For ages, Koreans always had an extreme relationship with the sun. Although the sun’s heat and energy is essential to all life forms, Koreans are taught from an early age to make all efforts into avoiding this ‘ball of fiery death’ as much as possible.

That’s why South Korea has one of the largest market for the UV protection and sun care industry. The variations of sun blocks seem to be endless nowadays. It comes in all sorts of forms: cream, lotion, gel, stick, mist, spray, powder, cushion, sun block + BB cream and new innovated forms of sun care products are launching every year. Here’s a rundown of the 3 reasons why modern Koreans never seem to stop playing ‘hide and seek’ with the sun.

[#1] Preserving Fair Complexions:

Unlike the west, the exotic tropical image of the bronze skinned beauty never was a ‘thing’ here in Korea. Although there were times when tanning was a passing fad with celebrities and models, it never trickled down to the masses. Since pre-modern days, Gisaengs (기생)/or Courtesans and aristocratic women always applied white makeup and maintained their fair skin by cleansing and applying masks with natural domestic ingredients of that time. Therefore clear, bright and light complexions were considered the ideal look for centuries in Korea. Nowadays, there are tons of methods and products for skin whitening, but applying sun block is the easiest and the most basic method of preventing one’s skin from darkening.

The ‘Gisaengs’ or courtesans were known to be the trendsetters of the Joseon era with their light and translucent skin.

Photos of modern ‘Gisaengs’ from the 1930’s. With their exquisite beauty and musical talent, Gisaengs were considered to be the K-pop idols of that time.

Noble and aristocratic women of the Korean pre-modern era spent most of their days indoors. If they were to step out of their residence they would be wearing a skirt-shaped veil called ‘jangot’ to cover their face.

[#2] Preserving Youth:

The sun rays steal our youth and an entire industry supports this idea. Overexposure to the sun is the number-one cause of aging skin, resulting in wrinkles, dark spots, discoloration and other things that don’t look very healthy.  Here in Korea, especially in the summer, it is common to see many women deck out space suit-like visors, sun umbrellas, huge hats, gloves, masks and the whole gear in order to avoid the sunlight.

Hats and visors are a must-have items for Korean women and children in the summer. Some even go into the extreme of getting visors that cover your entire face.

An upgrade from the hats and visors would be the sun shield mask. Koreans use these masks for outdoor activities like golfing and hiking. It covers the neck as well to prevent tan lines across the jaw.

Gloves and umbrellas are also commonly used as sun protecting tools in the summer. Summer umbrellas are made of thicker cloth-like material. With silhouette patterns and decorative stitches, it’s different from the umbrella used during a rainy day.

[#3] Preserving Health:

That’s right! Sun care isn’t all about looking fair and beautiful but your health depends on it as well. The UV rays contaminate your skin’s collagen and as a result cause skin cancer. This results in abnormal cells to form and invade other parts of our body, which the body is not immune to. Melanoma and Carcinoma are the most common types of skin cancer.

We are not going to post sample photos of skin cancer because it’s not very pleasant to look at, but below is an illustrated diagram of how skin cancer cells penetrate through our bodies like a virus.

Symptoms of skin cancer caused by UV radiation includes itching, bleeding and hair loss.

An illustration of how skin cancer cells invade our body through the inner skin layers and blood streams.

For Koreans, the key to achieving sun protection is layering. If you think one light sweep of day-time moisturizer with a splash of SPF is going to stand against the sun… please think again. Applying SPF consistently throughout the day will help shield your skin from the harmful rays while retaining elasticity. Apply a spray, sun stick, or a sun block cushion type every 2-3 hours to preserve the best version of you.  Check out our carefully selected Korean sun care and after-sun care faves from our 2017 July Collection: Sun Care Kit.

Remember to keep layering.

Apply every 2-3 hours.

Check out our Sun Care Kit Collection.

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