Tiffany Young Explains Why K-Beauty Is So Much More Than Just Sheet Masks

If you ask Tiffany Young, the best beginnings start with a bob.

The first time she cut her hair short was in 2007, just on the cusp of her debut with beloved Korean girl group Girls’ Generation. In a process she compares to America’s Next Top Model, 17-year-old Young left the decision-making for her dramatic hair transformation to professionals at SM Entertainment, the agency the group is signed to.

If you recall in the makeover episode of the reality show, which is arguably the best one of any season, Tyra Banks announces her vision for each contestant’s new high-fashion look. Once Tyra declares who’s getting an unexpected buzz cut, a colorful dye job, or dramatic highlights, the models really don’t have a say in the matter. (Cue the impassioned crying scenes.) The same went down for all eight members of Girls’ Generation.

“We were all getting concepts and images that would make us more recognizable because we were such a big family,” she recalls during a recent visit to the Allure office. SM wanted to give her an image — an identity. Enter: a layered bob with side-swept bangs.

At the time, short hair wasn’t popular in the Korean-girl-group world, so Young was admittedly scared. But she practiced the law of attraction and remembers saying to herself, “Hey, if it’s going to get people to listen to my music, OK.” The universe must have been listening because Girls’ Generation went on to cement itself as an iconic group in K-pop history. For a couple of years, Young’s adorable bob became her signature look before she grew it out into nearly waist-length waves. “During the past eight years, I got to live out my hair-flipping dreams,” she jokes.

Fast forward to September 2018, when Young, now 29, debuted a fresh jaw-grazing haircut in the music video for her single, “Teach You.” A month later, she walked the red carpet at the American Music Awards — the first woman in K-pop to do so.

Tiffany Young 2018 AMAs

Getty Images

This time, however, the haircut was voluntary: Young had planned out her hair’s length and color on her own volition, and feels “very, very happy about it.” (Don’t worry, she’s not resentful toward her first bob. In fact, she recently realized how powerful the experience was, and now calls it one of the best things ever to have happened to her.)

After deciding to focus on her solo projects and moving back to her home state of California, Young was ready to let go and try something new. “I made sure I looked, sounded, and felt a certain way I wanted to see myself at this age,” she explains. “I think growing up and walking into the American music industry and the entertainment industry as a woman was something very, very important to me, and changing my image and cutting my hair was the fastest, easiest, most painless way to do it.”

Although her new solo songs, “Teach You” and “Over My Skin.” are in English, the essence of K-pop is still threaded through Young’s music. The fact that part of the reason she cut off her hair was to fit the concept of her newest song, “Teach You,” proves it. Because it’s about heartbreak, “you would do something crazy dramatic and want to change things about you,” she says. “[My haircut] kind of explains the song without having to even sing or anything.”

Makeup as a Form of Representation

If you look closely at Young’s makeup — especially in “Teach You” — you’ll notice it’s true to her roots, too. Her blotted lips, luminous skin, peachy rose shadow, and delicate winged liner are not only quintessential to her look, but are also intentionally reflective of Korean makeup trends and techniques. All of it, she says, is about using makeup as a means of amplifying what you have.

Young hopes that her makeup can be a means of representing the Korean beauty aesthetic in the U.S. “I mean sheet masks are a great way to introduce it because I use them every single day, too, but there is much more to K-beauty,” she tells me. “I’m so happy I could talk about it.”

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