Malaysian influencers primped by Korea's premium beauty salon jennyhouse

Influencers from Malaysia are getting makeovers by jennyhouse makeup artists on May 11 at jennyhouse's Cheongdam-Hill headquarters in southern Seoul. [SHIN MIN-HEE]

When a K-drama skyrockets to global success, the cast members and plot are not the only elements under a microscope. Viewers from all over the globe pay particular attention to the main actors’ outfits and makeup, like IU from “Hotel del Luna” (2019) or Son Ye-jin from “Crash Landing on You” (2019-20).

The “no makeup look,” meaning creating a complexion that appears natural and flawless but at the same time, subtly maximizing one’s attractiveness, became one of the main trends defined by K-beauty.

International fans were so obsessed with Son’s look that her glam team, hairstylist Gu Mi-jeong and makeup artist Mu Jin of local premium beauty salon jennyhouse, revealed in interviews how they achieved the effortless yet elegant looks featured on the show.

Son is just one of jennyhouse’s major clients. It takes care of some 1,000 celebrities, including big-names Bae Suzy, Han Ji-min, Han So-hee, Park Shin-hye, and even Tilda Swinton and Miranda Kerr.

The salon even made headlines last year for taking the helm of Son’s hair and makeup for her wedding to actor Hyun Bin.

Influencers from Malaysia are getting hair treatments on May 11 at jennyhouse's Cheongdam-Hill headquarters in southern Seoul. [YIM SEUNG-HYE]

jennyhouse has been in operation for 23 years, with its Cheongdam-Hill headquarters located in Gangnam District, southern Seoul. It is currently home to 25 makeup artists and 55 hair stylists.

As experts in wedding makeup, jennyhouse meets with over 4,000 brides-to-be every year.

But on a Thursday in May, the shop was not styling its usual celebrity or bridal clients. Rather, all four stories of the Cheongdam-Hill building were dedicated to some 20 guests from Malaysia — influencers, merchandisers and press — who were visiting Korea to get a taste of their own K-beauty fantasy.

The event was a spectacle. Staff members were talking on their walkie-talkies and rushing between guests who were getting their hair and makeup done. Officials from jennyhouse introduced the brand’s latest hair product line as well as its cosmetic products to Watsons Malaysia merchandisers and Malaysian press. Influencers were busily snapping their best shots and flaunting their trip to Korea on social media.

Rose Nicotine, an influencer in Malaysia, gets her makeup done by Mu Jin, the makeup artist that creates the looks for actor Son Ye-jin, on May 11. [SHIN MIN-HEE]

The event was held to celebrate the launch of jennyhouse’s cosmetics line in Malaysia. The brand’s cosmetic line is now available across 460 stores of health and beauty retailer Watsons Malaysia and plans to expand to 700.

Since launching four years ago and focusing on hair products, jennyhouse cosmetics has branched out to other Asian countries like Japan, Indonesia and Singapore.

It was an unprecedented occasion. When launching a new makeup brand, Watsons Malaysia would usually mark the event with a party in the country. It was Watsons Malaysia’s first time to bring their guests to Korea to celebrate a brand’s launch.

Phei Yong's hair after his treatment and styling sessions [SHIN MIN-HEE]

But for jennyhouse, it was among one of its many efforts to make inroads overseas. Its clients aren’t only Koreans; it sees vistors from nearby regions like Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and China as well. Before the pandemic, jennyhouse saw monthly sales of over 100 million won ($75,000) from foreign clients alone.

The salon is also connected with other Asian countries. While in the past, jennyhouse experts would go on business trips overseas to teach Korean makeup tips, now the paradigm has changed: Hairstylists and makeup artists from other countries come to Korea to truly understand the K-beauty experience.

“Currently, jennyhouse’s hair coloring products are very popular at Watsons Malaysia so we wanted to visit here and take a look at cosmetics and skincare products to introduce them to Malaysian consumers,” Caryn Loh, managing director of Watsons Malaysia, told the Korea JoongAng Daily.

“Right now, we have a lot of cosmetics brands from Korea, like 3CE, Peripera and Clio and they are all so popular. I think jennyhouse has a lot of potential in Malaysia, especially because a lot of Korean celebrities use jennyhouse. That appeals to Malaysians who are so into Korean dramas.”

Merrie Tew after her hair and makeup was done [SHIN MIN-HEE]

The Korea JoongAng Daily met with some of the influencers who were getting glam. They were able to enjoy the entire K-beauty experience with hair spa treatments, hair styling and makeup sessions which took over three hours per person, and they had a lot to praise about K-beauty.

“The whole world knows about K-pop and K-drama, so I’m very excited to see the Korean people here,” Chan Phei Yong, 29, said. Better known just by Phei Yong, he is an influencer with over 827,000 followers on Instagram and runs a YouTube channel with 735,000 subscribers. Phei Yong is also an ambassador for Watsons Malaysia.

He said that his expectations for Korean people were “extremely high” thanks to K-beauty.

“The moment I passed through customs [at the airport] I looked around, and every single Korean person surprised me,” Phei Yong said. “In Malaysia, we do have good-looking people but we have a lot of people who are freestyle [with their fashion styles]. The people here? Everyone is good-looking and well-prepared [...] it’s really impressive.”

Rose Nicotine, a Muslim influencer with 964,000 Instagram followers who posts fashion-related content along with her husband Kamil Zahar, says that she is attracted to K-beauty products because of their ingredients. Despite her combination skin, she has never experienced side effects after using them.

“From what I know, the Korean beauty products are mostly [made] from natural ingredients,” Nicotine said. “They're not harsh.”

Phei Yong’s must-have items are Korean face masks and sunscreen.

“Normally, my daily routine is quite busy. I actually do not have much time to do my [skin] preparation,” Phei Yong said. “So my makeup team learns tips from Korea in short-term classes and they recommended me face masks. I have been using them every single day to make sure my face is always hydrated.

“And I am a dark-skinned person, so if my face is not glowy, it looks very dirty,” he continued. “It’s easy to get sunburned because I do a lot of shooting outdoors. I need sunscreen all the time and Korean products tend to be less oily for me.”

Miki Tew showed this picture of Sullyoon from girl group Nmixx as a reference photo for her makeup. [SHIN MIN-HEE]
Miki Tew after her hair and makeup was done, based on a look by Sullyoon of Nmixx [SHIN MIN-HEE]

The influencers each had a specific look in mind for their K-makeovers. Miki Tew, a 22-year-old influencer with 452,000 Instagram followers, showed her makeup artist a picture of Sullyoon, a member of K-pop girl group Nmixx.

After applying pink eyeshadow, doll-like eyelashes, rosy blush and pink lipstick, the look was completed. Needless to say, the experts knew exactly what they were doing.

Her sister, Merrie Tew, 30, who also has a social media presence with 160,000 followers, was thrilled about her wavy hair that jennyhouse hair stylists had acheived for her, explaining that back at home in Malaysia, it’s difficult to maintain the curls because of the humid weather.

Although she has no problem dyeing her hair herself, whenever she tries curling it, “it holds only one to two hours, sometimes when I’m lucky, three,” she laughed. She said that before, she had never really considered using hair treatment products like oils or fixers but found it helpful to see the products that her hair stylist had used on her.

Rose Nicotine showed this past picture of herself with a filter on as a reference photo for her makeup. [SHIN MIN-HEE]

Nicotine went with an interesting choice for a reference image: a previous photograph of herself that she posted on Instagram with a filter that made her lips pop with a sharp red color and sharpened her wide eyes.

“In the past, I loved this filter and then I started to do ombré lips. I love my makeup to look bold,” she said. “So I finally have a look of myself without that filter.”

Nicotine put more emphasis on her makeup rather than her hair because she is Muslim, saying that she skipped the styling session and only underwent the hair spa treatment.

“I usually don’t really put effort in styling my hair because of my hijab,” Nicotine said, “so it was really nice being able to take care of my hair after so long.”

Rose Nicotine's makeup before, left, and after. [SHIN MIN-HEE]

“Korean beauty products are consistently growing in Malaysia,” Loh said. “About 70 percent of Malaysians are Muslim and they want to use Korean products that kind of give them flawless skin rather than focus on the hair since they have to wear hijabs. It’s a culture for Malaysians to always look good for their husbands.”

Phei Yong, who was one of the few males at the event, aimed for a “makeup-less look.” While his makeover was less conspicuous than those of his female companions, he highlighted the subtle changes that were made.

“I was aiming for that natural glow,” Phei Yong said, explaining his final look after his hair and makeup sessions. He skipped the eye and lip makeup and focused only on skin and eyebrows.

“It’s the details that matter. Look at the spikes in my hairdo. Typically, I can’t do it by myself — no matter how I do it, I can’t. There’s a limitation.”

Phei Yong's makeup before, left, and after. Although the difference seems less conspicuous, he stressed that his skin and eyebrows were worth noting. [SHIN MIN-HEE]

At around 6:30 p.m., after hours of primping, all the guests were finished enhancing their looks. They all either sat in front of the mirrors admiring their new styles or took selfies, gleaming with satisfaction.

The memorable day certainly finished on a high note, but of course, it would be a shame to let the new looks go to waste without flaunting them in Seoul’s hottest areas.

When asked if they had any plans afterward, the Tew sisters grinned, before saying, “Hongdae! We’re going shopping.”