The New Year is here, and our obsession with K-beauty is here to stay. Why does this trend have the staying power that so many fads lack? For many reasons, but mainly for the simple fact that it continues to evolve and innovate. And it does so at a rate faster than any other category. To keep you updated on the latest and greatest, we checked in with a few women who always have their pulse on all things Korean beauty: our very own K-beauty correspondent and founder of Peach & Lily, Alicia Yoon, and the founders of the all-natural Korean skincare website Glow Recipe, Sarah Lee and Christine Chang. They’ve given us a comprehensive first look at what trends and products are going to take over the market this year.
Scroll through for your Korean skincare update!
“In my latest trip to Seoul (last week), I noticed a lot more brands developed by hospitals and medical clinics, as consumers increasingly seek beauty products that are both highly efficacious/potent and safe,” Alicia Yoon says. “Near–medical-grade products with real formulation breakthroughs are sought after, and consumers increasingly want to take the skin-clinic experience home via products developed by these clinics. For example, Dr. Dream is one of the most renowned plastic surgery clinics in Korea that also houses a famous skin clinic. Clients wanted products that could deliver similar results to Dr. Dream’s in-office treatments, and thus: Rose by Dr. Dream was born."
Dr. Dream’s Dream Age Rejuvenating Serum ($95) is formulated with the same gentle, natural ingredients (think distilled rose water and rosa damascena callus culture extract) that are the hallmarks of Korean skincare, but created using clinically advanced technology.
Dr. Oracle’s Snow Queen Enzyme Powder Wash uses fruit enzymes to remove impurities without stripping the skin, delivering a deep cleanse that leaves your skin pH-balanced.
“The demand for multitaskers that perform without compromise on results—‘super-taskers’—is on the rise in Korea,” Christine Chang says. “It’s a misconception that the K-beauty routine is set in stone as a number of steps—rather, it’s a fluid ritual depending on the state of the skin. This new class of ‘super-taskers’ helps address the needs of the busy modern, urban woman.”
“J.One’s Jelly Pack ($42) is your morning skincare routine, a mask and primer, in one simple step,” Chang says. “Created by Korea’s top actress, Ha Ji-Won, this ‘corset mask’ firms the skin and helps grip makeup for a flawless all-day appearance.”
“Blithe’s Patting Splash Mask ($42) is a Korean bathhouse–inspired, 15-second in-shower mask innovation,” Chang says. “Splash a capful and pat all over the face to exfoliate, cleanse, and retexturize. Use twice a week in place of your cleanser and toner.”
This is one of the biggest ingredient breakthroughs to come out of Korean ever. “Midas Skin is the world's first-ever Botox in a bottle—aka the first botulinum-based topical skincare product,” Yoon says. “Ninety-five percent of the amino acids are identical to the Botox you'll receive in a doctor's office (the 5% difference is the heavy chain, which, in short, dictates the delivery mechanism—an injectable versus topical absorption). Many beauty labs have been trying to develop a topical Botox and this patented first-ever breakthrough is nothing short of amazing, especially when you see the natural-looking yet dramatic results in more lifted, smoothed skin.”
Midas Skin’s BoLC A+ Botulinum Polypeptide-1 Facial Cream ($140) is formulated with that Korean FDA accredited anti-wrinkle ingredient that Midas Skin has exclusive rights to. When applied consistently, you’ll see injection-rivaling results. For the best effect, use it in conjunction with the brand’s serum ($200).
Here’s another trend that stems from the demand for clinical skincare: peeling treatments. “Inspired by a dermatology clinic treatment by the same name, aqua peelers gently exfoliate skin while simultaneously infusing hydration,” Sarah Lee says. “Often found in the format of an oversized swab, these jumbo Q-tips are pre-soaked in a blend of glycolic acid and hydrating ingredients that you swipe over your face for precision peeling.”
Yoon Dermaline’s Marine Aqua Peeler ($6) is a one-time-use swab that brightens, tightens, and minimizes fine lines. The treatment is also available in a set of 11 for $60.
“Also, a dermatology procedure known to restore the milky brightness and softness to skin, milk peeling treatments using lactic acids are on the rise,” Lee says. With milk peeling, glycolic acid is replaced with lactic acid for smoother, brighter, calmer rejuvenated skin.
The application is similar to that of aqua peels, but with Primary Raw’s DoYou 2-Step Milk Peeling Kit ($6) you first swab your skin and then finish the treatment with a sheet mask.
Ingredients, techniques, formulations, and now regions—Korean skincare is finding every which way to innovate. “Jeju Island has a different climate than other parts of Korea and is known for its pristine and lush ingredients,” Yoon says. “The Lotus is a brand that's being championed by the Jeju Island government for the way it represents what the island stands for—natural, toxin-free, lush, and unique—[and it] uses a proprietary white lotus flower that has been growing on the island for thousands of years. It's packed with antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory benefits.”
Use the brand’s Lotus Leaf Extract Sleeping Mask ($49) to soothe stressed out skin and awake to brighter, more hydrated skin in the morning.
“Herbolle is another brand from Jeju Island that uses a unique farm-to-bottle formulation technology—over 98% of ingredients are straight from the farm,” Yoon says. Try Herbolle’s Rosemary Creamy Body Wash ($32).
Another brand hailing from the celebrated island, Blossom Jeju, uses the island’s camellia seed, flower, and essence in its skin-nourishing products.
“The trend of next-level hydration technology continues with aqua filling,” Chang says. “While volumizing the face was a trend a couple of years ago, women now prefer the ideal of youthful, hydration-filled, custard-like skin called taeng taeng or zzon zzon in Korean. These moisture-binding products that help plump the face are the latest obsession for Korean women.”
“Primary Raw’s DoYou Azulene Gel Cream ($46) is able to aqua-fill the skin with raw bamboo sap (the same sap that helps bamboo grow up to 23 inches in a day), which mimics skin’s natural moisturizing properties,” Chang says. “Vitamin capsules burst on contact with skin to hydrate and plump the skin from within.”
“Earth Recipe’s Moisture Bound Cream ($50) is formulated with tremella mushroom, also known as white jelly fungus, to anchor hydration with polysaccharides that can hold up to 500 times their water weight,” Chang says. Meaning this moisturizer prevents skin contraction to fight that worn-out, deflated appearance.
What’s your favorite Korean beauty trend?