183 COMMENTS

So, after we filmed our TL;DR, we were curious about something. In Korea, people protect themselves from the sun. I wonder if their skin cancer rates are lower as a result. We asked Soo Zee to look into this, and here’s what she found:

Skin Cancer in Korea

That’s the list of the most common cancers in four countries. Korea, then Japan, then the US, then the UK. Skin cancer isn’t in the top ten in either Korea or Japan, but 5th and 4th in the US and UK, respectively. Coincidence?

Anyhow, speaking of skin cancer, we mentioned in our video a bit about mole removal and how we got some of ours removed. You might remember, if you’ve been around for a while, how we had bandaids on our faces for a bit. I actually tried looking for those videos but they’re so old that I can’t remember. High five to anyone who does!

Point is, we didn’t remove them for cosmetic purposes, but because we noticed that they were looking a bit irregular, and we know that can lead to health complications in the future. I also had one on my chin, and at least five times a month, I’d cut it open while shaving. So, we went to a dermatologist to get some of them removed. Quick, easy, painless, and TEN BUCKS! That’s it! It was ten bucks a mole. And we didn’t need an appointment or anything. Just walked in to a place we were told about and got it done.

Then again, procedures in Korea are pretty cheap compared to procedures elsewhere, probably because there are dermatologists and clinics just about everywhere. Hell, across the street from us, where all the chicken shops are located, there’s a dermatology shop on the third floor. Great location! Feel like chicken? How about stopping by for some laser hair removal first? Great plan!

Anyhow, let us know what skin care is like where you’re from. Are we wrong in thinking that people take better care of their skin here in Korea than in North America? Do you wear sunblock on your face every day? How cautious are your friends about sun damage? We’d love to hear if it’s just a Korea thing!

Oh! One last thing we forgot to mention: a really cheap and easy way that Koreans take care of their skin so they can stay looking young and beautiful is – how could I have forgotten to mention this? – by clicking on the subscribe button below. Oh man! It’s so good for your health!

ToFebruary
  1. Tell me about it… I’m also Polish and when I say that I don’t want to tan ‘cos it’s not healthy my friends and family say that I’m weird and I need to go outside more so my skin won’t be so white…
    Once a stranger asked me if I had albinism… I have brown hair and oh come on I’m not that white to mistake me for an albino.

  2. Up here in Maine in the summer, there’s farmers tans all around. If you’re smart and keep yourself covered up, people will say that you glow or that you’re too gosh darn white! And you’re the subject of jealousy if you have a tan before everyone else. Although I see websites saying that you should put sunscreen on everyday, I just don’t bother. I’m outside whenever possible and have a pretty mean tan that is now going to disappear over the long droll winter……aaaaand now i realize why i’ve got so many freckles. And a dermatologist? Never been to one before.

  3. I live in America and everyone is always like, “Today I’m gonna tan for like three hours.” when its the summer and its 90 degrees outside (fahrenheit) but I’m all, “Nope not happening for me. I’m gonna be that person that doesn’t get skin cancer BITCH!” and so I sit wearing a sweatshirt with a hood and leggings the entire summer and then for the rest of the year too and people think I am INSANE but I just enjoy my paleness and don’t want to die.

  4. oh yes, Aussies are BIG on tanning although a lot of older people (parents and grandparents, teachers too) will tell us to wear sun cream, there is a song here that we follow, everyone knows it,

    ‘Slip, Slop, Slap!’ theres a few versions on it that plays on tv evey summer to remind kids to wear it as aussies spend a lot of time out doors swimming in summer

    all my friends are really tanned, they look almost completely brown, tanning cream, tanning oil, tanning spay, tanning salons are huge and can be expensive anywhere.
    I on the other like my pale look so i avoid the sun, my feel reflect the sunlight and when im in the car wearing short skirts my skin reflex onto the bottom part of the dash board.

  5. Here in Portugal people are in general crazy about tanning. The general population is perhaps a bit more relaxed about it and only worries about getting tanned in the summer, but celebrities and anyone a bit more obsessed about the way they look want to be tanned all year long. I make this distinction because, for better or worse, people in Portugal don’t seem to care about their appearance as much as people from many other countries. They do feel pressure to look good, of course, but for some reason the Portuguese aren’t particularly fashion-concious, don’t take very good care of their bodies (3rd fattest country in Europe), don’t commonly wear make up, etc. This is why the general population isn’t too obsessed with being tanned all year round, even though being tanned is considered beautiful while being white is not. Celebrities on the other hand are always tanned. Add to that the fact that most of them have brown eyes and honey-coloured hair, and the end result are people that look very monochromatic.

    As I mentioned, in this country being tanned is a sign of beauty. For that reason and because it’s a rather sunny country we have very high rates of skin cancer. Another reason for that is that a lot of people simply don’t use sun protection. They know they should, but they don’t. I think that on a subconscious level they think they’re not really going to get skin cancer.

    I personally don’t share many of countrymen’s beauty standards, which is why I don’t like the tanned look and am as white as I naturally can be. To be fair, in a country where being white is not a sign of beauty, that has never been a problem for me. My boyfriend sometimes tells me I’d look better with tanned skin, but since I don’t agree with him and I know the sun is highly damaging to the skin, I’m not going to get a tan any time soon.

  6. Tanning is popular in Argentina. And it’s a dangerous trend since many people here try to have a really dark tanning which means that they don’t protect enough their skins and are overexposed to it during Summer.
    I’m not a big fan of it, yet I think a little exposure to the sun is beneficial for the health. For example, it’s good to prevent dental cavities, depression, osteoporosis, etc. (In my home-town there is Vitamin D deficiency.)

  7. I live in norway and the sun rarely sets here in the summertime…but I gave up tanning a long time ago so i use spf all the time and usually carry a parasol/umbrella to keep the sun of my head…(i get migraines from sun exposure) I use a lot of korean products actually :)

  8. LOL that’s a good question!

  9. I’m Dutch but currently living in the UK and even though it’s only 1 hour by plane from my home town to here, there is a difference. In my experience in both countries people love having a tan, but the English skin seems to be less suited for it. European people will know what I mean… you can recognize English people when you’re on a holiday everywhere, because they are RED, ridiculously red XD Tanning salons are really big here, but especially the tanning spray thing. ORANGE is the new tanning colour here. I’m Dutch so I’m all pro orange (especially now with the world cup ;) ) but it’s kinda weird when it’s supposed to be a tan :’]

  10. Im from Puerto Rico and here being tan is pretty, people do get made fun of sometimes for being white.

  11. I live in AUS and am a mix of asian cultures and for a long long time I have remembered wanting to be lighter skinned, but I have come to the realisation that I simply love the sun too much. Having darker skin in a “lighter skin” ideal culture is something I have come to embrace. I do reviews of Korean/ Japanese/ Chinese and some western cosmetics on my blog: http://innervi.blogspot.com.au/
    From my experience I can definitely conclude that the products are not “whitening” but for “evening out” just like Martina said :) Seeing some people desperately trying to “bleach” their body to look whiter scares me for sure. We should just learn to love ourselves a little more; including our skin tone~

  12. I’ve seen commercials in China for this black tar stuff that you smear on your skin in the shower, and when you rinse it off, it takes all the pigment with it. I’ve seen women here so whitened and powdered they have chemical burns on their legs and faces. The whitening stuff is scary.

  13. I’m Chinese but I live in the US so I’ve experienced both the love for whiter skin (in China) and the love of tanning (in the US).
    ;D i have an EXCITING theory as to why:
    so in China, tanned skin meant you had to work outside in the fields to survive; aka, you were poorer and so turned darker. but if you didn’t have to work outside, aka, you were wealthy, then you had nicer, more desirable whiter skin.
    in the US, most people have never worked in the fields. and with the internet and staying inside for your entire life an actual possibility, a tan means you go out often with friends; aka, you have a (social) life. but paler skin meant you stayed inside because there was nothing for you outside; aka, you don’t have a socially acceptable life. (<– because, i mean, seriously, living on the internet all the time, like on tumblr/youtube/fbk has a negative… patina? sheen? impression? it's just not "cool")

    • It is true but it rather mainly applied to places like Europe where you see women wearing all sorts of clothing to cover themselves and carry those small umbrellas to stay white because that means they are at a higher social status and are richer compared to those who are darker.

  14. As you well know being Canadians yourself sunscreen isn’t a huge deal unless its summertime, but women actually have it a bit better than men, a lot of moisturizers and foundations have spf in it mine as 30 in my moisturizer ( I don’t really wear foundation unless its a special occasion) but BB Cream has it too. But what most Canadians don’t know is that you’re actually at a higher risk of getting damaged skin in the wintertime. I never used to wear sunscreen in the winter…until I got a sunburn while skiing… so now I do if I’m going to be out all day lol. Tanning is a big thing here too, especially if youre supposed to be a “gym rat” apparently if you’re not tanned you’re not working out. Anyways that was way longer than I expected :P

    • Haha I love that you pointed that out, but its seems that many people aren’t aware that the UV rays are quite harsh even if there is no sun out (ie. winter time) Its best if you can apply sunscreen everyday, sun or not !

  15. In America its totally normal to get a tan because pale skin isn’t sexy enough. People need that sun-kissed skin even though it causes cancer and can ruin it forever. You would think at least for how health crazy Californians are, they would appreciate taking care of their skin and wearing SPF and not tanning.

  16. Oh my goodness, where I live, tanning is so popular. I have friends that, when we get back to school on a Monday, first thing they’ll tell me is, “Oh my gosh, you guys, this weekend was awesome! I sat outside all day covered in oil and fried myself with the sun and look how tan I got!” And I shake my head with disappointment. Another time, a friend of mine was saying how she got a job at a water park during the summer, and another girl excitedly commented, “Oh my gosh, you’re going to get so tan!” as if it was a great thing. When I tell people here that I wear sunblock on a daily basis, they think I’m silly and stupid, they say, “The sun’s not even out!” but obviously there are still UV rays. No one around here except for the other friends of mine that are Asian and are still connected to the customs they had in their respective native countries, understand how dangerous tanning is.

  17. As a pale redhead, my Mom grounded me once after getting a bad sunburn. My dad who is also pale, had to get a bit of skin cancer removed as well, so I’m extra careful with sunscreen. Growing up there were tanning salons everywhere, but it seems people are more getting on board with “spray tans” instead. The tanned look is definitely more popular in LA, but in NYC there’s still droves of people heading to the beach to get some color. All of my friends in high school who were really into tanning look much older now because of it. But don’t get me started on American dermatologists. You have to get a physical from a regular doctor before even getting referred to a derm and shelling out $250 a visit. I’ll just stick with my Korean sheet masks and hope for the best.

  18. And Rain got this sexy tan :D

  19. Hmm, I’m trying so hard to see what responses to give to the questions provided above. I’ll speak based on my experiences living here (Dominican Republic) and the years lived in NYC. In the States is quite different – well, at least in NYC – when it hits summer, people do not hesitate to go the beach or the park – namely Central Park, for instance – to just lay down on the grass to tan for quite some time – and by quite some time, I mean it! – it’s crazy how people wait for that time of year to jam the parks and beaches just to tan! I used to hate summer over there – perhaps because of the overbearing humid weather – so I would stay home or stay indoors as much as possible. I live in DR now and people here are either naturally tanned or dark-skinned – there’re a lot of white people too. It’s crazy ‘cus I get mocked by my peers for being pale – I’m not even white, medium-toned to say the most. It’s not like it’s mandatory for you to be tanned here, but it’s pretty normal I guess. People here don’t really care much about sunblock or anything likewise, only if you actually go to the beach – I suppose. I guess because I live on the coast, in the capital – and we’re really close to the sea – that people really don’t mind much about sunblock or any kind of skin protector. It’s funny ‘cus some Asians here do walk with umbrellas when the sun is at its boiling point. Anywho, I’ve also noticed that skincare is not celebrated much here either – except, perhaps, girls of middle/high class but they just focus more on make-up. Regarding whitening cream though, do you guys recommend any brand in particular? I personally have this sort of not-that-noticeable unbalanced tone on my face.

  20. HI EYK Crew! I, like Martina have EDS TYPE 3 and even though I haven’t broke any bones. I can’t walk far and have to use a wheelchair for moving outside the house. I know that the subject may be boring or useless for some nasties but PLEASE do a tl;dr on disability in korea. Things like, are places accessible to wheelchairs, would it affect getting a job and peoples reactions. Love from Lauren in the uk!

  21. Oh boy tanning, ain’t that a fun way to spend the summer. I live in the UK and tanning is a big thing for the youngns. We only get like 3 days of summer a year so on a rare occasion of the sun appearing, we will all be outside soaking it up. This is probably why our skin cancer rates are so high. My mum one time said I need to get out in the sun and get a tan. The problem is I don’t tan, I burrrrrn! Personally I like using a gradual tanning moisturizer, as my skin is pale as eff, anything too sudden will look weird. Yes I have jumped onto the tanning bandwagon here. But only the safe way! Remember the three S’s: Slip on a t-shirt, Slap on a hat and Slop on some sunscreen!

  22. I was wondering, if you can do some TL;DR’s about rural life in Korea, do you guys know or met anyone who is not in a big city in Korea? Or have you ever been there? Everyone talks about Incheon, or Busan, or Seoul, but what about the less talked about places? I’m curious about those smaller cities.

  23. I’m from Connecticut, and a majority of the people around where I live like to go to tanning salons or simply lay out on the beaches to get tan. I, on the other hand, am very, very pale (to the point where my family makes fun of me sometimes and says that I look like a ghost) because I don’t tan easily and don’t particularly enjoy staying in the sun for long periods of time. I’ll be spending a lot of time helping my dad cut lawns this summer though, and I’ll be sure to remember to put on sun screen!!

  24. Love that — “cancer isn’t on my to-do list in life”!

  25. Difficult subject. I was on a food tour in Seoul recently and they skirted around the issue but showed us dog meat restaurants “if we were interested”. We all declined of course as dogs were pets and friends to those of us on the tour, but I think it is actually a bit of a thing in the food tour business for Western cultures. They seemed to put it to us tentatively but then withdraw it quickly when we weren’t interested — seemed to be testing the waters a little. They did show us the ‘secret symbols’ that certain restaurants use to indicate they have this meat available though. We were also offered the whole live octopus thing, which we also couldn’t do, but it is a very popular option in Seoul. The whole dog meat thing is a much bigger business now from what I have seen in China, although this is in certain regions and only based on my experiences there (pamphlets etc that are readily available). It is absolutely not my thing at all — but I am also traumatised still from seeing a man in the street outside my hotel in Beijing trying to sell a huge tortoise to passing motorists as a dinner option by waving it about in the street by its tail. I also actually can’t do live fish or crabs either to be honest, so I am very, very squeamish. So you have to respect the whole process of acculturation in these issues too.

  26. Thank you so much for explaining whitening is the wrong term. I had heard it on a few korean dramas and it made me cringe just as tanning salons make me cringe. I just think it’s bad to chemically make the skin a different color.

    US is getting much better teaching kids about wearing hats and sunscreen. But only for the young grades. Rash guards, shirts to wear in the water are really common with the little kids at least. I don’t know if that training will follow through life?

  27. Im from Sydney, Australia and I remember when I was in primary school that I was not allowed to leave outside for lunch if I did not have a hat and put suncream on. But may be my school was a little different from other schools

    • Nope, that’s the Australian way. But comparing my skin to the beautiful Korean women when I am in Seoul, I have to admit there is something that they are doing (or have done) that creates that immaculate complexion. When I am in Seoul, I look old, wrinkly and haggard. But when I get back to Australia, I look fresh and I can’t get over how damaged and wrinkled some skin is!

      By the way, it would be great to do a WANK on ‘cosmetics street’ – say Myeongdong – and go through the different beauty, skincare and cosmetics places available and how they differ (or are the same!). Cosmetics shopping in Seoul is a really huge business now, and many Western countries don’t have these brands and people don’t know how good and inexpensive they are!

  28. Both sunblock and sunscreen have spf(sun protection factor). It just means how long you can stay in the sun before you start to burn. The higher the spf, the longer you can stay in the sun before you need to reapply. The spf part of sunscreen breaks down and no longer works after a while. The spf of sunblock works indefinitely, it just wears off your skin over time due to water/sweat/movement(like makeup).

  29. I live in a white-opia where there’s a rainbow of blondes and aging blondes. Whats funny though is that a lot of these people see tans as a good thing. Like, right now it’s prom season and all the girls are going to get tan either from spray tans or tanning beds. It’s kind of funny; like, “What better way to commemorate this special occasion than by getting orange?!”. They get it in spades later on though when they make the change from young blonde to mom blonde and they realize how devastated their skin is.

  30. I used to love being tan when I was a teenager. I spent a lot of time outside and playing sports, so being tan was normal for me. But when I entered university and went home for spring break my parents told me I had gotten really white. They complimented on how nice I looked and noticed how I had nice skin as well. Now, I don’t like being tan. I don’t like getting tan lines or looking dark. I was always pretty white, my parents told me how my sister and I had snow white skin and rosy cheeks. Its weird, I thought being tan was a good thing, but I know its not so good because it does age you. I really liked this TL;DR!! :D

  31. This video was not only about creepy crawlers but they do talk about the jellyfish and some other things.

    http://www.eatyourkimchi.com/how-to-die-in-korea/

  32. Sorry, but whether or not they have children is one topic that they have repeatedly said they would like to keep private and they would not be discussing it in their videos.

    Cheers, Natz

  33. They don’t call it “weathered” for nothing. Freezing your skin makes it chipped. Frying it makes it red and stingy. Too much exposure to rough wind isn’t good either. Too much water wrinkles it and makes it fall off faster. So, yes, it’s logical that too much of anything is bad for your skin. But not enough is also bad.

  34. uhmm…I think that their good skin could be indeed the result of some genetic predisposition…but I also noticed Korean people spend a lot of time and money caring for it, so it might be an half and half of a reason…as for the white skin and the level of skin cancer, well, here in South Italy we have a lot of different skin types, since our origins are mixed with mediterranean people, Middle East, North European and so on…but it is true that we like the sun and we don’t do a lot to protect ourselves, even if the danger about skin cancer, lately, is considered much more than in the past…so maybe the things are changing little by little…anyway it is not for an esthetic reason…mediterranean beauties are generally olive skinned…

  35. The typical beach look is incredibly popular in Australia and the stigma against sunscreen/block is here too. I prefer pale skin on myself since I dye my hair all these weird colours and it goes well with it. I think the difference between sunscreen and sunblock is that sunscreen still allows you to tan(???) whereas sunblock physically blocks the rays. I also found that a lot of the sunscreen is INCREDIBLY greasy in Straya while Asian products dry matte.

  36. As someone who works for a dermatologist in CA that launched their own online skin care business and manages her social media/blog, I would say skin care is valued in North America almost equally to Korea for women (not men, they are still an enigma for the skin care industry here). However, the cost for high quality products is the main barrier from skin care being a common daily practice. For example: high quality sunscreens that are non-nano, oil-free or moisturizing, all natural or use only mineral physical broadband UV blockers (zinc oxides or titanium oxides, chemical sunscreens are rubbish) start at $20 for a 3.5 oz bottle to $30 for a 2 oz bottle. To truly protect your entire body, the average person should apply 1 oz of sunscreen to their entire exposed body parts. When a good quality sunscreen is $25 for a 3.5 oz bottle, it is not really affordable if it only last for 3-4 uses.

    Also when it comes to dermatology procedures/visits, as S&M noted, costs become an issue again. Since I get employee perks, I have had plenty of free laser treatments (BBL’s) and even a profractional to correct the scars/damage from an infection that overtook half my face. I never thought my face would look smooth again, but after these treatments my friends constantly complement my skin and ask what I have done. Once I explain the cost for laser treatments are in the thousands and products in hundreds, they suddenly go: “If I had the money I would take care of my skin, but I simply cannot afford that.” At that point, I try to direct them to the bare minimum products but then they miss out on some very effective products. Generally only older women have the kind of expendable income needed to spend on anti-aging skin care procedures and products. But by the time most people reach the age to be able to afford skin care products or trips to the dermatologist, much of the damage has already been done.

    Instead of dermatologists, most women go to aestheticians for skin care services since it is more affordable than a doctor visit and they get a “spa-like” pampering. We even have a medical aesthetician at our dermatology practice to capture this demographic of clients. At time, aestheticians can even be too pricey.

    Basically: Cost is why skin care practices are not more prevalent in the US at least, but this doesn’t mean people do not care about their skin. The psychological toll and impacts on self esteem from skin issues is astounding.

  37. I understand the “sunscreen situation” completely! I have really fair skin and even if I don’t burn, I’ll get sun freckles ;_; -le cry- So everytime I walk home or go out (even in Winter), I use sunscreen and/or a hat. Curse you Australian sun! (I don’t know if it’s because I’m part pale-vampire, but I get burnt sooo often in the Australian sun!)

  38. I tan just being outside, but I am naturally dark skinned. However where I am from a tan shows your status. I live in a farming
    community so the most common tan here is a farmer’s tan where the arms, neck, and face tan from working or playing in the sun. However the people who live up town have regular pass to a salon or Penn their own tanning bed. Here they like to show that they are trendy, have money, and/or they enjoy looking like leather. On the other hand I have been to a dermatologist and he told me to actually visit a tanning bed every now and again to keep my skin from being too oily. So they have health uses but most here they show status. #BlueUSNasty #Tennessee

  39. That makes no sense….. So is the goal for everyone to have medium skin or for people to be what they aren’t and risk serious health issues along the way? D: Bleaching your skin is very bad for it and very dangerous! Same as staying in the sun without sunscreen for too long when you look like the white of paper. Urgh. I wish people would learn to accept their skin more…

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