Despatches from various crucibles of [beauty] cool are increasingly reporting an upsurging popularity for Korean beauty products; newly rendered the de rigeur purchase of the committed beauty lover, the South Korean beauty market is fast making waves over in the U.S, and those Brits 'in the know' are returning from Seoul with their suitcases packed with sheet masks and face creams resembling novelty toys. It's a welcome movement however; beneath the novelty packaging and gimmicky names, are products formulated with breakthrough technology and optimal ingredients; far disassociated from a traditional approach to skincare, these hi-tech formulas and trend-defining launches have established Seoul as the epicentre of the skincare world.
Ever since watching this video [all hail Lisa Eldridge] I've been desperate to get my hands on some Korean products, so when offered the chance to sample the wares offered by yesstyle.com* [an Asian fashion and beauty retailer that ships free of charge to the UK - win win] I leapt at the opportunity. Think of today's post as a mini trip to a Korean beauty market, in which I give you the grand tour of my picks - some [well-researched] popular favourites alongside a select few items that simply caught my eye.
It's worth noting also the concerns of the Korean beauty shopper; a porcelain complexion is favoured over a tan one, so SPF is paramount and sun exposure limited [parasols are bestsellers in Korean beauty stores]. For this reason many products aim to whiten and brighten skin [which also helps to lighten dark spots and blemish marks, and improve an uneven skin tone]. An oilier skin tone is the norm, but every concern from dryness to discolouration, acne, and wrinkles are addressed in full. The typical Korean skincare routine is also mightily extensive, most women will use upwards of a dozen products in the morning and rarely spend less than half an hour on their regime before bed.
The more I solicited advice on the essential Korean beauty purchases, the more I heard the same, sheet masks are the way forward. Single-use, travel-friendly, and offering a highly concentrated dose of ingredients catering to just about every skincare concern under the sun, this is one-stop, disposable skincare at its best. Fuss-free, no nonsense, effortless beauty treatment proves that masking needn't involve more than a few seconds application, with results akin to that of an hour long facial. Innisfree is one of the 'big' Korean skincare brands, and are particularly renowned for the vast assortment of sheet masks they offer. This pack contains ten variations [green tea, rose, blackberry, bija, lime, strawberry, tea tree, bamboo, kiwi, and pomegranate], each highly saturated in a concentrated dose of serum addressing a specific skincare concern. Providing you're not expecting any visitors, these sheet masks are simple, slap-it-on and leave for as long as you like fare. Compared to others I've used, they're not too big, and stay in place well.
The proficiency appeal of the sheet mask is given precision efficiency in addressing the delicate eye area. Innovation abounds in the ingredients [aloe vera, ginseng, and green tea] and formulation of these cooling gel patches, which aim to calm puffiness, firm loose skin, and reduce the appearance of dark circles with regular use. The curvature fits the eye perfectly, offering concentrated treatment to full advantage; wear for thirty minutes, during which the patch thins as the ingredients absorb.
You could easily be forgiven for thinking that the entirety of Tony Moly's line was the latest Happy Meal toy launch, but beyond the trademark fun packaging the contents is pure sophisticated elegance. Case in point : a thick and indulgent lotion, formulated specifically for facial massage. This leave-on treatment cream is designed to provide in ten minutes the same amount of hydration as an overnight sleep mask, whilst smoothening, brightening, and detoxifying skin via the inclusion of tomato and lemon extracts. It's a moisture mask with a difference, instead of acting simply like a high-intensity moisturiser, it dries to a velvet texture once massage has ceased, acting like something of a comfort blanket to the skin. I absolutely swear by regular facial massage [performing the Gankin on a daily basis] in keeping my skin clear and reducing puffiness, and this cream provides the perfect texture and consistency to do so. I spend a good five minutes managing it in, before leaving it for 10-20 minutes and then wiping away with a warm soaked flannel. N.B. This has a clean, fresh, and most definitely non-tomatoey scent.
Simplicity with just the right degree of innovation comes courtesy of this bestseller, for the best skincare appears uncomplicated, but is crafted from the finest ingredients. The sleeping pack is a Korean beauty regime staple; light, cool, and gel-like, it's designed to be applied over night cream 2-3 times a week for an additional boost of hydration. Laneige's offering is a cult favourite, containing concentrated ionised water and a cocktail of ceramides and beta glucans for optimal hydration, alongside apricot, chestnut, and rose extracts which leave skin noticeably bright, smooth, and plump come morning [use the night before a big event for flawless foundation]. The ultimate embodiment of the phrase 'beauty sleep', every time I use this I'm amazed at the effect it has.
Seeing as I've tried masks of every other variety, a hair mask simply had to make this edit. Enriched with argan oil, black sesame seed, and royal jelly extract, this is just the thing to give locks a luxuriant finish, proving that you can always rely upon single-use wonders to make for an effortlessly indulgent experience. This steam mask should be applied to clean wet hair, allowing better absorption of its protective and nourishing ingredients, which leave hair smooth and shiny.
From sheet masks to lip tints and sleep packs, these products prove that efficient makeup and skincare doesn't have to be expensive. Innovative and competent products with affordable price points render the Korean market very much in.
This award-winning Innisfree bestseller promises 6-in-1 action [reduced appearance of pores, sebum control, exfoliation, deep cleansing, brightening, and toning]. Made from volcanic mineral clay [with an added cocktail of AHA's for exfoliation of the chemical variety], its texture is typical of a clay mask [cool and heavy], and it dries opaque and solid, but without the unwelcome tight sensation characteristic of most. You can expect it to bring out those deep-rooted lurking blemishes within 24 hours, but rest assured that it won't irritate or dry out your skin whilst it removes excess oil, instead you'll find skin noticeably smoother as soon as you've rinsed it off.
A silky soft textured skin is best created by a combination of both chemical and physical exfoliation. In this case the ingredients are both virtuous and efficient; lemon extract, macadamia oil, caprylic acid and Brazilian black sugar combine to provide a heavenly scented blend of skincare finesse. The mask's texture is a delightful combination of gritty and gelatinous, and the results [a smooth and bright complexion] are amplified by an instantaneous effect. Take the time to massage it into every nook and cranny of your face in order to buff away dead and dried skin, then follow up with a moisturising sheet mask for glowing skin come morning.
In typical Korean style, makeup favourite Berrisom take lip gloss and turn it into something more surprising, yet decidedly obvious; bringing a little efficiency to everyday lipstick proceedings, with a surprising flare for both finish and finesse. My biggest personal peeve with lipstick is the constant need for reapplication/mirror checks, and the fear that within twenty minutes of leaving the house I'll be strolling around with a smudged pout, or worse, the dreaded lip liner effect. This stuff asserts you in the ultimate confidence, the promise that for a maximum of twelve hours you'll have an intact pout with no fear of it budging in the slightest. Simply apply this face-mask style, like a Barbie-pink fruit-scented superglue, leave for fifteen minutes, and then peel away [yes, peel [with PVA glue levels of satisfaction]] to reveal a 'my lips but better' worthy pout. It's like a regular lip stain on steroids, leaving lips perfectly full, coloured [with just the right amount of sheen] and [more importantly] food and kiss-proof all day long.
Have you sampled any Korean beauty products? - if so, what are your recommendations?