For the most part, I know exactly what works on my skin—what to put it on it when it gets dry, what will make it break out, what adds a boost of radiance. Writing about beauty for years means that I’ve had the chance to try practically every anti-aging skin care fad that’s come out—retinol, hyaluronic acid, microdermabrasion, cryotherapy facials, and more. But then, seemingly out of nowhere comes Korean beauty (or K-Beauty as it is often referred to). K-Beauty specialty shops have popped up all over midtown Manhattan. My younger co-workers are buying up products in which we can’t even read the labels—but swear that a friend told them it was great. I even noticed that CVS has started selling some K-Beauty. Never one to shy away from a skincare trend, I ordered the fabled Baby Feet Foot Peel and was horrified and then pleased when my feet shed skin like a molting snake. And I’ve tried a couple of sheet masks. But still, I hesitate. So many of the products are full of ingredients that I’ve never even heard of. So before I blow my hard-earned cash on a bunch of snake oil (wait, is that actually one of the ingredients?), I decided to do a little research. Charlotte Cho, founder of Soko Glam, one of the biggest online purveyors of K-Beauty gave me the inside scoop on why K-Beauty is so hot and what products and ingredients are worth your time and money.
Why has the Korean beauty scene blown up so quickly in the US?
When I first started Soko Glam, the term K-Beauty wasn’t even a thing. Korea has now cemented itself as a leader for producing innovative products and having a skin-first philosophy. Koreans believe that skincare should be enjoyable and that it’s an investment in their overall well-being. This translates to the game-changing ingredients they use in their high-quality products. The philosophy of K-Beauty is really about helping people take delight in their skincare routine, instead of seeing it as a chore. With fun packaging, a well thought out multi-step skincare routine and the fact that Korea is a hotbed of innovation, K-Beauty is really challenging the skincare industry to rethink how they approach skin care.
Some women (like me!) are still a bit hesitant to try K-Beauty. I’m clinging to my Creme de La Mer and Olay! But I do like the idea of finding delight in my skin care routine.
Traditionally, European and American skincare brands have been leaders in the U.S. skin care market for decades so K-Beauty has a certain mystique. Generally, Western products tend to be all-in-one, fast solutions, but unfortunately, they can also feature ingredients that irritate your skin. On the other hand, Korean products are meant to address specific problems while also being nourishing and non-irritating. Korean skincare is based on a multi-step process that focuses on natural ingredients such as bee propolis, bamboo, cica and ginseng that are new and unfamiliar to American women.
If you are a, ahem, “mature” woman who is interested in trying Korean skincare, what is a must-try ingredient to look for?
Snail mucin is a great ingredient to try when you’re new to K-Beauty. Snail mucin skin care continues to be a bestseller on Soko Glam because it’s great for anti-aging, hydration, hyperpigmentation and calming the skin. It’s also compatible with a variety of skin types, from dry to oily and acne-prone. And it also treats one of our biggest skin concerns: acne and acne scarring.
Ok, the snail mucin is a little icky, but I’m willing to try it. What else should I consider for my first K-Beauty deep dive?
Korean skincare is famous for the 10-step method, but you do not need to do all 10-steps every day. K-Beauty routines often feature multiple steps, because the technique of cleansing thoroughly and layering skin benefitting ingredients helps you achieve hydrated, and healthy glowing skin. The 10-Step method was developed to give audiences a quick picture into what ten products should be on hand for the ultimate K-Beauty experience. That being said, there is no set number of steps you are required to have in a daily Korean beauty routine, because it depends on each individual skin goals and skin types, along with individual lifestyle.
Sold. Now what K-Beauty steps products should I definitely use so that my face looks 10 years younger? Let’s start with my dull complexion…
First of all, it’s really important to combat dullness through exfoliation. For aging skin, you’ll want to stick with gentle exfoliants that you can use on a regular basis without irritating your skin. A great way to include them is by using an exfoliating toner or essence. The d’Alba piedmont No-Sebum Balancing Toner is a great choice. It gives you the best of both worlds with BHAs (beta hydroxy acids) to exfoliate and peptides to nourish the skin. It also contains pearl extract, white truffle extract, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide to brighten and hydrate the skin.
I’ve got these sunspots that just won’t go away. Anything for that?
Next, to combat sunspots and other forms of hyperpigmentation, you should choose products that contain vitamin C and use ample SPF protection. Vitamin C is a powerful ingredient that protects us from UV photo-damage, increases collagen production, and reduces hyperpigmentation. Despite the name difference, sunspots and acne marks are both forms of pigmentation. As a result, they can be treated with the same brightening products. Thankfully, the COSRX Triple C Lightning Liquid is packed with 20.5% of pure ascorbic acid, so it gets to work quickly with the high concentration. It targets pigmentation and evens out your skin tone.
This sounds great and I’ve got two steps down. Now, what about keeping my skin soft and supple and minimizing these god-awful wrinkles?
Ceramides are excellent ingredients that feed your skin with moisture-rich lipids. They lock in long-lasting hydration, and as a result, smooth fine lines and wrinkles. Snail mucin provides just as much hydration, but it also firms the skin, boosts collagen production, and minimizes wrinkles. If you want to add ceramides to your routine, THE PLANT BASE Quesera Ceramide is for you. It’s formulated with 74.19% rice ceramide, this serum reinforces the skin barrier, smoothes texture and brightens. This is an anti-aging elixir rich in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants to deliver plump, healthy skin.
Again, with the snail mucin. What are my other options?
Dewy, supple and clear skin is at your fingertips with bifida ferment lysate. It’s a fermented yeast that visibly reduces signs of aging and improves skin elasticity while protecting the skin. The Missha Time Revolution Night Repair New Science Activator Ampoule contains this key ingredient, along with niacinamide and retinol to repair and smooth the skin. This popular serum is a dupe for the well known Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair for half the price. These ingredients work in tandem to fight wrinkles at their source.
Ooo, it’s just like Estée Lauder but at half the price? I like the sound of that! What else will iron out my wrinkles?
EGF is another excellent ingredient if you want to combat wrinkles. EGF stands for Epidermal Growth Factor. This powerful ingredient contains proteins that promote cell regeneration, smooth wrinkles and brighten skin. The Easydew EX Repair Control Active Soothing Serum contains 3ppm of patented, medical grade EGF. It also contains hyaluronic acid, allantoin, and panthenol to soothe and moisturize the skin. This lightweight treatment will reduce the appearance of wrinkles and leave your skin looking smoother and younger-looking. You can use this on its own or in combination with the Missha serum to intensively combat wrinkles and deep-set lines.