By now, you’ve likely heard about the famous 10 step skincare regime, the glass-skin effect, the uses of snail mucin, or at the very least, have an inkling about the cutting-edge technologies incorporated in K-beauty products which enable them to cater to every skin concern imaginable.
South Korea continues to hold our skincare-obsessed attention by offering unrivalled efficacy, redefining standards and leading the way in the global beauty lexicon. Consumers are becoming more conscious, stringent and savvy, and their expectations are ever-evolving, so it is no surprise that K-beauty innovations remain firmly on our collective radar.
This year, amid the global pandemic, there was a noticeable shift in focus towards minimalism and long-lasting clean beauty in Western countries, and once again, Korean brands are ahead of the game, armed with a renowned history of harnessing natural ingredients and creating hybrid products.
Sea buckthorn oil
Sea buckthorn (otherwise known as Hippophae rhamnoides) has been around for a long time and may be considered one of the most valuable natural ingredients in the world. Rich in vitamins, antioxidants, fatty acids and minerals, sea buckthorn oil has approximately 190 bioactive compounds. The excess of vital substances in sea buckthorn oil is what makes it one of a kind, and is the reason for its comeback in the K-beauty sphere.
The oil is extracted from the fruits and seeds of a willow-like plant, and is grown in the regions of Asia and Europe. Traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese practitioners use the oil to help with wounds, coughs, heart health, digestion and blood circulation, sea buckthorn oil also proving itself as a remedy for diabetes, gastric ulcers and skin damage, as well as inflammation, bacterial infection and skin allergies. Studies also show that the oil delays cell ageing, improves the appearance of scars and delivers toning, proper hydration and skin restructure.
You can expect to find the star ingredient in supplements, serums, ampoules, water gels or sheet masks. Looking for a life-changing product? Try the award-winning Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm ($53) ticks all the boxes.
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Meet Centella Asiatica. For those who don’t know what Centella Asiatica is, it is commonly known as Gotu kola, pennywort—does pennywort juice ring a bell to anyone?—or spade lead, is native to Asia’s tropical wetlands, and is described as the “herb of longevity.” The extract is highly concentrated in amino acids, sugars, flavonoids, carotene and niacin, and its listing of skin and body-healing potential is endless.
Centella Asiatica’s shortlist of benefits include calming inflamed skin, hydration, reducing cellulite and fighting against premature ageing—and they don’t end there. This magical green elixir also helps to lower blood pressure, enhance memory and concentration and treat depression, and Eastern healers rely on this herbaceous plant as a blood purifier. Further, research reports that it can help with ankle swelling, fluid retention and microcirculation disturbances with boarding on flights that are more than three hours long. And, if you want to steer clear of sun damage and skin ageing, you’ll want to look for cicatrising ingredients packed with antioxidants like Centella.
Often labelled as ‘Cica’ by Korean brands, the ultra-soothing ingredient puts the skin in constant repair mode, and is infused in sensitive skin-friendly products such as Some By Mi AHA BHA PHA 30 Days Miracle Serum ($35), Innisfree Bija Cica Balm ($37) and Dr Jart+ Cicapair Calming Gel Cream ($60).
Adult acne is very real, and for those of you who have blemish-prone skin, pimple patches are the gentle solution to your skin type concerns. To Koreans, ridding pimples overnight is old news. Almost two decades ago, Korean dermatologists were well aware of the value of the hydrocolloid patch, and since, the pimple patch has made its revolutionary mark in the Western beauty industry, and continues to stay on-trend in the category of acne treatment.
What is hydrocolloid you might ask? Originally, hydrocolloid was used in bandaging and protection for uninfected wounds. Today, it is used in mini-dressings that are designed to remove fluids such as pus and oil, while preventing bacteria from entering into smaller wounds. These patches work like a dream, clearing impurities from pores, prompting rapid healing and even acting in reverse to prevent pimples from surfacing.
Scientifically known as Artemisia vulgaris, Mugwort has been used for generations and is well-known amongst Koreans—the ingredient is even said to feature in old Korean legend—and recently, the divine herb has been attracting more attention. It’s classified as a “warm” ingredient in traditional Korean medicine and has been known to regulate menstrual cycles, eases muscle pain and restores circulation.
In the scope of skincare, Mugwort’s powerful healing and detoxifying properties make it the perfect candidate for acne-prone, dry or sensitive skin types, the herb known for its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory effects, and is often used in herbal thermae in bathhouses (Jjimjilbangs).