Picture-perfect, elfin-looking young men and women looking like they were plucked straight out of a land of fantasy are Korea's latest export.
Part of a beauty and lifestyle craze that has taken the land of kimchi by storm in the past two years, these fairy-like men and women are called Korea's "Ulzzang Shi Dae", which literally means 'Best Face Generation', where "natural" and "pure" beauty is prized along with innocent, childlike expressions and behaviour.
Characterised by flawless skin, pinkish baby-soft lips and huge doe-like eyes, they wear clothes in either stark black or in soft, nude earthy tones, and their tiny frames making them almost ethereal in appearance. But ironically, this glamourised all-pure "natural" look is actually the result of just the opposite — painstaking, detailed work to achieve the ultimate in innocence.
Today, there are entire talk shows, Youtube tutorials, and hundreds of web sites in Asia detailing how exactly to achieve the Ulzzang look and lifestyle — be it through plastic surgery, make-up techniques, or posing with your most child-like, innocent expression. The ultimate reward? Posting your best Ulzzang photo up online and waiting for compliments to start pouring in.
Two Singaporean Ulzzang bloggers, Yutaki and Miyake Ng, told Yahoo! Singapore that it's growing trend that's catching on among youth bloggers in Singapore.
The Ulzzang Look
Popular full-time blogger Miyake Ng, 22, who herself has a face so tiny and petite that she looks just like a porcelain doll, said, "You need to have a good base already in order to pull off the Ulzzang look. You can't just dump make up on your face to cover your flaws. Many Ulzzang do plastic surgery to achieve perfect features and also invest a lot into proper skin care."
The Ulzzang Look bases itself on two main principles -- perfect skin and an innocent, child-like appearance, both achieved with as little (obvious) make up as possible. A typical Ulzzang girl is either very thin or has a voluptuous body known as an "S-line" in popular Korean culture, with a generous chest and bottom.
The "look" comes with strict rules.
Huge, delicate bambi-like eyes with double lids and a tiny, delicate nose with a high bridge are a prerequisite. Smooth, pale snow-white skin, and rosebud lips are also a must. So is a small and sharp chin to achieve the perfect "V-line" face, which should ideally be no bigger than the size of your palm.
According to Miyake, perfecting the Ulzzang make-up technique is difficult to learn but once mastered, should take only 15 minutes before one is ready to face the world. This is unlike her previous Japanese "gyaru" make up style, which involved at least 30 minutes of highlighting, blending and slapping on thick eye make up.
Essential make-up tips include the downward sloping eyeliner, which gives the wearer a puppy-eyed look, the "gradient" lips, which involves dabbing a pink tint on the insides of the lips while keeping the rest pale and iris-enlarging lenses (natural colours only) to get the doe-eyed look.
More unusual are the creation of "aegyo sal" - or "cute pouches" -- under the eyes. This is done with white liner and brown shadow to give the eyes a "smiling", crinkly look.
According to Miyake, who is an avid follower of Korean Ulzzang talkshows, this technique combined with thick, straight crayon-esque eyebrows make her look more "friendly and approachable".
For Ulzzang males, carefully styled "bedhead" hair and minimal eye make up are used to create a metro-sexual, sensitive (but still macho) impression, with a stronger focus on clothes and fashion.
"I just use some concealer to cover up flaws, eyeliner on the bottom lids to define my eyes, but the most important thing is the thick, brown eyebrows and the hair," said male Ulzzang blogger Yutaki, 23, who spends about 20 minutes in front of the mirror preparing his hair. He does this first by straight ironing his natural curls, then coiffing it to perfection with the help of some wax.
He too wears 15-mm iris enlarging lenses to enhance his black pupils. It is part of the 1.89-m tall Ulzzang's $500-a-month budget on clothes and grooming products to stay up-to-date on Korean trends in male fashion.
The Ulzzang Lifestyle
Ulzzangs are masters at taking photos of themselves. In a practice known as "sel-ca", or literally "self camera" shots, Ulzzang know their best angles and poses and how to work the camera.
They often embark on photography projects, looking for places with vintage looking scenery or interesting backdrops to snap away before uploading the photos on their blogs or social networking sites.
Since Yutaki and Miyake started their transformation into Ulzzangs two years and six months ago respectively, they've received significant attention online, both in Singapore and across Asia.
They've also travelled to Korea together to take photos, after which they produced an online photo-book.
Yutaki has gone to Paris, Italy, China, and Thailand, producing his own photo series each time.
Both have also dabbled in cosplay and Japanese fashion, working at butler and maid cafes at Anime Conventions.
"When we tag our Instagram photos with Ulzzang hashtags, we can get many likes," said Yutaki, who sees an average of 1,000 "likes" for each of his Ulzzang-style photos on his Instagram account, which has about 7,700 followers.
His photos have become so popular that fans have set up Ulzzang fan-sites for him and he has had his photos stolen at least 20 times online by netizens who set up fake Facebook accounts to get popular.
Miyake, who has 10,000 followers on Instagram, has also had her photos ripped off so many times that she set up a fan-page on Facebook, which has since attracted over 20,000 fans.
Compared to the original Korean Ulzzang, however, Miyake and Yutaki feel that they have a long way to go, giving themselves just a 6 and a 7 respectively when asked how they would rate their "Ulzzang quotient".
"The Korean Ulzzang we saw at hip places in Gangnam, Korea, they really are the "best faces" - even in person, without photoshop, they look totally perfect and flawless looking," said Miyake with a tone of awe.
An example of hugely popular Korean Ulzzang are Song Ah Ri and Do Hwe Ji, who each have at least 50 fan websites dedicated to them.
The 162-cm model/blogger tips the scales at just 46 kg and her body, which fans say are just in perfect proportion, are much talked about on Ulzzang forums.
Despite the growing popularity of Ulzzang culture in Singapore, Miyake and Yutaki feel it will take time for the trend to catch on among more young Singaporeans.
"To be honest, it's a lot of work, and we are into it because we like to dress up adventurously, take photos, even before we were into Ulzzang culture. Singaporeans are generally too lazy to put in all the effort," said Yutaki.
"But with K-pop, and Ulzzang idols like SNSD, Super Junior, maybe slowly the fashion here will change."