David Yi says you can. He’s the guy in the video.
He is 30 years old. He spends on average an hour a day on his beauty routine. And he’s the founder of Very Good Light, a website dedicated to men’s beauty. The website covers topics ranging from “The one big mistake Justin Bieber is using when it comes to his acne” to “The fear, politics, and beauty of men who wear turbans. ”
“Beauty and grooming are only a funnel to redefine masculinity and to create an inclusive, empowering space for young people,” says Yi, who hopes his website resonates with readers on issues like beauty, gender and identity. He hopes it helps eliminate stereotypes of men’s beauty too.
“I think that the misconception that people in general have about men’s beauty is that if you subscribe to it, you’re vain or maybe you’re too feminine, or maybe you’re gay or maybe you’re something that sometimes comes with another pejorative connotation. But no matter who you are, it’s okay to own who you are,” says Yi.
Yi developed the idea of the website after working as a writer and editor in New York for 10 years. “After looking at my own stories published on the websites that I worked for, I realized that grooming stories are in high demand. Men could not get enough tutorials or reviews. “
He launched the website in Oct. 2016, two days after CoverGirl debuted their first “cover boy,” James Charles, an internet-famous makeup artist whose Youtube channel has close to two million followers. Charles said on Instagram that he hoped his appearance on CoverGirl showed people that “anyone and everyone can wear makeup.”
“It was kind of a sign in the universe that said it was all supposed to happen,” says Yi. He declined to disclose how many readers his website has, but says it’s growing rapidly and that most of its readers are aged between 16 and 25, the Gen Z, as Yi likes to call them.
“We’re very different from traditional men’s publications because they cater towards millennials who are older. I’m a millennial too. But we’re dead. We’re over. It’s all about Gen Z,” says Yi.
Though the website is less than a year old, David’s exposure to beauty started way earlier. He grew up in a Korean American household in a small town in Colorado Springs. And skin care was a big part of his family’s life.
“Beauty had no gender in my household. My mom would actually give me facials by the time I was six years old. I thought that mom giving you facials was normal, until my non-Korean friends came over. They were horrified at the sheet masking I was wearing,” says Yi, laughing.
Yi says he already felt stigmatized being “the only Asian person in school” and skin care was just another thing. “Already people thought that I was a weirdo and different. Skin care was just something that made me Korean,” explains Yi.
He’s correct in saying that in Korea skin care isn’t gender specific. “The issue with beauty care in the West is that there is this real anxiety that a certain kind of body work is…de-masculinizing, whereas in Korea, there is no such anxiety,” says Joanna Elfving-Hwang, an associate professor of Korean Studies at the University of Western Australia.
Overall Korean men spend more money on skincare than most men from other countries, according to market research firm, Euromonitor. In 2012, about one-fifth of global sales of men’s skincare products were in South Korea.
A 2013 study from Korea University and Seattle Pacific University, drew on a survey to compare American and Korean men’s attitudes towards grooming and recreational shopping. The survey got responses from 210 men from the US and 233 from South Korea. Researchers found that the Korean participants were more “likely to acknowledge themselves as being feminine, enjoy apparel shopping and grooming compared to American male consumers.”
“In Korean beauty stores, there’s an entire section, a huge section dedicated to men’s skincare products,” says Yi, who constantly travels to South Korea to research new beauty products for his website.
And Yi believes that male beauty and skin care will take off in the US too.
Market research has already shown the changes driven by Korean beauty brands. Euromonitor’s 2017 report on skincare in the US noted that because Korean beauty routines incorporate more products than their US counterparts, they have “driven growth in previously marginal skin care categories such as toners and face masks,” in addition to a rising demand for products like gels, serums and essence. The Korean double-cleansing method is also “reinvigorating sales in more established categories such as facial cleansers.”
And if you have no idea what toners, gels, serums and double-cleansing is all about, the video above can serve as your initiation.
But it’s really not about sticking to a 5 or 10 step routine, says Yi. It’s about using beauty to “confront who you are and become very vulnerable and to unpack yourself. “
It reminds me of the conversation I had with Yi when he came to Quartz for a demonstration of a popular Korean beauty routine. As soon as he sat down, I couldn’t help but notice some pimples on his face. Yi explained that his “face is crazy” because he had just flown back to New York from Los Angeles and was dealing with a lot of stress and jet-lag.
I hesitated to ask Yi, but eventually I decided that I couldn’t really avoid it. After all, this is the person who described beauty as an armor that gives people the strength to face the world.
“So are you OK with us showing your skin condition with no makeup, given that this is a video about tips on skincare?” I asked him.
Yi laughed and says he couldn’t care less. He says true beauty is about being confident with your true self.