What is ulzzang?

Popular among k-pop fans, you’ll hear the word ulzzang, or eoljjang (얼짱), thrown around a lot. Ulzzang means in English ‘best face’ or ‘good-looking’. It’s a Korean fashion and makeup trend that is characterized by:

  • glass, milky white skin
  • youthful, big eyes — emphasized with circle contact lenses
  • small, delicate v-shaped face with a high nose bridge, small, pouty lips
  • cute hair accessories & oversized clothing
  • photo filters (probably the most important!)

The idea is to make one look their best — especially on social media!

screenshot of ullzang from urbandictionary.com

What do ulzzang girls wear?

Ulzzang girls hashtag on Instagram.
Millions of posts with Ulzzang hashtag on Instagram

Usually, loose, pastel-colored clothing like an oversized t-shirt tucked into high-waisted jeans with sneakers or an ultra-feminine mini-dress. It’s all about looking slim and cute — like a doll.

For a list of Korean fashion brands, check out The Ultimate Guide to Shopping in Seoul.

Stylenanda Spring/Summer 2020 Fashion

How do I look ulzzang?

Base Makeup

For base makeup, apply a dewy, lighter-colored foundation and a light concealer. Think radiant, glass skin. You don’t really want to go matte. My personal pet peeve among Korean girls: don’t forget to blend down to your neck! If you’re going to go three shades lighter, you do you, but please blend, blend, blend.

Did you know? You can learn more about the history of ulzzang at Know Your Meme.

Bronzer is used sparingly for contouring as they prefer to be pale and rosy. Use a shimmery highlighter at the top of the cheeks, on the bridge of your nose, and anywhere else you feel like could use some oomph. Brush a pink or coral blush across your cheeks and just a little on the nose.

For that slim, v-shaped face, style your long, layered hair down which can help soften the jawline. You can rely on the power of Photoshop or face tuning apps! An often unspoken truth is that a lot of Korean girls with square jawlines do get jaw botox (masseter muscles) and chin filler to achieve this look as well.

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Yejisu🖤💙 #민트 핑크 크로스🙌

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Eye Makeup

Unlike Western makeup styles, Korean girls tend to stay away from heavy eye makeup looks like a dark shadow or undereye liner. Instead, they prefer to make their eyes look bigger by using pink, peach, or warm neutral eyeshadows to brighten the area — particularly the inner eye corners.

Liquid eyeliner can be applied for a subtle cat-eye, tightly against the lash line, to create the appearance of thicker eyelashes. Don’t be afraid of throwing on some wispy false eyelashes!

Eyebrows in Korea also tend to be straight and full versus the celebrities you might see with ultra-arched eyebrows in Western media.

Black Pink, female k-pop group

Lip Makeup

Lip tints — often in bright reds or soft pink shades — are everywhere in Korea ranging from sheer and glossy to matte and saturated. You won’t really see lip liner here. Gradient lips — which basically looks like you’ve been sucking a cherry popsicle — are also another popular Korean makeup lip trend.

3CE Korean Makeup Brand, Gradient Lips
Gradient Lips from 3CE Korean Makeup Brand (Instagram)

What apps do ulzzang girls use?

More importantly, you need to have the right Korean photo filter apps to make your Instagram poppin’! Besides the ever-so-popular Facetune, the most popular beauty apps in Korea are probably Beauty PlusSODAUlikeLOOKSSnow, B612, and Meitu. They’re so commonplace in Korea, that you’ll even see men using them here — especially on dating apps like Tinder!

I’m not the biggest fan of these apps. Why? Because I can’t help but feel like they: (a) make me look like an alien; (b) promotes unrealistic expectations and body negativity; (c) and encourages fair skin as the only beauty ideal in Asia.

With that said, they are still fun to play around with! Here is a shameless selfie I took as an example. The left is without any filter — please excuse my kitchen in the background! — and the right is with the Beauty Plus app with maxed-out settings.

popular korean beauty ulzzang app, beauty plus, before and after. @momotherose, momotherose.com
Left: Without retouching, Right: Maxing out settings on the Beauty Plus App

Reaction: That’s definitely false advertisement! My skin is smoother, whiter. I have big, sparkly eyes and a smaller nose. The app also slims down my face significantly. To be honest, it looks so unnatural, I prefer myself on the left. But what do you think? Left or right?

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