Simply put, K-beauty is a global phenomenon that has officially arrived on our shores, bringing with it K-pop, Korean soaps, celebrity signature looks and standards for translucent, poreless ‘glass’ skin.
If you’re not familiar, It’s hugely famous for its 10-Step Korean skincare routine – a regimen where each step is designed with a specific purpose in mind.
But with this said, there’s so much more to K-beauty.
So, if you’re wondering what Korean beauty is, why it’s so popular and how exactly do you do it for yourself, read further, as we break it down.
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What is Korean Beauty?
Developed through centuries of Korea’s cultural obsession with flawless skin, K-beauty is a lifestyle, a personal philosophy of self-care and a collection of skincare routines that can help in attaining all of your own beauty goals.
A Korean skincare routine achieves at least three things:
It recommends products that will improve your skin and promote long-term skin health; it teaches you self-care by incorporating a mini-ritual into your day; and it makes the whole process creative and fun, while giving you full control.
Let’s break down each in more detail.
1. Korean Beauty Focuses on Wellness Over Treatment
An important piece to Korean beauty is achieving a natural, glowing appeal from the inside-out. This means focusing on your overall health, from your diet to your exercise routine to how you pass the day.
That’s right, if you want sustainable beauty, the Korean philosophy means you have to work for it by properly hydrating yourself, working up a sweat, having a clean diet – and MOST importantly, devoting a lot more time than 60 fast seconds a day on your skin care routine.
All of this stresses major importance on preventing beauty issues, especially in terms of skin, before they happen.
And instead of avoiding ingredient labels and pretending to understand what hydroxy acids are, Korean beauty is also about informing and equipping yourself with the best skin-preserving ingredients, from the more common types like SPF, Niacinamide and Retinoids, to the more herbal variety like green-tea, ginseng and snail mucus (you read right) – that are each meant to treat the root of your skin concerns first.
So in other words, If you adopt Korean beauty, you’re waving farewell to the days of playing cover up!
But, don’t take it from us, take it from American-Korean Dermatologist, Yoon-Soo Cindy Bae –
“…heightened skin-awareness can improve bad habits such as sleeping in makeup, or skipping daily sunscreen,” she says. “Cleansing and moisturizing is essential, but if you don’t use the treatments designed specifically to target your skin ailment, the likelihood of improvement with a skincare line is nil!”
– Yoon-Soo Cindy Bae, M.D.
2. Korean Beauty Introduces a Ritual of Self-Care
Along with focusing on wellness, Korean beauty offers a variety of rituals and routines that easily become fun, expressive and a meditative escape. There are Korean-like spas and steam massages in the shower, and more popularly, a variety of skincare routines – from 3-steps to 5-steps to 7-steps to 10-steps – each offering essences, chemical exfoliators, eye creams and serums meant to address your most stubborn issues like acne, dark circles and redness.
If you’re wondering how each skincare routine is different, here’s a short and sweet breakdown:
A 3-step routine includes the most important pieces to any skincare regimen, such as double-cleansing, using a toner and moisturizing (preferably with SPF); a 5-step takes on even more essentials by adding SPF sunscreen to the mix; a 7-step goes even deeper by tackling your most stubborn skin concerns by using essences and treatments; and lastly, a 10-step routine looks like this!
Tip: It doesn’t matter what routine you decide, the most vital thing for results is staying consistent.
3. Korean Beauty is All About Customization
Lastly, as slightly mentioned earlier, Korean beauty and skincare are all about meeting your more unique beauty goals and allowing you to achieve them how and with what you please!
In no way do you need to commit to every step daily, nor each product, as K-beauty routines allow for the freedom to swap for solutions that may work better. However, K-beauty does stress that you apply your chosen solutions in the right order – from thinnest to thickest consistency – for your skin to truly embrace the entire routine.
Also, the Korean skincare routine understands that your skin condition changes seasonally, weekly, even daily, depending on the weather, your diet, your stress levels and the number of shut-eye hours you’re getting. That’s why sometimes a cleanser, toner and SPF moisturizer are all you need!
Why is Korean Beauty so Popular?
Being that Korean beauty focuses on wellness, provides a variety of different routines and is extremely flexible, you’d think these factors are enough to serve as fuel for its popularity – but it’s not! Korean beauty is embraced by beauty enthusiasts worldwide for the following reasons also.
Korean Beauty is Soaked in Tradition
Korean beauty is much more than just a measure of the present, instead, it’s an ongoing tradition of ancient skincare rituals and beliefs from thousands of years ago when Korea was mainly an agricultural society.
Essentially, having pale skin denoted great wealth and good health because you avoided working long hours under the harsh sun. Korean women from this time protected their skin from the outdoors with cleaning agents created from ingredients like mung beans and water. They used lotions made from extracted plant juice and even created oil extractions that acted as moisturizers.
Today, paleness and blemish-free skin is still very important in K-beauty. The 10-step skincare routine works brilliantly to achieve this look through hydration and self-care!
Korean Beauty is Built on Advanced Research
If you’re not familiar, South Korea’s government is well invested in the research and development of its beauty industry, so much so, that it’s often said to be 10 years ahead in terms of innovation. Its industry is known to push boundaries by using ingredients and methods you wouldn’t even come close to finding in other countries – think of the double-cleanse, cushion compacts, sheet masks and the use of donkey milk and bee venom to start!
While industry insiders have known that some of the most exciting products in beauty come from Korea, everything was kept under wraps until the arrival of one specific product.
Remember when BB cream was introduced to the Western world? That ingenious mixture of a serum, moisturizer, primer, foundation and sunscreen that we love?
Korean Beauty is Fuelled by the Hallyu Wave
For decades, Koreans were regarded as the entertainment hub of Asia, responsible for creating many of the region’s cultural trends and beauty ideals – so much so, that it’s coined as the “Hollywood” of Asia.
And recently, all things South Korean entertainment have exploded in popularity throughout the West, with music, K-drama soaps and TV content finding a place in your Netflix recommendation list. It’s likely that if you are a movie fanatic of some sort, you were impressed by a Korean derived film.
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Also, remember when you couldn’t avoid hearing the song “Gangnam Style”?
Along with Korean dramas, a crucial part of Korean beauty’s growing worldwide fame is K-pop, short for Korean pop music, which stars countless groups such as BTS, BLACKPINK, NCT U, EXO and of course, Psy.
These eclectic artists, actors and storytellers are forcing the world to recognize Korean beauty in a way never before.
Is Korean Beauty for You?
What is Korean Beauty? Well, it’s about wellness overtreatment, it’s about flexibility and variety – and it’s also about culture, tradition and government-funded innovation.
Now that you’re familiar, should you include Korean beauty in your regimen?
We’d say, if you’re even remotely close as the beauty fanatic you say you are, then you’d experiment, soak-in and embrace the different routines and philosophies available so that you can find the little details that work best for you!
In other words, it’s a no brainer because treading along a beauty journey is always a trial-and-error process.
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Until we meet again.
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