Korea has long been a leader in the skincare industry but it is only in recent years that Western countries have developed a interest in Korean skin care. Marie Claire’s digital beauty editor Kate Thomas said she thought South Korea’s beauty industry was typically about 10-12 years ahead of the rest of the world, and a 2017 Deloitte report called South Korea a “global innovation leader in skincare”. The West seems to have now developed a fascination with Korean skin care secrets and Korean beauty tips.
Many people don’t realise that BB creams, CC creams, sheet masks, and essences all originated in South Korea. I decided to research what the differences were between Western and Korean Skin Care, and what it was that made the Korean beauty industry so unique.
1 .Koreans Cleanse their skin multiple times
Koreans start their skincare routines with effective cleansing. This means cleansing their skin multiple times with both oil and water based cleansers. Oil cleansers remove oil based dirt such as SPF, makeup, and sebum. Water based cleansers (which usually foam) remove dirt and sweat. The Korean philosophy is to gently cleanse the skin thoroughly. They use gentle non-stripping oil and water based cleansers and do not not use harsh scrubs or tools like the Clarisonic.
2 .Koreans Have Skincare routines that have up to 18 steps
Koreans are famed or their multi-stepped skincare routines. These routines can range anywhere from 10 to as many as 18 different steps. The steps usually include: cleanse (with both oil and water based cleansers), exfoliate, skin booster, toner, essence, ampoule, serum, sheet mask, moisturiser, eye cream and either SPF or sleeping packs. Proper layering of skin care products enhances the effectiveness of each product. View my guide to the 10 Step Korean Skincare Routine for more Korean skin care secrets and Korean beauty tips.
3 .Koreans Use Snail Mucin on Their Skin
The snail facial originated in Korea. Snail mucin is known to be excellent at hydrating and smoothing skin. It is used frequently in Korean skin care since it moisturises the skin, stimulates collagen, and soothes irritation. It is also anti-inflammatory and contains zinc, manganese, copper peptides, and vitamins A and E. The snails are not harmed when the mucin is collected. You can read about the collection process here.
4 .Koreans Use Sleeping Packs at Night
Korean women use sleeping packs once or twice a week. Sleeping packs are the final stage of night-time skincare regimes. They are kept on all night and then rinsed off in the morning. In the morning your skin will be brighter and look more nourished.
Most of the sleeping packs in Korea are in a gel formula which forms a protective film over the skin. The film enables your skin to retain moisture and remain hydrated while you sleep. Sleeping packs usually last longer than regular moisturisers in terms of moisture retention.
5 .Koreans Uses Essences Every Day
Essence is another skincare step which originated in Korea. Essences are thinner and lighter than serums and are patted on to the face or swiped over with cotton wool. They add a thin, light watery layer of moisture to the skin and absorb quickly. Essences enhance the effectiveness of every product that is added on top. My favourite is the Neogen Real Ferment Micro Essence which contains naturally fermented ingredients that give a skin-plumping effect.
6 .Koreans Use Sheet Masks Regularly
Sheet masks are another Korean skincare innovation. They are fabric-like masks soaked in serum which are applied to the face and left for the serums to be absorbed. The main benefit of sheet masks is that they hydrate your skin. With continued use they will give your skin a firmer, plumper appearance. I reviewed several different sheet masks last year. My review can be found here.
7 .Koreans use Fermented Skincare products
Since the early 90s Korea has been fermenting ingredients in skincare products to make them more potent and more easily absorbed by the skin. Fermented yeast extract also produces amino acids and peptides that help your skin’s cellular renewal. Last year The Independent published their top 7 fermented skincare products from Korea.
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DISCLOSURE POLICY. There are affiliate links in this post. For more information on affiliate links please read my disclosure here.
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Korean Skin Care FAQs
What are the 10 steps in Korean Skin Care?
1. Oil based cleanser
2. Water based cleanser
7. Sheet mask
9. Eye cream
At night time use a sleeping pack instead of sunscreen and add a chemical exfoliant after cleansing.
What are the best Korean Skincare products?
Acwell Licorice pH Balancing Essence Mist
Benton Aloe BHA Skin Toner
SKEDERM Snail Jelly Face Mask
Etude House Sunprise Sun Milk SPF 50
COSRX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask
Papa Recipe Rose Gold Honey Masks
CNP Laboratory Propolis Energy Ampule
Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream
Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum
Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence
Laneige Water Sleeping Mask
Etude House Beauty Shot Face Blur
BANILA CO Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm
Does Korean Skin Care work for Indian Skin?
There is a myth that Korean skin care products are not suited to Indian skin. This is not true. Korean Skincare products are mild and suited to all skin types.
What is Essence in Korean Skin Care?
Essence is a watery layer that primes the skin to best absorb serums and creams. It is patted onto the skin after toner and before serum.