Healthy skin = healthy glow!
Editor's Note: I have many things to be thankful for - especially the people I have met and the relationships that have blossomed throughout this journey. One such person is Kerry from the wildly popular beauty blog Skin & Tonics. Since we're both kind of skincare nerds, she asked me to share my favorite ingredients. Here was my response below. (If you'd like to read the blog post from the original source - click here).
Before living in Korea, I remember perusing a beauty counter at Nordstroms and purchasing a bottle of toner—not really knowing what I was doing. I used it for about five days before my skin started breaking out. Worst yet, as soon as my skin met the toner, it stung and resulted in an irritatingly tight, dry feeling.
To my surprise, when I tested out toner products while in Korea, I was met with the opposite effect: extremely moisturizing, extremely calming, and the added bonus of no alcohol as an ingredient. That exact moment was when I got serious about Korean skincare ingredients.
In a general sense, Korean skincare may seem like it’s too “adventurous” and all over the map with their ingredients—snail extract, anyone?—but after years of being immersed in the Korean skincare market, I now know that there’s a method to the apparent madness. No, they don’t just try all the ingredients under the sun to “see what sticks!” Korean women have the notorious reputation of being the pickiest skincare consumers out there. Also, high quality and high standards have encouraged a wave of even the most sought-after products to be affordable and accessible to the masses.
The following are my five favorite on-the-cusp skincare ingredients to seek out in Korean beauty products:
1. Green Tea Extract (Camellia Sinensis)
We already know green tea as a healthy beverage—but did you know green tea extract is also great for your skin? While drinking the tea can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and boost immune systems, green tea also contains natural antioxidants called polyphenols that help ward against even skin cancer. Green tea extract can also soothe irritated skin, help clear acne, and help with dark circles under eyes. Convinced yet?
My favorite product containing green tea extract is the Skin 79+ SuperBeblesh Balm Triple Functions BB cream. I often get emails from people who have shared stories about how much their skin has actually improved while wearing Skin 79+. That’s the major difference between Korean BB creams and non-Korean—actual improvement of overall skin condition. This BB cream not only covers imperfections, it moisturizes, treats and hydrates. It’s a bonafide Korean beauty cult favorite for a reason.
2. Snail Mucin
Ah, snail mucin. As in: snail extract. As in: snail slime. Our mollusk friends use the stuff to help heal their bodies as they squish along rough terrain. After Chilean snail farmers (yes, that’s a thing) discovered their hands were softer and even healed quickly after handling snails, a new beauty revolution was born. And in case you’re wondering: No, the snails are not harmed in any way.
My favorite product of the moment with snail mucin is Missha Cell Renew Snail Cream as it firms skin, encourages cell regeneration and replenishes moisture.
3. Fermented Yeast Concentrate
This one is probably still unfamiliar to many. Fermented yeast concentrate, also known as fissione, is easily absorbed into skin. It basically allows the skin’s outer layer to be renewed faster since the formula works on a cellular level, leaving you with that glowy and dewy skin that so many Korean women seem to have.
Missha’s First Treatment Essence contains a whooping 80% fermented yeast concentrate (official ingredient name: Saccharomycopsis Ferment Filtrate), and also vitamin B3 to increase skin elasticity and revitalize skin tone and texture. And the incredibly refreshing First Treatment Essence Mist can be used before makeup application or any time throughout the day—which I always, always carry with me. Many Koreans believe essence to be the most important step in skincare routine, and so do I. I remember to use this product every morning and every night after toner.
A lineup of my current skincare routine
4. Bamboo Sap (Bambusa Vulgaris)
The benefits of fermented bamboo extract are more than noteworthy. Known for its unparalleled ability to provide instant, long-term hydration, bamboo sap features a ton of anti-inflammatory abilities. When a formula substitutes oil for water in their product, I definitely approve. When a formula substitutes water for bamboo sap, I’m all over it!
The Waterfull Rebalancing Gel Lotion from SU:M37 moisturizes skin and increases the density of moisture using four key fermented ingredients: Bamboo water (which contains beneficial amino acids), red clover flower extract (promotes skin vitality), hibiscus flower extract (maintains moisture), and gold-silver flower (minimizes pores). I think the reason why I love SU:M37 products is because they replace the use of water as an ingredient completely—preventing formula dilution and ensuring effectiveness as a whole. The entire SU:M37 line has no artificial fragrances, colors, or preservatives.
Another really fantastic product line worth checking out that contains fermented bamboo extract is AmorePacific’s Moisture Bound.
5. Hyaluronic Acid
Since starting school, I’ve been diving deep into different ingredients and the chemistry/physiology of skin. My new favorite ingredient is hyaluronic acid, which is a humectant that binds moisture to the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin). I have severely dehydrated skin so I make sure to drink a lot of water but because water actually goes to your skin last (vital organs get first dibs, understandably) it’s important to apply moisturizing ingredients topically. This ingredient actually prevents moisture loss AND increases moisture content in the skin. My favorite product right now that has hyaluronic acid is the Lioele V-Line Sleeping Pack.
Now, let’s get real here: Will these ingredients create a miracle solution for your skin, banishing wrinkles or clearing acne overnight? Nope. But what it can do is brighten or pacify inflamed skin, helping eventually fade acne over time, and, yes, actually improving your overall skin condition.
While staying vigilant about ingredients is an important aspect of skincare, it’s equally important to maintain the proper mindset about skincare as well. In Korea, taking care of your skin is an entire culture—an entire lifestyle if you will.
Expecting a particular “miracle product” to save your skin single-handedly is like depending on an unhealthy crash diet. Changing your “skincare lifestyle” as a whole by taking preventative measures is what’s really going to result in great skin over time. Proper cleansing, moisturizing, and the daily application of SPF are the big, big takeaways here. Maintain your skincare routine and you’ll be rewarded with brighter, radiating skin that’s here to stay.
What ingredients have you heard of to be the most beneficial? What has worked for your skin?