Hey, man, gimme a jar of facial blush -- to go

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Hey, man, gimme a jar of facial blush -- to go

Kim Young-ju, a 24-year-old woman who works in a bank, says men's true beauty lies in their skin. The first thing she asks when offered a blind date is, "Does he have good skin?"

Unfortunately for Ms. Kim, she says it's hard to find her Mr. Right. "Guys in Korea generally don't know how to take care of their looks," she said. "No wonder they tend to think skin care is something exclusively for women, which is absolutely untrue."

Times are changing, though, and more men are looking for products that can make them more attractive, and more pleasing to young women like Ms. Kim. Local cosmetics companies have come up with beauty products designed only for men, which are being met with enthusiasm. A type of foundation cream made the local firm Somang Cosmetics, Color Lotion, is one such product. It hit the market in August.

Lee Young-mi, who runs a beauty counter near Kyung Hee University in northeastern Seoul, says she can't keep the lotion on her shelves. "I've been out of stock of that for a long time," she says. "You have to wait about a week to get it." Ms. Lee added that men who come to her store progress from basic to sophisticated products in stages. "They start from sunblock and Color Lotion and move on to other products, such as light beige powders," she said.

Color Lotion really took off in September, when Somang ran ads featuring two heartthrobs ?the soccer star Ahn Jeong-hwan and the TV actor Kim Jae-won. In the TV commercial, the two steal a look at each other, admiring the power of the product, evidently.

The biggest attraction of the product is that it's simple to use. All a man has to do is spread it on, and his skin is moistened and his blemishes are concealed from the world.

Beige-colored, the lotion is designed to cover moles or pimples. The company says that the product is designed to work especially well for special occasions like job interviews and big evenings out at the nightclubs. And mornings after.

Korean men are also using products called "Color Sticks," a type of concealer from another cosmetics company, Aramis. Ms. Park at Somang said, "Nowadays it's no surprise when new beauty products for men come out."

The idea behind Color Lotion is not entirely new. A similar product with the same name came out in 1987. The manufacturer, Julia Cosmetics, ran the risk of offering men's beauty products when men were averse to pursuing anything artificial to enhance their looks. The company targeted a niche market, but the product flopped. Fifteen years later, the same concept is more than well-received.

Kim Young-han, a 23-year-old Seoul college student, willingly identifies himself as a fan of Color Lotion. He said it was his girlfriend who first bought it for him. "I balked at the idea of going into a cosmetics store and getting something for myself," he says, "but I was persuaded to do so by my girlfriend, who read my mind."

Lee Young-mi at the beauty parlor said that it is usually the girlfriend who finds that perfect product for her boyfriend. "I find that Korean men are still a bit bashful to come inside a shop to ask for it," she says.

Our Ms. Kim, the banker, has already bought a set of Color Lotion. Now all she needs is a boyfriend.

by Chun Su-jin

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