The international hit K-drama My Love From the Stars launched a number of trends and worldwide obsessions, from actress Jun Ji-hyun’s lipstick (the mere rumor that her coral-pink color came from YSL caused a worldwide shortage of the shade) to anything from Korean brand Iope, which was prominently displayed in the star’s boudoir on the show. Apparently, you can’t find Iope’s top seller, Bio Essence, in duty free stores at Korean airports because of all the Chinese tourists who are buying the hydrating liquid by the boxful. (And at $60 a pop, it ain’t cheap.)
Iope Bio Essence is a part of that step in any respectable Asian skincare regimen that includes what is called “lotion,” “skin lotion” or, to some old-school Koreans, simply “skin” — a water-like solution for the face used after cleansing.
It’s different from the toner that we here in the States may have grown up with — that harsh, alcohol-based liquid we swept over skin with a cotton ball to wipe off any residual makeup that our cleanser may have missed. (In Asia, a double cleansing method — makeup remover and then cleanser — does away with the need for a post-rinse “toner.”) Rather, “lotion” is a post-cleansing hydrator, usually applied by sprinkling into hands and pressing the palms over the face to ensure proper penetration. It’s a step that “provides hydration to the skin that might be stripped during the cleansing process,” says Diane Nakauchi, skincare expert and CEO of Japanese skincare brand Koh Gen Do. Like a vitamin drink, skin lotion usually has “humectant properties to help hold in moisture,” she adds, imparting a translucency to skin.
Today, Asian skincare companies are bringing these post-cleansing hydrators — whether called “lotion,” “water” or even “toner” — to American consumers, and American skincare companies are quickly jumping on board. And these newest iterations of lotions go beyond just hydrating — some balance skin’s pH levels; others refine and exfoliate. But perhaps the best reason to add lotions to your skincare regimen is what they all do: prep skin so that subsequent treatments can more effectively penetrate skin’s top layer. The result? All those expensive serums and creams work more effectively with less.
If you’re located near Los Angeles, there are plenty of Korean beauty boutiques in Koreatown that have Iope Bio Essence in stock. But you don’t have to fly to Korea or Los Angeles to get a hydrating lotion onto your bathroom shelf. Asian skincare companies available in the States already have a hydrating lotion in their line, and recognizing the brilliance of Asian skincare products, a number of non-Asian companies are coming out with their own versions. With a broad price range, these lotions are something everyone can get on board with. Check out some of our favorites:
Koh Gen Do Oriental Plants Lotion II: A botanical-based gel-liquid with time-release moisturizing agents from the skincare line used on major Hollywood sets from Dallas Buyers Club and American Hustle to Glee.
Clinique Even Better Essence Lotion: The line’s first “watery lotion” — inspired by its Asian consumers — hydrates with its breakthrough NMF Complex to increase the production of the essential building blocks of skin’s natural moisturizing factors.
SK-II Facial Treatment Essence: The prestige Japanese line’s cult favorite product contains more than 90 percent Pitera, their signature skin refining ingredient that boosts the skin’s natural surface rejuvenation process.
Laneige Power Essential Skin Toner: The popular Korean brand, known for its scientifically engineered Optimal Mineral Water in their skin refining toner, as well as the rest of their Water Bank line, is finally available to the American masses at mega retailer Target.
Sulwhasoo Snowise EX Balancing Water: A gel-like water with white ginseng and mulberry root extract to brighten, exfoliate and balance skin’s pH levels.