Why we're all so obsessed with Korean beauty...
Words by Layna Duggan
With the increasing buzz surrounding the Korean beauty industry, gone are the days of a simple three-step skincare repertoire. However, the 10+ step routines of South Korean women can seem confusing – even to beauty addicts. While we definitely know our cleansers from our creams, things are a little foggy when it comes to differentiating between Korean essences, toners and ampoules. We give you lowdown on how to find the best cleanser for you so you don’t have to trawl the web.
So what are Korean essences? Thicker in consistency than a toner, yet thinner than a traditional serum or Korean ampoule, essences predominantly serve to hydrate the skin. Most will also deliver some skin benefitting ingredients such as antioxidants, plant extracts and niacinamide (a complexion brightening B vitamin).
But with an ever-growing beauty shopping list, why should you add one to your routine? The thin consistency of an essence allows for deeper penetration, targeting skin at a cellular level. This enables them to thoroughly hydrate and to improve the absorption of active ingredients in any products that go on top, like your moisturiser or face oil. Luckily for us, there are so many options available in the UK now, that finding the perfect one to slot into your routine is effortless.
Starting with the priciest, and potentially the product that put Korean essences on the western beauty map is the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence. Pitera, an isolated stain of yeast, is the magic ingredient at the heart of SK-II’s entire skincare line and is renowned for it’s rejuvenating properties. This essence has reached instant cult status for its ability to clarify, smooth and totally transform your complexion overnight. Soak a cotton pad in the essence and gently smooth onto your face for 1 minute. Turn the cotton pad around and gently pat onto your face and neck for another minute.
A similar, but more affordable option is Missha’s Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence. It too contains fermented yeast extract, as well as niacinamide to protect from the skin damaging free radicals that can lead to premature ageing. After washing your face, get appropriate amount onto cotton puff [Premium Silk-feel Cotton Puff] or hands. Pat lightly onto skin until completely absorbed. Then, follow with lotion, serum, eye cream, and cream.
For an instant hydration boost, Su-Man’s Rehydrating Toning Essence is rich in hyaluronic acid (e.g. a magical moisturizing ingredient which can attract and retain up to 1000 times it’s weight in water) as well as rose petal extract to repair and soften the skin. The result? A soft, dewy, plumped out complexion. After cleansing, apply toner with hands and pat gently all over face and neck.
If you’re the type of girl who is loyal through and through and likes to buy from a brand you know and love, then Estée Lauder has you covered with the Micro Essence Skin Activating Treatment Lotion. The triple active formula renews, rebalances and replenishes for bouncier, younger looking skin. Gently glide a saturated cotton pad over face, from the centre out. Start at chin and move upwards to cheeks and forehead. If you’re looking for rebalancing, chances are you’ll love this moisturiser that stops shine.
If your skin is particularly dry, treat it to an instant dose of nourishment with Erborian’s Dongbaek Camellia Essence. Rich in unsaturated fatty acids, this essence pretty much does it all, boosting radiance, accelerating cell renewal and leaving your face looking smooth and even. Pour 5 or 6 drops of essence in hand and rub hands together. Gently press the Micro Essence into skin from the centre out. Start at chin and move upwards to cheeks and forehead.
Once you’ve introduced Korean essences into your life, you’ll wonder what you ever did without them.