Hyun Suk Choi is Korea’s premier hand model. For nearly two decades, she’s been the go-to lady in the fashion and beauty industry in Korea when it comes to hands. Hyun Suk’s hands have graced the ads of such brands as Chanel, Tory Burch, Marc Jacobs, L’occitane, SK-II, Hera, Vogue, and Marie Claire. As a mother of one, she’s constantly juggling it all with her own ventures as the owner of four nail stores SuuEtt and as a best-selling author. Read on for her best hand creams, hand care tips, and her take on the international popularity of K-Beauty.
How did you get started in hand modeling?
Originally, I was a regular company worker at a advertisement company. One of the production directors there told me my hands were pretty and suggested doing a shoot. So that’s how I got my first hand modeling shoot for KT (Korean telephone company) in 2000. It was just for fun.
I didn’t know there was such a job when I started. It was so interesting and fun, and I thought I would be so happy if I could keep doing this type of job. Six months after that first production, I was interviewed for a TV show program for KBS and SBS. After being on the show, I started getting contacted here and there, and my jobs grew enough that I could leave my company job. I became a full time hand model once they started lining up all these jobs for me.
How do you take care of your hands?
First, to make sure the area around my nails – my cuticles – aren’t dry, I always moisturize with a serum or cuticle oil. It strengthens my nails in the process. For the rest of my hands it’s all about moisturizing. To avoid wrinkles, to keep the skin tight, just keep moisturizing.
Have you ever hurt your hands?
Well I’m really careful about not hurting them, so I haven’t. I actually get stressed when we eat gogi (meat) because all the grease can hit me and leave scars or marks if I’m not careful. I also get stressed playing with my daughter because I can even get paper cuts reading to her. You hands are always exposed to the sun, different weather and circumstances, so I am just very aware of my surroundings. Even when I cook or handle hot things, I wear gloves.
How do you decide what hand creams to use?
Depending on the condition of my hands or the weather, I use something different. If my hands are dry, I’ll use a certain one. If the weather is hot, I’ll use something lighter rather than really moisturizing like a light lotion or skin mist. If it’s really sunny, I’ll use something with UV protection.
I don’t just use hand creams. There are many hand care products like hand serums or anti-aging hand creams that target wrinkles – even roller serums for your hands! You massage them into your hands like face rollers. They’re really moisturizing.
What are your favorite hand creams?
For something that’s low in price but high in moisturizing ability, I’d recommend Kamill Hand Repair, which is from Germany. There’s a Korean hand cream I like too, but it’s from a nail company – Bandi. Their Nail Cure Blue Cream is good if you need something with UV protection. It’s not expensive – 3500 won. My favorite luxury ones are Diptyque Eau Rose Hand Cream and Chanel La Crème Main.
What other business ventures has hand modeling taken you to?
I published a book in 2012 about how to take care of your hands and feet with your lifestyle. It did really well and sold out in Korea. I also published the book in Taiwan and have been writing articles for brands such as Ceci.
Also, I’ve done various beauty classes and have been invited by brands like Olive Young to teach hand care and moisturizing. I actually first suggested the hand cream brand Kamill at a beauty class. I generally focus on hydrating products, packs, and kits to maintain moisture. I also want to make my own cosmetic products in the future.
What advice do you have for people who are interested in this job?
People ask me a lot of questions about how to be a hand model, a foot model, etc. But what I really want to say is that anyone can be a model if they desire, but not everyone can do it – it’s all about how you prepare yourself for the job. Everyone I work with – directors, producers, actors, staff – they all know how important this job is and how seriously I take this job. I go through the storyboard, I look at the actor’s lines, and I prepare myself with hand acting to match the story.
There are too many people who think of this job as so easy. I’m sad because those who don’t take the job seriously are affecting the industry negatively. This is a career, and you have to really have to know how to match the shoot’s concept, the expressions of the actors, and the director’s storyboard.
What’s your take on Korean beauty and how it’s viewed internationally?
Because of K-pop and idols, foreigners have gotten more interested in K-Beauty. But I feel like Koreans aren’t really that into Korean beauty brands. They’re much more into overseas brands. We have some good products like eye shadows and lip products – so recently I’ve been into those. But in general, even I use more foreign brands.
What about Korean skincare?
I do like Korean skincare. But well-known brands like Tony Moly, Skin Food, Etude House etc. – they’re really mostly used by those in their twenties or younger. Like my daughter and her friends love lip tints from Peripera and Etude House. From what I’ve seen, brands like Laneige or Innisfree also seem to be more popular with foreigners rather than Koreans. In reality, Koreans are more interested in overseas brands.
What’s your skincare routine like?
I use a sheet mask 3-4 times a week. I recommend Rubelli Black Pearl. In the summer, I like something light, clear, and refreshing, so I’ve been using L’Occitane Aqua Réotier Water Gel Cleanser and L’Occitane Ultra Thirst Quenching Cream. For Korean products, I use Rubelli Water Glow Essence. It really makes my face glow. Even though it’s an essence, you can use it like a face mist. When I can’t be bothered to go through my entire routine or I’m just tired, I spray a bunch of this, and it makes my face shine. I also use Baldr 2 in 1 Sunstick. It works well on both your face and body. For eye cream, I use Carezone or O Hui The First Eye Cream, but that one’s expensive. For face creams, I really recommend Dior Capture Totale Dreamskin Advanced. It makes my skin so smooth.
Actually, Korean brands popular with women my age like Hera, Sulhwasoo, Sooryehan are not as cheap as you might think. Biotherm or Bobbi Brown are of a similar price, so that’s why I tend to use foreign brands.
What makeup do you use?
It’s a mix. I use Chanel or Mac. For my cushion, Kim Tae Hee’s Celltrion. The reviews are good. The price is good, and they have a lot of promos. So I just end up trying out things. I like their masks and also masks from Shiseido. I switch up my products a lot because brands come out with a lot of new products, so it’s kind of like upgrading.
What’s your biggest splurge?
What has been your most memorable shoot?
It’s always been fun. But if I shoot with other male actors or celebrities, it’s really fun (I’m usually the girlfriend). I’m always shooting alone, so when it’s with someone else, it’s different and exciting. I worked with Sun Joong-ki. You know he was really popular. I played the girlfriend in a shoot. He had to give me some lipstick to put on. There was also a shoot with Hyun Bin. I was his girlfriend in a Samsung commercial. My hand was in the shoot clinking wine glasses with him and holding hands.
What is your favorite nail salon?
You know who it is! Unistella! She’s my long-time friend, so we know each other well. If I’m not going to my own salon, I go to Unistella!
Are you into nail trends?
I do look at nail art on the Internet, but what I really pay attention to are new hand and food self-care products.
Do you get any beauty treatments?
I get facials, body treatments, aromatherapy. I go to Youth Clinic and get treatment to tuck my chin and also Botox for face slimming. Youth Clinic is known for non-surgical anti-aging treatments, but they do the standard fillers and injections too.
How has being a mom impacted you and your idea of beauty?
I pay more attention to ingredients. If it’s bad, I don’t use it. Since having a kid, I have more responsibility. I want to set a good example for her and present myself well. Even though I work a lot, I have more of a burden. I have to do jobs, I have to spend quality time with my daughter, and I have a husband too. Even though it’s really tiring, I enjoy the work that I do. If I didn’t work, I’d be depressed.
What do you like most about your job?
As a mother, wife, and working woman, this is one of the best jobs out there. I think about how before when I went to work everyday, I had to get up early every day, leave at a certain time, and everything was routine and established for me. However, now, I have the freedom to choose my schedule. I can take time to play with my daughter and also choose when to do shoots. Because I also have to take care of my hands, I am less likely to go out and do any hard work. I also get paid more than an average female corporate employee. As a wife, mom, and female worker – this is one of the best jobs out there.
Feature Image via Judy Kim.