Beauty Store Business magazine - January, 2020

Secrets of Korean Skin Care

Exotic, unusual and effective—13 traditional Korean-beauty skincare ingredients to know, plus products to consider for your store.

Stocking your shelves with the top skincare superstars brought to you by the Seoul sisters of the Far East can mean big revenue for your business. The global obsession and overwhelming success of Korean beauty (or K-beauty) is due in part to the pervasive beauty movement’s resolute “skin care before makeup” methodology.

Passionate about the health, care and beauty of their enviable visages from a young age, Korean women are taught to practice preventive measures with a skincare regimen early rather than constantly chase solutions as they age like their American counterparts. In America and countries throughout Europe, the trend seems to be about temporary solutions to cover and conceal existing issues as opposed to getting to the heart of the problems by implementing targeted treatments to nix them for good. In South Korea, women spend twice as much on beauty products than American women, and Korean men are the only men worldwide that routinely care for their skin—which includes the occasional spa visit.

Charlotte Cho, certified esthetician, cofounder of the K-beauty curated website Soko Glam and author of The Little Book of Skin Care says, “We helped drive this growth in 2012 when we started Soko Glam. At the time, I felt like there was a huge gap between the U.S. and Korea. There was a cult following, but no proper bridge between the two.”

Maybe it’s the intimidating 10-step nightly beauty regimen to achieve stunning skin or the “Insta-worthy” innovations, but K-beauty is always ahead of the trends (by years), keeping the world of skincare savants and beauty buffs infatuated about being on the brink of what’s coming next. Megan McIntyre, beauty director at Refinery29, claims that most American women simply cannot commit to the 10-step Korean beauty regimen, the beacon of the movement. She says, “After awhile, many women who tried to keep up realized that it was getting damn expensive to use 10 products a day, and there wasn’t a huge, noticeable difference in their skin ... It became less about emulating the entire [K-beauty] routine and more about finding something new to boost an existing routine.”

There is always a latest, greatest, must-have product that makes extravagant claims, touting a new formulation, pretty packaging and eccentric ingredients (think charcoal, cactus, snail and sheep oil); and, low and behold, they rarely disappoint. The inclusion of highly concentrated, powerful natural ingredients is what really keeps K-beauty at the forefront. While some sound scary and others you’ve heard of before, each year it seems the Korean skincare gods outdo themselves. Let’s meet the game changers of getting gorgeous.

With its long history of beauty-benefitting properties, such as accelerating skin renewal and cellular regeneration, being an antidote to acne and minimizing pores, pearl extract contains both medicinal and active properties to help keep skin beautifully balanced and acidic. Pearl extract brightens and blurs imperfections, leaving a velvety-smooth finish to thrill your customers. The power of the pearl also helps to slow the inevitable aging process, keeping skin moist, supple and elastic.

Found in the walls of honeycomb to keep out water and prevent bacterial growth, propolis is added in skincare formulations to help fight signs of natural aging and photo-aging from overexposure to damaging UV rays. A powerhouse antioxidant, propolis also possesses natural antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties, making it helpful to your acne-prone customers. In Korean beauty specialties, propolis is used as a booster, leaving skin radiantly dewy, hydrated and glowing. Plus, it’s especially recommended for anyone suffering from severe sensitivities or those in need of some skin TLC.

Royal Honey
Of all the honey varieties and honey bee species on the planet, royal honey is the queen bee of the K-beauty scene. Aged through a 60-day fermentation process that allows the extraneous water to evaporate from the sticky substance, royal honey is enriched with antiaging ingredients, such as a slew of vitamins, minerals and skin-supporting amino acids. And, due to its natural humectant capability, it attracts and binds moisture to the skin, protecting and plumping the lipid layer.

“At the time, I felt like there was a huge gap between the U.S. and Korea. There was a cult following, but no proper ‘bridge’ between the two.”

–Charlotte Cho, cofounder of Soko Glam

Tremella Mushroom
Similar to the skin-preserving proper- ties found in another hot hero ingredient— hyaluronic acid—the tremella mushroom can impressively hold up to 500 times its weight in water, making it the hydrator hero of the moment. In Asia, beauty gurus use it as a beauty food, as it’s believed to increase blood flow and improve complexion-correcting circulation, aiding the skin’s strength and overall vitality. Antimicrobial and antiviral benefits make it a superior addition for anti-acne regimens, or those who suffer from dry, itchy patches.

Containing an extremely high potency of vitamin C (three times that of a lemon), yuza is a citrusy substance native to the tropical island of Jeju in South Korea. It is used in skincare products to help diminish hyperpigmentation and pesky sunspots, while boosting skin-supporting collagen and increasing much-needed hydration to the skin.

A traditional restorer of skin health and longevity, bamboo’s anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties also contain powerful antiaging antioxidants that protect and preserve skin, keeping unruly environmental aggressors at bay. A natural humectant, it draws moisture to the skin, binding it to the susceptible lipid barrier.

A trend that’s in the spotlight by revered Korean beauty brands, cactus oil and cactus extract offer myriad benefits. The extract is hydrating, providing moisture to the skin, while the oil is a dry, non-greasy type that absorbs into skin and plumps it, leaving skin firm yet flaw- less. Packed to the brim with powerful antiaging compounds, this seemingly strange ingredient that sprouted from the desert will give skin a youthful, glowing look. Cactus is rife with all the building blocks of beauty: tocopherol (vitamin E), omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids, flavonoids and conditioning beta-carotene. Cactus oils and extracts offer instant and long-term benefits, and will be head- lining in more K-beauty products as the year progresses.

Painstakingly extracted from the sap of birch trees, birch juice is plush with proteins and antiaging antioxidants; plus, it’s unexpectedly hydrating, making it a go-to solution for more mature and drier skin types. It deeply quenches parched, thirsty skin, leaving it irresistibly smooth and soft.

Luxurious, skin-lifting truffle oil contains superoxide dismutase, an enzyme and anitoxidant that helps isolate free radical damage to the skin. When applied onto your customers’ necks, lips and wrinkles, skin will be left firmer, smoother and more youthful-looking.

A centuries-old ingredient, ginseng is used in many Korean cosmetics due to its multitude of medicinal, skin-perfecting powers. When taken orally, it boosts brainpower and energizes the body. When applied topically, its potent antioxidant concentration neutralizes free radicals. Its phytonutrients repair and regenerate skin on a molecular level. The result is revitalized and refreshed skin with a firmer texture.

Korean beauty wouldn’t be K-beauty without mentioning the medicinal ingredient snail filtrate (otherwise known as snail mucin, snail secrete or collectively referenced as “snail slime”). There are spas all over Asia, most notably Thai- land, that cultivate snails specifically for salon skin services. One of the single most ubiquitous ingredients pervading K-beauty products, snail secrete delivers a host of benefits. Loaded with a natural dose of skin-brightening and buffing glycolic acid, face-firming elastin, plumping peptides, hydrating hyaluronic acid, nourishing proteins and enzymes, this wrinkle-ridding power- house will give your customers added bang for their buck. A natural anti-inflammatory, snail secrete helps rid the skin of blemishes, too. The comfortable, lightweight formula effortlessly glides over the skin’s surface, instantly melting into skin without feeling greasy or heavy, making it a great makeup primer. While combating flare-ups and reducing redness, this ingredient also helps diminish scarring and unsightly spot- ting. For antiaging effects, your customers will want to add this to their regimens’ growing repertoire, as it’s the ultimate, time-tested way to combat wrinkles and reduce age spots and hyperpigmentation. Snail secrete contains collagen-producing peptides for plumper skin, while providing all-day hydration that doesn’t leave a sticky residue. Overall, it’s a multipurpose must-try for any beauty guru who wants to take their skin game to the next level.

A natural detoxifier, activated charcoal clears pores of day-to-day debris, including dirt, oil, makeup, pollution and impurities. Used by hospitals for decades to treat alcohol and substance poisoning (due to its magnetizing ability to absorb toxins from the stomach before they hit the bloodstream), K-beauty experts realized that it could also detox skin as well. Hence, the same premise applies. Activated charcoal attracts and absorbs dirt from pores—and then eliminates them once rinsed away. Because of its complexion-clearing properties, it’s often the superstar ingredient in many masks, sheet masks, sponges and cleansers. And because of its detox benefits, you may see it in cold-pressed juices, toothpastes and toothbrushes, too!

Green Tea
The inimitable green tea extract transcends K-beauty, as it’s a popular, celebrated ingredient in American- and European-made beauty products as well. Derived from the virile leaves of the Camellia sinensis, green tea extract is naturally rich in antioxidants and flavonoids that protect the skin from free radicals. The rejuvenating properties of green tea have long been shown to reverse the signs of aging and photoaging dam- age due to overexposure to UV rays. Plus, this skin-saver has antibacterial and anti-irritant effects when ingested, which can help your customers win the battle against blemishes and breakouts. The tannins in green tea are astringent rich, which helps minimize pores and reduces the production of pore-clogging sebum. Because of its raw, unprocessed caffeine content, when used in an enriched eye cream or serum, it will help combat under-eye bags.