Korean skincare is taking over the world.
You can’t enter a shop these days that doesn’t have its own SoKo beauty counter. Or open a magazine without reading about the latest beauty trends from the East.
Everyone’s talking about it. Have the Koreans discovered the fountain of youth, or is it all marketing hype? That’s what we all want to know. Being the sceptical, non-trusting sort that I am, I initially wrote K-beauty off as the latest eccentricity in the beauty world.
Last year, that all change. I took on a job that requires me to test A LOT of Korean skincare products. And I discovered two things:
- A lot of it is just hype. Korean brands use the same ingredients as everyone else (plus a few weird ones thrown in for shock effect), and a lot of their products aren’t that special.
- Some Korean products, techniques, and principles are truly amazing. Us Western should adopt them pronto.
But what are they? Here are the 4 things I learned from Korean skincare that make my skin really happy:
1. Hydration Is The Foundation Of A Good Skincare Routine
Most skincare products contain a huge dollop of water. It’s the base.
But, the Koreans are OBSESSED with water. Pretty much every brand touts the “magic” of its thermal-rich water.
But the winner is Laneige. Its entire story revolves around water. Legend has it that, after researching the science of water for 20 years, its laboratories have “unleashed scientifically-engineered, skin-perfecting mineral water clinically proven to hydrate, protect, and revitalise individual skin types.”
That’s the hype. The truth is that water is essential to skin health. When skin is hydrated, it’s soft to the touch and plumps up, making fine lines and wrinkles look much smaller.
That’s something I always took for granted. My skin has always been naturally well-hydrated, so I always looked for that something extra, like antioxidants, in my skincare products.
But now, for the first time in my life, my skin is as dry as the desert. It flakes. It stings. It annoys the hell out of me. It’s now begging me to use a super hydrating cream that delivers a potent burst of moisture.
Not necessarily from thermal water. Again, that’s hype. But, Korean moisturizers do the hydrating job oh-so-well.
Korean creams, lotions, and toners are packed with hydrator-boosters, such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid, which can attract and bind water to the skin.
The downside? Most of these products are fairly basic: hydrating your skin is ALL they can do.
- ENature Squeeze Green Watery Serum ($26.00): available at Soko Glam and Yes Style
- Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence Intensive Moist ($49.00): available at iHerb, Soko Glam and Yes Style
- Neogen Real Ferment Micro Essence ($38.00): available at Soko Glam
2. Snail slime is an awesome multitasker
Remember when we talked about how gross snail slime is? There are so many moisturizing ingredients out there, I didn’t get why people went with this one.
Especially cos it’s cruel to snails. These little animals are constantly kept under stress so they make more slime. Poor thingies. 🙁
But then, I got to try a few for a freelancing assignment I was working on. The first time, it didn’t go so well. The mask was way too rich for my combo skin.
But, when my skin is on the drier side, it laps it up like nobody’s business. After I treat it to a snail sheet mask, it’s much softer, plumper, and brighter (I’m partial to Tony Moly Intense Care Snail Hydro-Gel Mask, in case you’re wondering).
For me, snail slime is now up there with shea butter, hyaluronic acid, and mineral oil. The four musketeers of hydration and moisturization.
I get why the Koreans love it so much. But I still shudder when I think how it’s collected.
P.S. Snail slime is great for dry skin, but there’s NO proof yet it busts acne or wrinkles, like Korean brands claim.
- Benton Snail Bee Ultimate Serum ($27.00): available at Soko Glam and Yes Style
- Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence ($19.00): available at Dermstore, Look Fantastic, Soko Glam, Ulta and Yes Style
- Missha Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail Skin Treatment ($33.00): available at Soko Glam
Related: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Snail Slime In Skincare
3. Sheet masks boost your skincare routine
Sheet masks put K-beauty on the map. Korean women credit them as the secret to their flawless skin. They use one every night (that’s dedication!).
I always thought that sheet masks weren’t a necessary part of your skincare routine. I stand by that. But, they help. A LOT.
Last year, I was handed a big bunch of sheet masks to review – within a month. That meant I had to try a new one every night for 30 days (for those of you who are curious, they included Tony Moly Intense Care Snail Hydro-gel Mask, Mizon Enjoy Vital-Up Time Nourishing Mask and Etude House Collagen Moistfull).
Well, my skin has never looked as good as it did last September. It was soft as a baby’s, looked smoother, and pimples were nowhere in sight. Mask sheets were the only change in my routine (diet and lifestyle habits included).
Don’t get me wrong. Mask sheets are not miracle workers. They’re simply hydrating bombs. When skin has all the moisture it needs, it looks and feels its best.
You don’t have to do a sheet mask treatment every night. But if your skin could use an extra dose of moisture, this’ll do the trick.
- Benton Aloe Soothing Mask Pack (Pack of 10, $24.00): available at Look Fantastic, Soko Glam and Yes Style
- Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Tencel Sheet Mask ($3.00): available at Soko Glam
- Manefit Natural Gift Green Tea Pore Care Sheet Mask (Pack of 4, $19.00): available at Soko Glam
Related: How To Choose The Right Type Of Mask For Your Skin Type
4. Korean skincare is fun
When you think about skincare fun, you think of a day at a spa or having a facial done at a fancy salon. The rest of the time, skincare is “serious business”. You want products that work. No gimmicks.
Well, Korean skincare is full of gimmicks that work. Here are a few examples:
- Elizavecca Carbonated Clay Mask: when it comes in contact with air, this clay mask forms lots of tiny bubbles on your skin, turning your face into a cloud!
- Neogen Pink Cactus Liftmax Knit Mask ($6.00): a knitted cotton sheet mask!
- Laneige Time Freeze Firming Sleeping Mask: has a cool memory-foam texture. Doesn’t matter how big a dent you make in it, within seconds the surface is smooth again!
All unnecessary gimmicks. But they bring that extra fun to the game. Why not?
The Bottom Line
Korean skincare isn’t the miracle worker it’s touted to be. But, it’s very creative. It sticks to the basics (like hydration) and constantly innovates on them, coming up with new textures, ingredients, and technologies that benefit skin and are a fun to use. The pace of innovation is so fast, most of them can’t be groundbreaking. But if you love to try something new all the time, you’ll fall in love with Korean skincare.
What do you think of Korean skincare? Share your thoughts in the comments below.