The Rise of Korean Skin Care
Korean skin care rose to popularity within a very short period of time, thanks partly to the Korean Wave, a.k.a. Hallyu, which helped propagate Korean culture to the world. Led by K-pop and K-Dramas, everything Korean – including movies, food, fashion, language and art – has witnessed an exponential growth in demand and popularity in recent years. Korean skin care and makeup are of no exception. Fueled by great value for money, cute packaging, quality ingredients and constant innovation, Korean skin care has become a hot trend and new norm in the global beauty market.
Famous Korean Skin Care Brands
Amore Pacific Group, which owns Etude House, innisfree, LANEIGE, Sulwhasoo, Mamonde, IOPE and more, is arguably the biggest Korean beauty conglomerate. Another K-Beauty giant is LG Household & Healthcare group, which owns The History of Whoo, THE FACE SHOP, belif and VDL. Other major players that house multiple brands include Wishtrend which owns COSRX, By Wishtrend, I’m from, Dear, Klairs and SKIN&LAB, and Able C&C Co., Ltd which owns MISSHA and A’PIEU.
Cruelty-Free Korean Skin Care Brands
The non-profit organization KARA (Korea Animal Rights Advocates) offers a list of cruelty-free K-Beauty brands via its website. COSRX, Benton, PURITO, iUNIK, The Plant Base, HYGGEE, Huxley and Dear, Klairs are among them.
Common Active Ingredients in Korean Skin Care
Korean skin care uses a combination of naturally derived ingredients and target-oriented chemicals to pamper your skin. Some brands are famous for offering an entire line made out of a particular star ingredient. I’m from, for instance, is famous for its soothing mugwort and anti-aging ginseng lines, while innisfree is known for its antioxidant Jeju green tea line. Secret Key’s Starting Treatment line and MISSHA’s Time Revolution line both feature fermented ingredients for skin renewal. MIZON has a firming snail line, and Sulwhasoo, The History of Whoo and Beauty of Joseon take pride in anti-aging hanbang or traditional Korean herbal formulas.
Other common Korean skin care ingredients include honey and propolis for anti-inflammatory benefits, rice water and Vitamin C for brightening, centella (cica) and aloe for soothing, charcoal and volcanic clay for pore tightening, AHA for exfoliation of dry or mature skin, and BHA for exfoliation of oily or acne-prone skin. The list keeps expanding!
Korean Skin Care Innovations
Throughout the years, Korean skin care has amazed the world with some of the most innovative products. Cleansing balms, oil-to-foam cleansers, peel-off nose packs, peeling pads, peeling gels, silk finger balls, splash masks, sleeping masks, skin care capsules and pressed serums are just some of the innovations that have changed the global beauty industry and the way we treat our skin.
The Ten-Step Korean Skin Care Routine
Unlike the quick three-step routine (cleanser, toner and cream) in the West, Korea is famous for the ten-step skin care routine – or seven if you wish to skip a few steps in the morning, or to customize to suit your skin type and lifestyle.
The ten steps include oil cleanser, foam cleanser, exfoliator, toner, essence, serum/ampoule, sheet mask, eye cream, moisturizer and sunscreen. An oil-based cleanser in the first step, such as BANILA CO’s Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm Original or THE FACE SHOP’s Rice Water Bright Light Cleansing Oil, helps dissolve oil and remove waterproof makeup including sunscreen. A water-based cleanser in the second step, such as COSRX’s Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser, helps remove leftover makeup, dirt, sebum and dead skin cells. The two form the renowned Korean double cleanse method to ensure your skin is thoroughly cleansed.
The next step, exfoliation, helps slough off dead skin cells so your skin can better absorb the rest of your skin care products. Instead of the usual scrubs, peeling pads such as NEOGEN’s Dermalogy Bio-peel Gentle Gauze Peeling and peeling gels such as Secret Key’s Lemon Sparkling Peeling Gel are often used to do the job in Korea. To prevent over-exfoliation, you only need to do this step twice a week if you have dry skin, or thrice a week if you have oily skin.
After this, dampen a cotton pad with some toner and wipe it all over your face, or simply pat it on if it’s more on the nourishing side than the cleansing side. Toner is important in removing makeup residue, balancing your skin’s pH level, moisturizing and prepping skin for the next products. There are also toners that are formulated to bring about additional skin benefits.
Next, apply an essence, which is generally more watery and quick-absorbing than a serum or ampoule. This helps to add moisture to skin. Follow with a serum or ampoule, which is packed with concentrated active ingredients to tackle different skin concerns and gradually improve the condition of your skin. After this, a sheet mask should be applied two to three times a week to replenish skin.
To avoid wrinkles and fine lines around your eyes, you should start using eye cream from your early 20s. Snail mucin-infused eye creams, such as MIZON’s Snail Repair Eye Cream, is popular in Korea. Since skin care products should be applied from the lightest to the heaviest, moisturizers – including lotions, emulsions and creams – which help to seal in moisture with their thicker consistency, come as the second last step of your skin care routine. Last but not least, always wear sunscreen of SPF 50 or above in the morning to prevent premature skin aging.
For something a tad simpler, the seven-step Korean skin routine involves oil cleanser, foam cleanser, exfoliator, toner, essence, serum and moisturizer/sleeping mask.
Creative Korean Skin Care Hacks
Apart from the ten-step skin care routine, Korea has also given birth to various interesting skin care hacks. One of the most popular is the seven-skin method in which you apply toner seven times in a row to optimize its benefits. The toner-wash method requires you to mix toner and water in 1:9 ratio and splash onto cleansed face to remove residual dirt and moisturize skin. To help your makeup stay put with the jamsu method, apply waterproof makeup and a lot of loose powder before dunking your face in ice water for 30 seconds and patting dry.
Discover More Korean Skin Care
The more you get to know Korean skin care, the more you’ll grow to love it! Learn all about different Korean skin care products and routines by visiting The YesStylist blog, and browse through the massive product selection available at YesStyle!