Ever Beauty-Conscious, Japanese Women Embrace Sports Makeup

Running (except for the makeup)
Running (except for the makeup)

TOKYO â€" At September's annual RunGirl Night, one 35-year-old exercise enthusiast prepared for the evening group run by applying lipstick, foundation and eye shadow. "I would feel extremely self-conscious if I was around so many other people without makeup on," she said. "After crossing the finish line, I want to look good in group photos, too."

She's not alone. The number of women who wear makeup while exercising is on the rise. So-called sports makeup is becoming increasingly popular, as evident not only from the growing popularity of no-smudge cosmetic products but also from the makeup symposiums held in tandem with running events.

Clearly, there are women sports lovers who want to look beautiful even during and after a sweaty workout.

At RunGirl Night, a number of women listened enthusiastically to lectures about various aspects of sports makeup. "You have to make sure that drawn-on eyebrows don't disappear even after crossing the finish line," one speaker warned. "For blush that goes well with any outfit color, choose apricot."

Kaori Nagai, a hair and makeup artist, is a member of RunGirl, the body that hosts the event. "In the past three or four years, the number of female runners wearing makeup has certainly been increasing," she said, adding that the previous norm among sporty women was to apply sunscreen but no makeup. "Female runners who run to keep in shape are increasingly beauty conscious."

As sportswear too has become more sophisticated and stylish, more women have begun to view makeup as a necessity. "A face without makeup doesn't match such nice sportswear," one woman said. Said another, "I feel like I can look stylish if I match my makeup to my outfit."

Sportswear maker Mizuno Corp., developer of the women's brand Mizuno plusme, even holds popular demonstrations about proper makeup technique at running events.

Makeup that stays

Sports makeup can be bewildering to women accustomed only to more traditional cosmetics. In particular, female athletes worry about sunburn while exercising outdoors and want to prevent makeup from being smudged or removed by sweat. So cosmetics that offer ultraviolet protection and that don't wear off even with water and sweat are especially popular.

For example, cosmetics maker ORBIS Inc. sells a sunscreen powder that can be applied over makeup and an eyebrow coating product that protects eyebrow makeup from sweat. Ballet goods manufacturer Chacott Co. became popular with sports lovers recently after word spread that the company's stage makeup face powder was remarkably resistant to perspiration.

Recent sporting events have included everything from large-scale marathons to bubble runs, unique events in which participants run through a frothy trail of soap bubbles.

"As the number of participants in sporting events has increased, people have become less concerned about the simple act of moving their body and more about looking good while doing so," said Wako Hashimoto, director of the Japan Sports Beauty Association. "It's common to take pictures and selfies during physical activity to share with friends, and an increasingly important aspect of exercise for many people is showing off."

Natural, healthy makeup

Hashimoto says that it's important for sports makeup to look "natural and healthy." Drawing lines that are too strong or wearing loud makeup to outdo brightly colored outfits should be avoided. The model she presented at the RunGirl event wore makeup that gave off a lively, energetic aura.

For makeup resilient to sweat, she recommended liquid foundations, eyebrow mascara and cream blushers.

She also stressed the importance of removing any excess oils on the face with a sponge after applying foundation and taking extra care to apply sunscreen on the hairline and cheekbones, which sunburn easily.

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Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum


SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.

It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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