‘Less is more’: learning basic hair and makeup lessons from K-beauty masters

‘Less is more’: learning basic hair and makeup lessons from K-beauty masters
Hwagu underscores the importance of layering makeup and applying only the right amount. —PHOTOS BY LIANA GARCELLANO

At SM Aura’s Atrium last Friday afternoon, crew members are prepping the stage for the lecture by K-beauty masters. They set up the floor standing lights at opposite ends of the stage and plug in the extension cords. They put a large metallic case of styling tools on a high chair behind the light on stage right. And then the model sits on the chair in the middle.

Jin Hoon, first of two lecturers, walks on stage when his name is called. It’s easy to mistake the hairstylist with the behind-the-head mic for a model: trim figure, glass skin like a K-drama actor, sleek black hair, all-black getup. But the back of his shirt emblazoned with the name Jenny House says it all.

Annyeonghaseyo! I’m Jin Hoon. It’s an honor to show you Korean culture. I’m nervous right now. My hands are shaking,” he says in Korean rendered in English by a translator.

lecture on makeup and hairstyling
Everything is ready for the beauty lecture—the host, the stage, the model.

Jenny House is a Seoul-based hair and makeup salon that counts Korean celebrities like Son Yejin from “Crash Landing on You” and Park Shin-hye of “The Heirs” and “Dr. Slump” as clients. The salon was a participant in the first K-Beauty Hangout held in Manila last April 12, and was co-organizer with the Korean Cultural Center, Korea Tourism Organization Manila, Amore Pacific Philippines, and SM Aura.

Getting that volume

How to have your hair looking natural and with volume? Jin Hoon says he uses a fixer that’s not sticky, doesn’t make the hair stiff, and gives “longevity” to the look.

He sprays the model’s hair thoroughly with the Root Volume Fixer (a product from the salon’s hair care line) and grabs a hair clip, hairbrush, and hairdryer from the case. Alternating movements, he parts the hair, clips, blow-dries, and combs it, and confides that Park Shin-bye hasn’t been to the salon lately because she’s busy filming.

It’s interesting to watch him holding the hairdryer by the body and not the handle, and making the quick motions of drying and parting the hair with the hairbrush’s handle. He does everything in one fluid motion—a master stylist at work.

Hair and makeup
Jin Hoon shows how he gives clients that natural look.

Next, to achieve that wavy, natural look, Jin Hoon gathers the model’s hair into strands and curls them one by one with a unique technique that, as he puts it, “doesn’t make the hair into a line.”

Hairstylists being silent while styling is fine in a salon setting, but not in a beauty demonstration. The audience fires questions at Jin Hoon and he gamely fields them.

Hairstyling 101

hair and makeup
Jin Hoon, with his tools of the trade, can get anyone with frizzy or flat hair looking like a million bucks in an hour.

How to deal with frizzy hair? “Don’t stress over it. Use a fixer.”

Want to curl the back of the hair evenly? Don’t try too hard to do it because it’s difficult. However, “if you must, for long hair, you must bring the hair to the front and curl the tips for an overall look of ‘natural curls.’”

How to reverse hair loss? Jin Hoon says it all boils down to scalp care. He himself shampoos his hair every night to get rid of impurities, then blow-dries his hair and scalp correctly, which means using the dryer’s “cold air” mode. A healthy diet is a must in maintaining strong hair, he says; thus, he eats oatmeal—he avoids white carbs and black beans.

Again, more volume for the hair? “Put the fixer under your hair, not the scalp, then blow-dry the hair. [The fixer] will give your hair volume and strength,” he says.

Annoyed by curling hair ends aka “fly away”? He recommends applying Jenny House’s Hydro Keratin leave-in Angeling Cream on “the tips before styling the hair.” (Apparently, the cream “calms” the hair.)

To prevent damaging the hair and scalp through frequent hair coloring and styling. Jin Hoon says he applies “a lot of protein” on his hair. He suggests treating the hair with the salon’s “high concentrated” Hydro Keratin Repair ampoules.

Expressing oneself

Then it’s Jin Hoon’s turn to ask a question. He wants to know how the model looks because “it’s been a while since I’ve styled a person in front of others without a mirror.” The audience shouts Yeppeoyo! (“pretty” in Korean), and he smiles.

One last question thrown his way is about his favorite hairstyles for his celebrity clients.

“There’s already a character when I work on a series or movie,” he says. “As long as the hairstyle adds to the character, I’m satisfied because hairstyle is [about] portraying or expressing yourself. Try different styles [to see] which will express your [personality] the most.”

Tadah!” he quips, showing off the model whose flat hair has become “naturally” wavy, making her look like the quintessential Korean beauty.

Clean, bright skin

Says Hwagu: Putting a lot of stuff on the face isn’t good.

Hwagu, the final speaker, comes onstage. The svelte makeup artist is well put together in all-white jeans, scarf-blouse streaked with blue, and heels, and barely-there makeup. Her red lipstick is the only visible trace of cosmetics on her.

She explains that the essence of wearing makeup isn’t about applying thick layers of it. Good makeup, in fact, begins with good skin care dovetailed with knowing the right products to use. For example, Hwagu uses only water-based products, which are good, she says, for those who are prone to acne or with oily skin.

Hwagu cleans the model’s face with cotton pads sprinkled with Truffle Water Essence from the salon’s cosmetic line. It’s a necessary step because “there are still impurities left on the face after you wash it,” she says. “Also, there are dust particles left on the towel used to dry the face.” She performs the cleansing step twice.

Speaking like a sensei to an apprentice, Hwagu says: “Makeup is a process of putting on thin layers. It’s the same with skin care: You give ‘nutrients’ little by little. You give too much and it won’t be absorbed by the skin.”

Her words highlight the “clean, bright skin” makeup wisdom embodied by Korean celebrities that’s fast becoming popular among beauty connoisseurs.

Thus, she applies a thin layer of what I understand from the translator as “truffle nutrient cream”—my research yields Truffle Firming Cream—around the lips, outer cheek area, neck area (“apt to wrinkle,” she says) while avoiding the oil-prone T-zone. Grabbing a sponge, she removes excess oil from the model’s face before applying sunblock. To finish off, she dabs the lips with lip balm.

“It’s best to use the tube lip balm rather than the lipstick balm because the tube gives more moisture and nutrients to the lips,” she says.

Barely-there look

Contrary to conventional makeup wisdom of choosing a foundation that suits one’s skin, Hwagu uses one that is brighter than the model’s skin tone. What’s important, she emphasizes, is not applying the foundation with the same thickness all over the face, and layering it.

To “give contour to the face,” she uses a darker foundation tone on the sides of the face, and repeats to the audience, like a mantra, to “apply only a small amount.” But contouring is an optional step, she adds.

A question shoots through the air: Is there a difference in doing men’s and women’s makeup? Hwagu says she gives men the matte look because their skin is oilier.

Done with spreading the foundation, Hwagų applies powder on the T-zone, cheeks (“to make the pores less obvious”), and the top of the eyebrows, which, when they get “a bit moist” make it difficult to apply makeup. She colors the eyelids and eyebrows with eyeshadow in light circular motions, after which, with a pencil eyeliner, she gently lines the eyelid’s bottom, following the shape of the eye, then, surprisingly, streaks eyeshadow over it after.

“Koreans don’t have double eyelids, so we apply a thin eyeliner, but we lengthen the eyeliner to make the eyes longer,” says Hwagu.

The beauty masters have their own approaches to beauty. Jin Hoon has his hair curling technique while Hwagu has her eyelash curling method. Hers involves lighting a stick, blowing out the flame, and waving the stick in the air. Then she lightly runs the “hot” stick across the eyelashes and, seconds later, she curls them, carefully placing the curler on the eyelashes’ roots.

My attention wanes during the mascara application—I don’t wear mascara—but my ears perk up when she mentions that heavy mascara makes the eyelashes droop. Again, the constant advice: Use only a small amount.

Interestingly, there’s always the option of using fake eyelashes, like what K-pop artists are wont to do. “They like emphasizing their eyelashes,” Hwagu says. Then she shows how it’s done, applying eyeshadow at the bottom lashes before carefully sticking on the faux.

Simple, accessible

free makeup application
Guests can avail themselves of free makeup application at the Jenny House booth.

For those not really into cosmetics, K-Beauty Hangout made the business of beauty simpler and accessible, with its emphasis on less is more.

Hearing Jin Hoon say that hairstyling is all about personal expression was encouraging. After all, there’s no need to sport an intricate hairstyle or copy someone’s do. A good hairstyle begins with cared-for hair and scalp.

It was educational listening to Hwagu say that “makeup is really fun when you know the process.” Makeup, as she said, is like skin care; thus, beauty doesn’t mean hiding underneath layers of cosmetics but taking care of one’s self and, with makeup’s help, highlighting one’s best features.

Of course, it’ll be wonderful to take “less is more” to a higher level, where I only have to sit and have these two beauty masters do my hair and makeup.

Read more: When art meets reality in Korean ‘chaebol’

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