Originally published on MYSA.
It’s hard to talk about clear, beautiful skin without talking about Korean beauty. In the last few years, the North American market has been flooded with Korean skin care products like sheet masks, cushion compacts, and cleansing oils, but how exactly can we incorporate Korean beauty into our own routines? We got the scoop straight from Marketing Manager Sarah Yu from belif, the hottest Korean skin care brand on the market. Read on to discover why the 10-step Korean skin care routine is a myth and the secret to a fresh, dewy glow.
Why is skin care so important in Korean culture?
Korean culture places a lot of emphasis on natural beauty—which of course starts with your skin. This not only means preventing problems before they even arise, but also constantly looking for innovative ingredients and techniques in order to preserve and enhance the youthful qualities of your skin. Historically, pristine skin has represented a devotion to self-care that could only be afforded by the wealthy. Thankfully, Korean brands have worked hard to make many different options in price ranges available for everyone to access the wonders of Korean skin care.
When it comes to skin, what do Korean women consider beautiful?
Korean women consider clear, dewy skin to be beautiful. When you get older, skin loses its natural oils and skin becomes more matte, that is why Korean women try to stay away from mattifying products and focus on hydrating and getting what they call “mulgwang” or the dewy glow.
How are young women taught to take care of their skin?
Young Korean women are taught to apply SPF every single day and to cleanse your skin thoroughly every day from as early as ten years old. Additionally, with Korean culture, a lot of focus is always placed on moisturizing your skin regardless of whether your skin is oily or dry. While men have had less of the pressure to take care of their skin, male skin care has recently been rising in popularity.
Why do you think Korean skin care became so popular and influential?
Korean skin care has become influential around the world and especially in the US because it is effective. Korean skin care innovation is almost a decade ahead of the rest of the world. Any ingredients that are good for the skin, any technique that is good for the skin, you can be sure that Koreans have found it way before anyone else. Also, the highly discerning Korean consumers fuel the research and development for the most innovative and effective technology in beauty.
How is Korean skin care different from the North American approach to skin care?
Korean skin care focuses on protection using hydrating moisturizers, SPF, etc. to protect and maintain the skin. The North American approach is focused mainly on treating and undoing the damage that’s already affected the skin. But once the damage is done, it is hard to recover the skin to its original state. Prevention is always better than cure.
Also, Korean skin care emphasizes layering the right products to allow each product to absorb into the skin for maximum effects. However, the North American approach is about convenience and getting many benefits from one product.
Can you walk us through the basic steps of the traditional Korean skin care routine?
The 10-step Korean routine is a myth. Most Korean women do not adhere to all 10 steps, but there are steps that women religiously follow in order to maintain their enviable skin. The gist of the routine is basically cleansing, balancing, prepping, moisturizing, and protecting. Makeup wearers usually do a double cleanse, using an oil-based cleanser to remove makeup and then a water-based cleanser to wash off the remnants. This is followed by the toner to balance the skin’s pH levels, then the essence to prep skin for next skin care steps, followed by a moisturizer to hydrate the skin.
A gentle exfoliator to slough away dead skin is recommended for use two to three times a week. In addition, ampoules can be added to the routine for an added burst of nourishment before the moisturizer.
Morning and night routines are basically the same except that sunscreen would be added during the day for protection against UV rays. Extra steps such as an exfoliator, eye cream, ampoule, or facial oil would be best to incorporate at night.
Is this routine the same for all skin types?
The routine would include the same steps regardless of your skin type; the type of products you use would be different. For example, oilier skin types might use a lightweight gel-based moisturizer, but drier skin types may lean towards using oil-based products. Besides that, it the skeleton of the routine would be the same, people may add more steps based on personal preferences or other goals they may want to achieve.
How and when does this routine change?
The routine changes with both age and with the season. Toners and moisturizers you use in the summer would not be used in the winter because your skin is drier and needs more intense hydration. The lighter summer products would be switched up for richer, creamier products. The same would pertain to age. Though the Korean beauty routine focuses on protecting their skin from early on, it is important to tailor your regimen to make sure your skin is taken care of at every age.
How can someone customize this routine to fit different skin concerns?
The type of ingredients in the products would change appropriately. So if you are looking to treat acne, you would use the same skeleton but with products would have natural astringents and forms of salicylic acid like tea tree oil. The routine itself should not cause problems. It is more so the ingredients in the products that may be the cause of skin concerns. So to treat different skin concerns you would need to find and use ingredients that address those specific concerns.
What are some of belif’s key ingredients?
Two of belif’s key ingredients are Lady’s Mantle and Comfrey Leaf. Lady’s Mantle is a naturally hydrating herb rich in antioxidants that helps neutralize skin-damaging free radicals and reduce the size of pores. It is the key ingredient in the Aqua Bomb.
Comfrey Leaf is a comforting herb with intensively moisturizing properties that was used by Scottish farmers to treat dry skin and calluses on their hands after a hard day’s labor. It is the main ingredient in the Moisturizing Bomb.
What are some of belif’s star products?
belif’s Aqua Bomb and Moisturizing Bomb have both developed a kind of a cult following in Korea and the U.S. The Hungarian Water Essence is also gaining popularity due to its lightweight formula and hydrating effects for a youthful and dewy glow. Other newly launched products, such as the Problem Solution line, are also picking up momentum due to its gentle and effective method of caring for troubled skin types.
It seems like sheet masks are synonymous with Korean skin care. How did this phenomenon come about?
For years, sheet masks have been used in Korean skin care as a way to quickly and effectively remedy a number of skin concerns. Whether you want to calm your skin, fight aging, or combat dullness, I guarantee you there is a sheet mask out there for it. Due to the constant contact with your skin, sheet masks are a portable way to get your skin to absorb as much of the carefully curated ingredients it can.
Aside from products, what other ways do Korean women take care of their skin?
Korean women religiously maintain their skin. They consume green tea and water in large amounts, use sun protectors like hats, parasols and make monthly visits to the dermatologist to keep their skin in top condition.
What tips do you have for someone who wants to start a Korean skin care routine but is a bit overwhelmed with the multistep process?
It would be best to focus on the basics. Always make sure to remove your makeup every night, cleanse, tone, moisturize, and use sun protection. Most of the damage that is happening to your skin really comes from being out in the sun too much or just not having enough sun protection. Anything over SPF 30 is beneficial and provides adequate protection. Lastly, don’t forget to hydrate, hydrate and hydrate—the belif way!