Korean Beauty’s Deceptive Bait and Switch


The unfortunate reality of animal cruelty in the beauty industry is widespread and has recently become exacerbated in the face of new Korean beauty trends.


The Korean Beauty “revolution” is not without its faults. While their legendary skincare routines promise a fountain of youth and porcelain skin, the suffering of living beings seems to not faze countries and consumers jumping on the trend.

While K-Beauty aims to position itself at the “cutting edge of skincare,” it seems more likely than not that their methods are cruel and archaic – South Korea’s general stance on animal testing and overall animal welfare is dismal.

Lotions, creams, and even face masks that use snail mucin to promote an even complexion are sourced using barbaric methods, including electric fences, “mechanically stressing” the snails, and even salting their enclosures to produce stress which eventually triggers them to release more mucus.

If the fate of the gastropods didn’t make you bat an eyelash, maybe the alarming rise in the use of horse products will.


The use of horse placenta (yes, you read that right) in face masks and other products claims to have mystical anti-aging properties. Even though repeated studies have shown that there is no statistical evidence supporting the use of animal placenta for health or aesthetic reasons, the Korean beauty industry has not taken note. There are plenty of other effective products with much less controversial outcomes.

Although it is true that some K-Beauty companies have begun to understand the importance of producing wholesome and cruelty-free options, the overall offerings are slim pickings to say the least. The industry’s “cruelty-free” offerings are just a marketing façade, destined to never be humane or 100% vegan.

While westernized places like the European Union ban by law the sale of beauty products tested on animals, the main export agency of South Korea continues to choose profit over ethics. Seoul’s main export partner, China (another country with a poor animal rights track record), actually requires products to be tested on nonhuman, living beings in order for its food and drug administration to approve it for sale to the public.

So what do companies in Korea do to do to ensure their profit margin stays in the green and soft power can be shipped all over the globe?

The Korean beauty industry’s common bait and switch practice of labeling imported “cruelty-free” products to the West is arguably more detrimental than buying otherwise. Companies make two different lines of the same products, one for sale in the East and the other in the West.


Even for those buying the “cruelty-free alternatives,” they are supporting an industry making money off the suffering of innocent living creatures.

Whether it’s the use of beeswax, snake liver oil, or yes, even fetal horse products, there are always more sustainable and ethical alternatives to the latest beauty trend. It’s always worth having a deep look at where your products are coming from – and in the case of Korean beauty products – where they’re headed too.