Latest Newsletter🍵 Ming-Na Wen honoredRead


Why Body and Facial Hair are Undesirable Traits in South Korea

    Asian America Daily - in under 5 minutes

    Get our collection of Asian America's most essential stories, to your inbox daily, for free!

    Unsure? Check out our Newsletter Archive

    There’s an entire month out of the year where East Asian men are forced to confront their own Asianness.

    It’s a month called November — that is, 30 days out of the year where men are encouraged to grow out their facial hair for a good cause. How they’re related, we don’t really know; there’s “No Shave November”, which encourages men to grow hair for American Cancer Society. Then there’s “Movember”, an organization started in Australia, which promotes prostate cancer awareness.

    While 30 days come and go, with the American population of guys flaunting their scruffy ‘staches and bushy beards all over social media, 99% of East Asian guys like me sit on the sidelines and awkwardly wait, hoping and praying for our upper lip fur to sprout (spoiler alert: it doesn’t).

    As a Korean American, I actually have the capacity of growing more facial hair than the average East Asian dude. That’s like, 30 hairs instead of three. At the end of two weeks of no shaving, my face looks as if it’s been replaced by actual pubic hairs. Not the soft, shiny, fluffy pubes, either — I’m talking about prepubescent prickly strands that resemble a dead rat’s coffin at its funeral.

    Which is interesting being in Seoul. Here, men seem to be allergic to any semblance of body hair. One walk around the streets of Seoul will prove just how clean shaven, smooth, and youthful-looking Seoulites are. The standard of beauty for Korean men is a clean complexion, moisturized skin, and free of wrinkles. Body and facial hair, therefore, are something almost grotesque; features that make a man barbaric. It reminds me of an interview from 2011 with the Kpop star G.O., the leader of the now disbanded MBLAQ. In an interview, he revealed just how insecure he was with his facial hair — so much so, he debated getting laser surgery to remove it completely.

    MBLAQ Facial Hair
    (Kpop star G.O. of the group MBLAQ once said how insecure he was of his facial hair.)

    “I became a slave to that facial hair,” he admitted. “When I went on variety shows, I only got to talk about facial hair. I also have a lot of hair on my chest, so whenever I’d wear V-neck shirts, people joked that I could clean the floor with it.”

    The adverse feelings towards facial and body hair are only buttressed by the messaging found throughout men’s grooming sections in retailers. When I visited one called Olive Young, I was intrigued by the amount of products designed to get rid of hair. There was an entire top shelf full of leg trimmers, for instance, each of them marketed with cartoons depicting women reacting to men with leg hair. On one, the ‘before’ illustration had a red-headed woman scrutinizing a man’s hairy legs and screaming “NOOOOOOOOOH!!!!” The ‘after’ was of a man with hairless, smooth legs with the same red-headed woman fawning over him. “It’s Cool!!!!” she cooed. Another product next to it had a similar illustration. A blonde woman said “no thanks” to a hairy man but accepted the smooth guy, saying “I love it!”

    (The top section of Olive Young’s men’s grooming section reveals a few eyebrow-raising contraptions.)

    It’s all utterly ridiculous, of course, but it’s oddly refreshing to know that my natural smooth body is finally seen as sexy somewhere. That I’m the standard of beauty. After years of being insecure at my rather hairless complexion and body, it’s a strange feeling to know that my Asianness, in all its hairless glory, is not only accepted but perceived as sexy. Ali Wong was onto something when she described her furless husband as being sexy AF. “It’s like having sex with a dolphin,” she joked.

    Through it all, I’ve concluded this: beauty is relative. Whether you’re the furriest of bears or the most polished of twinkle-toed twinks; whether you can grow the burliest of beards for Movember or become the smoothest of Kpop stars, it all doesn’t matter. What does is how you practice self-acceptance and love. Because when you carry that confidence with you it shows. And that’s sexy, no matter the culture, place, or standard of beauty, or if, like me, you have all of 30 whiskers.

    Editors Note: This article originally appeared on and was republished with permission.

    Support our Journalism with a Contribution

    Many people might not know this, but despite our large and loyal following which we are immensely grateful for, NextShark is still a small bootstrapped startup that runs on no outside funding or loans.

    Everything you see today is built on the backs of warriors who have sacrificed opportunities to help give Asians all over the world a bigger voice.

    However, we still face many trials and tribulations in our industry, from figuring out the most sustainable business model for independent media companies to facing the current COVID-19 pandemic decimating advertising revenues across the board.

    We hope you consider making a contribution so we can continue to provide you with quality content that informs, educates and inspires the Asian community. Even a $1 contribution goes a long way.  Thank you for everyone's support. We love you all and can't appreciate you guys enough.

    Support NextShark

    Mastercard, Visa, Amex, Discover, Paypal