Whiteness as Beauty

A critical analysis of South Korean tone-up cream and sunscreen advertorials


  • Jinee Chong University of Alberta




Do online shopping advertorials for whitening skincare products in South Korea perpetuate a racial hierarchy wherein whiteness is maintained as an ideal beauty standard? If so, how is this hierarchy articulated and reinforced with words and images? Whitening products, such as tone-up creams and sunscreens, have become increasingly prevalent in the skincare industry in South Korea. Adding a level of nuance to earlier research, my research undertakes a critical feminist discourse analysis method to examine 19 skincare advertorials on the South Korean beauty e-commerce site, Olive Young Global. This study breaks new ground by taking an inductive analysis approach to analyzing these advertorials to produce findings comparable to similar studies in other Asian countries. Thus, it works to confirm the overall message being communicated that these products are sold as the key to a woman’s quest for a white beauty ideal. By undertaking an inductive critical discourse analysis, the research will develop themes based on the exploration of these advertorials with some guidance from existing literature. The globalization of beauty promotes a falsely universal white(ned) woman, and this project evidences a nuanced analysis of the lexical choices and images employed to promote the idea that whiteness and youthfulness equate to “natural” beauty. This critical feminist discourse analysis will provide insight into how a racial hierarchy is reinforced through media and how the exclusion of racialized women from spaces intended to empower all women will reproduce the societal hierarchy among women within the beauty industry.

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Social Sciences & Humanities