Seoul in South Korea lures Gen Z tourists through viral personal colour analysis

Angie Xue had always wanted to travel to Japan and Korea, so when she saw that $600 round-trip flights were available from California, she booked one immediately. “It was now or never,” she recalls via phone. Xue’s first order of planning after that? Booking a personal color analysis appointment in Seoul, something she’d discovered through viral videos. Personal colour analysis aims to assign individuals flattering colours that can inform their choices around clothing, makeup and accessories based on their complexions and skin tones. The process can take 60 minutes, with color consultants draping hundreds of fabric swatches across clients’ shoulders to carefully examine what makes their faces light up rather than emphasize dark circles or wrinkles.

For decades it’s been used by politicians, chief executive officers and the social elite as a way to put their best feet forward. Now, on the heels of a TikTok craze, it’s sprouting up from California to New York, and Gen Z loyalists are increasingly making trips to Seoul with the procedure topping their bucket list.

In the US, a three-hour-long session at a place like House of Colour in Brooklyn, New York, can cost $545; in most Korean studios, the rates hover from $80 to $160. In any event, clients emerge with personal, customized palette swatches, specific makeup recommendations and suggestions for what kind of jewelry to buy.

The trick is getting an appointment, particularly in Seoul. In her quest, Xue called more than 30 places before managing to book slots for herself and her boyfriend—a lucky break, she learned, thanks to a recent cancellation. But because her colour consultant didn’t speak English, she was warned, she had to spend an additional $50 per hour to hire a translator

This has fueled such a tourism boom that the Korea Tourism Organization has been using it to promote international visits. The organization went so far as to create a pop-up color analysis studio in New York’s Rockefeller Center as part of a free summerlong event called Celebrate Korea.

Seoul color consultant Baek says a wide majority of her clients come from overseas after finding her services via word of mouth or social media.

“They come from all over the world, with the most coming from cities like Los Angeles or New York in the US, but also from places like the Middle East and Central America as well,” she explains. The spike in demand has Baek and her colleagues working overtime. Her consultancy Color Society notched a record number of appointments in June, with 470 customers rather than the 300 it would book in a typically busy month.

Baek is stretching to work nearly 12 hours a day. “We’re a pretty small shop with only two consultants who can speak English,” she says. Appointments open two months ahead on the 26th of every month and are scooped up almost instantly. “I find that I can’t turn away these customers, especially because they come from such faraway places,” she adds.

To Daniela Miculkova, 30, color analysis stands out as a unique cultural experience that doubles as an accessible luxury. “There’s nothing like this in my country,” says the Czech Republic resident.

For Koreans, the tourism boom brings an added benefit: big retail spending. Customers like Miculkova often walk out with color swatches in hand and recommendations to buy specific skin-care and makeup products, along with an itch to overhaul their wardrobes.