The two cultures that have created the most beauty buzz over the years undoubtedly hail from France and South Korea. From the effortlessly gorgeous “I woke up like this” French look to K-Beauty’s 10-step skincare routine, there is a lot to learn from both countries. We spoke with Katalin Berenyi, co-founder of the French-and-Korean brand, Erborian, to discuss the differences between the two iconic beauty cultures.
In your opinion, what are the main differences between French and Korean beauty?
Both have lots to offer. Korean beauty is extremely sophisticated and can seem sometimes complicated for someone new to the routine, as there are many steps and processes. French beauty, on the other hand, is a bit more simplified with a more laid-back attitude. It is very chic and elegant, but is more streamlined and focused on delivering immediate results. French beauty products also have a tendency to lean more towards natural-based products, whereas Korean beauty products often have lots of science behind them.
How do skincare rituals differ between cultures?
The textures of South Korean beauty products tend to be very lightweight and fluid, which makes them optimal for layering, whereas in France the products tend to be richer and more nourishing, eliminating the need for many steps—they are multitasking formulas, whereas in Korea each product has a very specific function.
What about ingredients in French vs. Korean skincare products?
They both enjoy highlighting ingredients that are indigenous to their regions. In Korea, ginseng and yuza are very popular in skincare, while in France women tend to lean towards aromatic herbs like lavender and rosemary, or treasures like French honey.Image courtesy of Erborian.
What is the attitude towards beauty trends in each culture?
Each culture has its own set of trends and innovations. Generally speaking, innovation in Korea happens faster—there are always new products, bestsellers, and brands popping up overnight. France, on the other hand, is very focused on building bestsellers, creating strong ingredient stories and building innovative products that will become cult classics.
What would a French and Korean woman never do in terms of beauty?
French women never spend a long time on their beauty routine. They have a more quick and efficient approach. They also lean towards a very natural look and approach to beauty—so no heavy textures and thick foundations. French women accept their imperfections as part of them. Korean women would never compromise on their skin’s purity and cleansing. They would never accept imperfections and they are always working to find ways to correct them.
What is the French woman’s must-have beauty product and what is the Korean woman’s?
A French woman will always have a multitasking day cream in her beauty arsenal, while a Korean woman will never skip an essence that has benefits for her specific skin concerns.
Who do you think are the beauty icons for each culture?
French beauty icons –like Brigitte Bardot and Marion Cotillard—are feminine yet strong and know what they want. They are not followers, they’re leaders and have an assertiveness in their style and manners. Korean beauty icons are actresses and models, like Jun Ji-hyun and Lee Young-ae.
What about personal style?
French women always have that special “je ne sais quoi” about them. They are natural looking and feminine, but with a slight sexiness. They have a sort of placed-yet-disheveled look to them—an organized chaos, for lack of a better term, or an intentional imperfection. Korean women have a very sophisticated and methodical style. They always look polished and organized. Their looks feel purposeful—style choices are made with intent and choices are deliberate.
How do the two cultures come together in your Erborian brand?
The two beauty cultures are very complementary—they balance each other. The main thing in both countries is the women want to be the best version of themselves in their own natural or sophisticated way. Erborian has merged these two beauty cultures to give an incredibly rich skincare experience somewhere between Paris and Seoul.