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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Why Is Korean Skincare So Popular?

Jul 01, 2023 06:00AM ● By Susan Gonzalez
Korean skincare—or K-Beauty, as it is affectionately known—has become a global phenomenon in recent years. It’s hard to find a skincare influencer or celebrity who hasn’t mentioned their experience with Korean skincare at some point. K-Beauty is known for its multi-step skincare routines, its pure, nature-based ingredients and its focus on obtaining smooth, glowing, supple skin with a flawless, even skin tone. Any age, skin type, skin color or ethnicity can find value in Korean skincare.

Korean skincare’s rich history dates back centuries. The ancient Koreans were known for their holistic approach to beauty that emphasized not only wholesome ingredients but the importance of internal health. Women in the eighth century would brighten their skin using a paste of rice water and mung beans. Flawless, bright, smooth skin was always the goal.

In the 1960s, after the Korean War and the introduction of industrialized manufacturing, Korean skincare popularity took off. As the worldwide beauty industry grew, so did the demand for Korean products. Today, there are thousands of Korean companies to choose from. Some of the most popular brands are Soko Glam, COSRX, Innisfree and Laneige, but there are many more.

The Process

There is a specific process to implementing a full traditional Korean skincare routine that consists of 10 steps, but not everyone incorporates all 10. The key is to find what works best for your skin type and tailor the routine accordingly. Here are the 10 customary steps of a Korean skincare routine:

1. Oil-based cleanser Oil cleansers break up makeup and oils on the skin and loosen them so they can be removed more easily. Even oily skin can use an oil-based cleanser as long as it does not contain pore-clogging ingredients such as coconut oil.
2. Water-based cleanser A gentle, non-stripping water-based cleanser removes anything left behind by the oil cleanser and may also contain ingredients to soften and condition the skin.
3. Exfoliator Exfoliation, the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, is crucial to smooth, evenly-toned skin. This is achieved by either physical exfoliation, such as scrubs, or chemical exfoliation, such as acids or enzymes. [See “Exfoliation Revealed” at]
4. Toner Toners are used to balance the pH of the skin and prepare it for the next step. Korean toners are sometimes referred to as “skin softeners” and are usually extremely gentle.
5. Essence This is a lightweight, water-based serum that contains skin-nourishing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, vitamin C and snail mucin.
6. Treatments Treatments can include sheet masks, which are very popular in K Beauty, or serums that target specific concerns such as acne, hyperpigmentation or red and irritated skin.
7. Eye cream This is a special cream or serum to hydrate and brighten the eye area and prevent fine lines.
8. Moisturizer Often lightweight, Korean moisturizers hydrate, moisturize and protect skin from environmental stressors such as climate, pollution or lack of humidity. It is important to find one that is supportive of your specific skin type. 
9. Sunscreen Sunscreen is vital in the Korean skincare routine because it protects the skin from harmful UV rays that would cause hyperpigmentation and premature aging. Using Korean sunscreens can be a lovely experience as they are often very luxurious and finish the skin with a dewy look. All skin tones, light and dark, can use Korean sunscreens. A high-quality, broad-spectrum SPF 30 or more is always included in a K beauty routine, even if it’s a shortened one.
10. Sleep mask A specific cream is applied at night a couple of times a week for intense hydration and nourishment.

Unique Ingredients

K-Beauty has numerous benefits, including achieving a radiant, youthful complexion, improving skin texture and elasticity, reducing or fading dark spots and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The meticulous attention to detail and the use of high-quality, natural ingredients have contributed to its popularity. Korean skincare companies are also known for having innovative products that incorporate unique ingredients.

Two of the most popular unique ingredients include bee venom and snail mucin. When applied to the skin, bee venom can increase collagen and elastin production, reducing fine lines and wrinkles and giving a smoother, firmer appearance to the skin. Snail mucin is the slimy stuff left behind when snails move across a surface. Snail mucin is extremely moisturizing and great for dry skin. Both bee venom and snail mucin are said to be ethically harvested without killing the bees or snails in the process.

Even with all its allure, Korean skincare is also known to have a few potential drawbacks. One of the downfalls of K-Beauty is that it can be time-consuming and expensive. A typical Korean skincare routine involves multiple steps, each with its unique product, which can be costly. Additionally, it can take up to 30 minutes to complete a full routine, which might not be practical for those with busy schedules. Concerns about time and convenience have recently given rise to abbreviated versions of the routine consisting of five or even three steps in the morning.

Many jump into using Korean skincare products because they’ve heard of the gentle ingredients and mild natural products and they feel they are safe from potential negative reactions.
However, just because a product has a Korean brand doesn’t mean it is safe and won’t cause irritation. It’s essential to research and read ingredient lists carefully before trying new products—which might be a challenge if the label is all written in Korean.

The rise in popularity of K-Beauty has also caused a rise in counterfeit knock-offs. Skincare enthusiasts looking for discounts often find themselves with imitation products with packaging that looks like a top brand but are, in fact, fakes. Caution must be taken when buying from a third-party website. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Incomplete labels and misspelled words are often a good giveaway to knock-offs. Another way to spot a fake product is to cross-check the packaging with the product’s website. The package should look exactly like the one you purchased. It’s always safest to purchase from the manufacturer’s website.

Despite these potential drawbacks, Korean skincare remains the most popular brand of skincare in the industry, with skincare enthusiasts consistently singing its praises. The purity and simplicity of the skincare products produced in the Korean tradition will be around for a very long time. ❧
Susan Gonzalez is a holistic licensed esthetician, author, nurse and owner of MOON Organics, a skincare company providing clean, healthy skincare and personal care products. Reach her on FB, IG and Twitter @MoonOrganics or visit
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