Ulzzang and Circle Lenses

Ulzzang is a look that emphasizes white skin and huge eyes.

A reader of mine asked me to write an article on this subject.  Please know though, that this is going to be from a male perspective.

A new word coming into the English language lexicon is “ulzzang”.  This is based on the Korean slang word 얼짱, and online sources say it means “the best face” (얼굴 eolgul = face, 짱 jjang = best).  I don’t think it’s really a good translation because it doesn’t convey nuance.  If I were going to translate it I’d call it “Super Face.”

So, what is Ulzzang?

It is a series of makeup and lighting techniques designed to make the eyes appear larger, and the skin appear whiter.  It basically gives people a plastic surgery look without plastic surgery.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to spend hours and hours doing this kind of thing before going out each morning.  Being a guy rocks!

Is it really popular in Korea?

Um.. I guess?  It seems to be all over the internet, but all the tutorials of how to do it are done by either Asian-Americans or Asians in other countries outside of Korea.  I can’t say with any authority (because I am a man), but I think it’s more of a subculture in Korea that other people in other countries assume is mainstream, kind of how anime nerds think all Japanese people like anime, only to be surprised to find out that the Japanese who like it are also anime nerds.  That isn’t to say that the ulzzang girls are nerds, but looking at the women I see on the street, on the bus, or in my company, there are positively no ulzzangs in my line of sight.

The makeup techniques of ulzzangs are amazing.  The photo below shows before makeup and after makeup of the same person!

Yes, these pictures are of the SAME PERSON!


WOW! How can I look like that?That’s a question I can’t answer.  The pictures above come from a tutorial website about how to achieve the ulzzang look.  It includes circle lenses, foundation, eyeliner, eyelid glue, lip gloss, and false eyelashes.  I’m no makeup expert, but I would assume the look takes over an hour, not to mention her hair must also take a while to get perfectly.

Here’s a website where you can rate other people’s attempts at an ulzzang makeover.

There's even an ulzzang cat!

How did your reader find out about ulzzang?

The look has been getting an amazing amount of press lately in the U.S.  The reader who asked me to write about it forwarded me this article from the New York Times.  The article is about American kids trying to copy a look that Lady Gaga, an American musician, used in a music video.  I recall other media sources reporting on the same thing before seeing this print story.  The story, as I understand it, is that youtube celebrity makeup artist Michelle Phan instructed people on how to achieve Lady Gaga’s look and reccomended that to achieve the look, people buy circle lenses, which are made in Korea.  Circle lenses are basically color contact lenses that have a diameter larger than the pupil of the eye.  The effect is that it makes your eyes appear larger.  According to the American press, these circle lenses could cause blindness because they aren’t approved by the U.S. food and drug administration.

What?  Blindness?

The instant I heard that, I didn’t believe that they would cause blindness. What I think is that American manufacturers can’t make them because a Korean company has patented them.  I don’t know if there’s an American cosmetic contact lens manufacturing lobby, but if there was, they would probably not want these Korean made lenses to hit the U.S. market.  People would definitely flock to the superior product and that would be the end of American cosmetic contact lens manufacturing.  There’s probably nothing wrong with the lenses, as many Koreans are using them every day,  but I think the corporations may have lobbied the FDA not to approve the circle lens to defend their products.

Below are two videos, one is a discussion of a news report about the circle lens.  The second is a circle lens user’s rant about the news report and the FDA in general.


21 Responses to “Ulzzang and Circle Lenses”

  1. i honestly cant stand ulzzang look at all, i think they look silly, and i would be embarrased to introduce on to my family.

    i always laugh when you go on facebook and see all these girls they have the photoshopped photos etc, then you look at tagged photos of them hanging out with their friends, they look TOTALLY different. always makes me laugh.

    • The Seoul Searcher Says:

      I think it’s pretty hot, but if I ever met one of those I’d never date one. You don’t know what you’re really getting!

  2. I heard about this about a week ago, when I first saw the Lady Gaga video thought it was a “special effect” because I couldn’t believe someone had such a BIG eyes…. The ulzzang look is sort of like the “Emo look” at least here in Mexico, last week went to this place called “El chopo” is like a flea market where you can find music, clothes, shoes and from time to time there are bands playing, they close about 4 streets to have this done every Saturday and last week I saw the weirdest looks ever o.O one of this girls was there hanging out with her mom, my sister and I were kinda surprised because this girl had this emo/goth/weird look and was there with her “normal” mom… and my sister told me she wouldn’t like to see her kids dressing like that, and I mean I do understand that sometimes they wanna make some “point” by dressing like that but people should know when TOO much means TOO MUCH!!…
    PS. WOW @ the before/after picture…just WOW ..I think it has to take more than 1 hour to have that done…

    • I too always thought that lady gaga was special effects…

      I don’t think this case of trying to achieve an ideal is very extraordinary – people have through all times tried to do that. We should not blame the ideals or try to change them to something “more healthy” – at least not only. there are always going to be exteme people doing extreme things. Instead, what we should do is to object to the crazy obsession of how important looks etc are.

      I believe that the fashion industry is a lot to blame for some part of this. in asia i see it being a great problem with western women filling the posters etc – while asian models and actors have a very hard time making their faces known on the western fashion market.


      • jess-jess Says:

        Actually, Lady Gaga’s video does have special effects over the contact lenses, if she’s wearing some. You can see in Michelle Phan’s video, she actually shows how to do teh effect on the computer.

        Personnally, I don’t find them that bad, though some look extremely…alienish. I have purchased circle lenses from an Anime/manga con and I was very pleased with the effect. I would never wear them daily, the number of times I wear them per months varies between 2 and 4 times: I limit myself at once a week.

        But I must say, some might get very addicted to these types of thing, just like girls with makeup, cute clothes, etc. I know for a fact that if I could, I would wear them every day, the only thing stopping me is the fear of breaking my eyes.

  3. the use of these lenses are not the Abai and actually thought it was a visual effect in the video Gaga but with this note and saw that it is not, perhaps he came to use only for a while but not daily rest must of pain from what I saw in the videos. I feel sorry for the Asians who undergo this daily for appearance

  4. No! That last picture of the “before” and “after” woman(?!)! There’s no way! Absolutely no way. No way. I can’t believe it. The jawlines are totally different. No.

    • The Seoul Searcher Says:

      Check the tutorial site!

    • Random Person Says:

      Heh..You’d be surprised…Yeah, the jawlines are different because the pictures are taken at different angles, plus the lighting, caked on make up & lenses.
      In this world, it’s pretty easy to look completely different to your natural look.

  5. lol my friend asked me if I would date a person who did a lot of make up or plastic surgery hahaha I couldn’t answer lol

    how about you SS? Plastic surgery or heavy make up?

  6. I used to know about circle lenses but not ulzzang!
    A lot (maybe the majority?) of asian actresses/singers wear circle lenses to appear more beautiful. 😐
    Well… I’m not an expert nor a doctor but I do wear lenses because I’m myopic. I actually don’t think that circle lenses could bring to blindness. They have the same diameter of normal ones and colored lenses are used worldwide since a lot of years. Of course, all contact lenses can cause eye diseases. You shouldn’t wear everyday contact lenses and not more than 8 hours a day otherwise your cornea will sicken and bring you to blindness.

    Anyway, how can you look to yourself and say “yeah, today I’m really pretty”?!? I understand if Lady Gaga uses it in a music video but I really don’t understand who goes out for a walk with a make up like that!

    I mean… eyes are naturally beautiful because they are the window of our own soul. Let’s just try to appreciate what mother natures does which is the real Beauty.
    Is it that difficult?

  7. Sweet page, I haven’t noticed theseoulsearcher.com before in my searches! Keep up the great work!

  8. uhhh that’s not the right definition for ulzzang.
    ulzzang is basically a a person with a good looking face.
    there are other “-zzang’s” like momzzang where “mom-” is body and “-zzang” is best……soooo basically a good looking body.
    ulzzang is actually meant to look natural. it’s just that as it started to spread, people add in their own little thing. extreme aliens, dolls, etc, etc
    people who are following this trend is getting the wrong idea of ulzzang. they think it’s all about the huge eyes, white complexion, and cute poses. jeez….that’s not it—-

  9. Anyway, I think Gaga is the best. I recorded myself singing her songs, give me some advice!
    Hope people like it, lol.

  10. Ulssang is Korean for “best face” people that get popular because of their unusually good looks. Many wear circle lenses, but it’s not a requirement. Look up the TV show “Ulzzang Shidae”.

    The before/after pic is more like a Chinese web idol. I think it looks pretty silly but it’s definitely NOT ulzzang, even if a bunch of young Asian Americans think it is. I guess it’s the problem when ideas cross borders but, like comment #14 said,

    • The Seoul Searcher Says:

      Yes, you’re right, that does come from a Chinese website, but I think it is Ullzang, as the phenomenon has crossed the border into China. (Sometimes things that are only marginally popular in Korea will become insanely popular in China or elsewhere!

  11. While i’m not exactly an ulzang girl (I’m Filipino), I can do this look without photoshop and only 10-15 minutes doing my makeup. My photos look somewhat similar to the ulzang photos (not the cutesy posey photos though XD), and it’s becoming quite a trend in asia! I think the Japanese started it though (of course, they don’t call it ulzzang).
    My dad says the Koreans really have devoted so many magazines and products to looking like this. I guess it’s because about 95% of them look like the before photo.

  12. Circle Contact Lenses…

    […]Ulzzang and Circle Lenses « Eugene is huge![…]…

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