pop), according to Roald Maliangkay, director of the Korea Institute at The Australian National University.
"I am struck by how many local young men are now emulating the look typical of Korean male idols," he told CNN describing his recent visit to Seoul's old city centre district, Myeongdong.
"I saw many men in sharply cut outfits with perfectly groomed dyed hair and double eyelids (as a result of cosmetic surgery), and I even noticed a few men wearing some light makeup."
The trend may also result from pressure on men to compete in a tough job market, according to James Turnbull, a writer and lecturer based in the city of Busan, South Korea.
Turnbull told CNN that Korean companies routinely ask job applicants for photographs on their resumes.
The origins of South Korea's male beauty obsession may be more complex, however, said Maliangkay.
His 2010 study "The effeminacy of male beauty in Korea" highlights an alternative theory: that the rejection of traditional masculinity was in fact led by women as a backlash against severe gender inequality.
Katherine Spowart, who runs the beauty blog SkinfullofSeoul, stressed that Korean men still face specific social pressures.
"Gender roles are still fairly rigid, sexual choices other than heterosexuality are generally not talked about, and it's a patriarchal culture," she told CNN.
Meanwhile, some major beauty brands are betting on Western men joining the pursuit of perfect brows and flawless skin.
In September, French luxury house Chanel released Boy de Chanel, its first cosmetics range for men.
The line features eight shades of tinted foundation, a two-in-one brow pencil and brush, and a transparent matte lip balm. The French house piloted the collection in South Korea before making it available elsewhere.