Since practically the dawn of time, Korean women have been obsessed with taking care of their skin and maintaining a perfectly-manicured visage. In other words, these women have had beauty secrets up their sleeves for centuries and are always on the cutting edge of what’s next.
To decode some of the most game-changing skincare/makeup techniques inside the vast K-beauty world, we looked to Charlotte Cho, curator and co-founder of SokoGlam, whose book The Little Book of Skincare: Korean Beauty Secrets for Healthy, Glowing Skin comes out in November, to give us the deets on all we need to know.
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1. Double Cleansing
Cleansing is so vital to the Korean skincare regimen, most women cleanse twice in one sitting to give their complexions some extra love. After removing your makeup at the end of the day, you should first draw out sebum and bacteria using a gentle, oil-based cleanser that’ll hydrate without leaving residue. “Oil eliminates impurities without drying out the skin,” explains Charlotte Cho, curator and co-founder of SokoGlam. Your next cleanser should be a mild cream or foaming cleanser. “Don’t rub,” advises Cho. “Soft circular motions do the trick.”
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1. Dior Instant Gentle Cleansing Oil for All Skin Types, $38; nordstrom.com.
2. Caudalie Instant Foaming Cleanser, $28; sephora.com.
2. Facial Massages
We love a good multi-tasking routine, and many K-beauty diehards do so daily by giving themselves a face massage during their cleansing as it boosts circulation and gives a healthy glow.
“When you massage your face, you want to work with the direction of the muscles, not against,” writes Cho in her forthcoming book The Little Book of Skincare: Korean Beauty Secrets for Healthy, Glowing Skin.
“Starting just underneath your cheekbones, use the knuckles of your first two fingers (with your hands in fists) and work out and slightly up from there. Press as firmly as what feels good to you, since the oil will keep the pressure from pulling your skin.
Then, still using your knuckles, trace them up the sides of your nose to the top of your forehead, then down the perimeter of your face. Finally, use the pads of your fingers to lightly massage under your eyes, as this can help drain puffiness. Start at the bridge of your nose and move out to your temples.”
To learn how to give youself a K-beauty facial massage in step-by-step GIFS, go here.
The Korean skin-care routine is notorious for using a ton of products (like, at least 10). One step that might seem seem gratuitous at first blush, but is actually essential are essences. Essences, a skincare category that was created in Korea, are one of the most important parts of the K-beauty routine. An ultra-concentrated liquid or lotion, it’s packed with active ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin, which revitalizes the skin after cleansing by increasing cell turnover for firming, brightening, and increasing elasticity.
“Once I spritz it on, I gently tap it into the skin to assist with absorption,” says Cho.
Origins Ginger Essence Sensuous Skin Scent, $59; sephora.com.
When it comes to coverage, K-beauty is all about an airbrushed, HD-closeup-worthy approach, which consists of using foundation to “blur” out imperfections.
“It’s kind of like making your face look a little cloudy,” says Cho. “You’re using formulas that disguise fine lines, uneven skin tone, patchy skin, and dark spots, but not so much coverage that you look heavily made up. It’s not going to completely cover up that pimple, but it will hide it a bit, making you look bright and natural looking, but not flawless.”
To achieve this look, check out blurring moisturizers and makeup primers, as well as foundations such as Etude House Beauty Shot Blur ($15), which produce a retouch-tool-like effect.
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5. Sheet Masking
Hydration is the hallmark of Korean skincare as it plumps the skin, fills in gaps, and thus reduces the visibility of fine lines, says Cho. And while nothing beats drinking at least eight glasses of water a day, sheet masks come in a close second for hydration—not to mention, are a lazy girl’s dream: Stick on, peel off, and done.
“Sheet masks are the most effective because as the sheet rests on your face, it forces the antioxidants and vitamins to mingle with your skin,” explains Cho. ”A sheet mask helps lock the nutrients in, and your skin will be brighter, softer and hydrated.”
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If you want to dive right into the trend, SokoGlam has their very own sheet mask challenge with their 7-Day Sheet Mask Challenge Set including moisturizing, calming, brightening, and anti-inflammatory masks among others. Join in on the moisture-rich fun using the hashtag #soko7daychallenge.
6. Gradient Lips
Believe it or not, K-beauty has been at the forefront of the no-makeup, makeup look and gradient lips are a focal point, according to Cho. The trick? Making your lips look as if you’ve been sucking on a cherry lollipop.
“When they’re bright and vivid it’s a good contrast and really shows off your beautiful skin,” says Cho. ”Carefully paint on the tint within your natural lip line, or just dab it on the center of the lips. Your finger is the best tool for it, so it’s a technique that’s hard to mess up.”
Son Park Air Tint Lip Cube, $12; sokoglam.com.
7. The Skin Diet
It’s a cardinal rule of skincare that you are what you eat and Korean women know this all too well. One of the most notorious players is kimchi, a spicy cabbage prepared with pepper, garlic, ginger, and scallion.
“It’s fermented, which means it has a host of health benefits because it’s packed with antioxidants and is a probiotic,” says Cho.
As far as what you should drink, let your palate get acquainted with nutty-flavored, antioxidant-packed roasted barley tea, which can be served on ice in the warmer months.
8. K-Pop Cat Eyes
For Korean women, eyeliner is an everyday staple. And when it comes to the ever-popular cat eye, they take a less traditional, more subtle approach—often inspired by K-pop mania.
”Rather than a sweeping and dramatic cat eye, these days women usually go for thin eyeliner that follows the natural shape of the eye,” explains Cho.
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