Beauty News

South Korean Skin Care Secrets

Song Hye Kyo - South Korean Skin Care Secrets

South Korean women are renowned for their agelessly beautiful skin – but their flawlessness isn’t just down to good fortune, for many it’s hard-earned through a dedicated (and elaborate) skin care ritual, that makes even the most devoted ‘double-cleanser’ look as lazy as an adolescent boy. Think of any beauty craze to have emerged in the past five years – BBs, CCs, sheet masks, essences, snail facials (yup! they’re a thing) – and they’ve almost all originated in South Korea, where the cosmetic industry spends a fortune on the discovery and development of innovative anti-ageing, antioxidant ingredients.

It’s taken a surprisingly long time, but western women are finally wising-up to the allure of Eastern beauty – and as usual, Cult Beauty are more than a few steps ahead of the masses. With the launch of {Mizon} – one of South Korea’s best-loved skin care brands – we thought we’d take the opportunity to share some Asian beauty wisdom.

The ‘million step’ routine boils down to cleansing, exfoliating, targeting specific concerns, moisturising and protecting (SPF SPF SPF). Skin care is also something that’s taken seriously from childhood – so tell all your daughters, sisters, nieces – in fact, any teenage girl you come across (they’ll always think fondly of the crazy lady who once told them to put ‘essence’ on their face).

{Cleansing} is a two-step process, most commonly referred to as the ‘double cleanse’ (and something {Caroline Hirons} is devout about). One step to take everything off, and another to eliminate any residual oils or grime which could compromise the efficacy of the products that come after. Use an oil-based remover to melt everything – such as Su-Man’s {Purifying Cleansing Gel Oil} – then turn to a balm, or something foaming (Mizon’s {Egg White Bubble Cleanser} purges pores) to leave skin squeakily clean, but not stripped.

{Exfoliation} is not an everyday occurrence. Firm believers in the motto ‘less is more’, South Korean women only physically exfoliate 2 – 3 times a month, gently buffing skin with black sugar (try Mizon’s {Honey Black Sugar Scrub}), to slough away dulling dead skin cells and refine skin texture.

{Refreshing} is like toning – but less astringent. This step is about eliminating any left over cleanser and restoring skin’s optimal pH balance. They are not Korean, but I love Omorovicza’s {Queen of Hungary Mist} to hydrate, or Caudalie’s {Beauty Elixir} to instantly revive and reinvigorate.

{The ‘Essence’} has all the potency of a serum, with the immediacy of a lotion in an ultra-lightweight formula that’s instantly absorbed (perfect for the humid South Korean climate). Applied to damp skin immediately after ‘refreshing’, essence often comes in sheet mask form – which creates a barrier to optimise the penetration of the actives and amplify the targeted effects. Mizon’s {Cotton Shower Sheet Essence} comes in two variations – oily and dry – to swiftly re-establish equilibrium.

{The ‘Booster’} – what we would normally refer to as a serum – is then relied upon to keep the good stuff ‘in’ and bad stuff ‘out’. Brimming with antioxidants to ward against ageing free radicals, camellia oil is a key ingredient in Korean skin care; rich in nutritive essential fatty acids and complete with natural UV filters to strengthen, replenish and protect. Caudalie’s {Polyphenol C15 Anti-Wrinkle Defense Serum} is also ideal – bursting with grape polyphenols and brightening vitamin C – to keep skin protected from the elements without suffocating or exacerbating congestion.

{Eye Cream} does what it says on the tin. Look for the latest and greatest regenerative ingredients, such as starfish extract and snail secretion filtrate, to optimise cellular efficacy and stimulate collagen synthesis. Niacinimide is also a frequent addition – adored for its ability to fortify skin and inhibit production of melanin – to lighten dark circles and diminish pigmentation. It’s found in Mizon’s {Returning Starfish Eye Cream}, as well as Verso’s {Dark Spot Fix}.

{Day Cream} South Korean moisturisers are rich but easily absorbed – delivering intensive levels of day-long hydration alongside protective, regenerative and anti-ageing benefits. Mizon’s {Water Volume Aqua Gel Cream} is cooling and calming upon application – plumping and ‘lifting’ with a blend of birch sap, hydrogen Alaskan glacial water and hyaluronic acid. Follow with a {CC Cream} (we’re currently obsessed with Resultime by Collin’s) and/or a dusting of Peter Thomas Roth’s translucent {Instant Mineral SPF 45}.

{Night Cream} or ‘sleeping packs’ are overnight treatments – essentially masks you sleep in, which have unparalleled skin regenerative properties. Working in collaboration with your skin’s own repair processes, TONYMOLY’s {Golden Mushroom Sleeping Mask} feels tacky when initially applied, but binds to skin and creates a protective ‘umbrella’, under which its potent rehabilitative actives work their magic.

…if you’ve made it this far, you’d be forgiven for thinking ?!*&@!* – all this layering goes against our ‘busy’ mindset, and is bound to flood you with fears of shine (at best) and major breakouts (at worst). Yes, this dedication takes patience (and a little bit of getting used to), but your skin will quickly thank you for your efforts – and it’s the perfect excuse to indulge in some much-needed ‘me(zon)’ time.


Verity Douglas

Verity Douglas

Content Editor

Cult Beauty’s Content Editor and a Cult Beauty OG, Verity loves nothing more than the marriage of language and lip balm. A quintessential Libran, she’s a self-professed magpie for luxury ‘must-haves' and always pursuing the new and the niche — from the boujee-est skin care to cutting-edge tech. Balancing an urge to stop the clock with her desire to embrace the ageing process (and set a positive example for her daughter), Verity's a retinol obsessive and will gladly share her thoughts about the time-defying gadgets, masks and treatments worth the splurge...