Cleanse, tone, moisturize — is that it? If that’s the extent of your skin care routine, then you’re seriously missing out. Take a cue from the worldwide skin care experts — Korean women (and even men now!) — and incorporate these complexion wonders into your regimen (no passport needed!).
1. Air Cushion
Venerable Korean brand AmorePacific introduced the first Air Cushion (above), called Color Control Cushion Compact Broad Spectrum SPF 50+, last year, but the Air Cushion didn’t really take off until Korean actress Jun Ji Hyun used Iope’s Air Cushion XP on the mega-hit K-drama My Love From the Stars earlier this year. Now people across the globe can’t get enough of the liquid tinted sunscreen in a compact, perfect for reapplying throughout the day without messing up your makeup. It also helps that the Air Cushion imparts that perfect mul gwang (“water sheen complexion” — that chok chok wet look Korean stars favor) look with one application.
How genius is the technology behind the Air Cushion? Read more about it here.
And though Iope Air Cushion XP is only currently available at Korean cosmetic boutiques in Koreatown or through smaller sites on Amazon, you can get AmorePacific (they are Iope’s parent company, after all) Cushion Compact at Sephora ($60). For a less expensive alternative, Korean line Laneige, which just debuted in the States this spring, has their own BB Cushion ($34), available at Target.
2. Hydrating Toner
Another top seller from Korean brand Iope is its Bio Essence, 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. 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. It also increases the effectiveness of all your serums and moisturizers that follow.
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. Some of our favorites include the botanical-based gel-liquid of Koh Gen Do Oriental Plants Lotion and SK-II Facial Treatment Essence. Find more here.
3. Hydrogel Masks
Sheet masks, typically made of paper or cloth, have been around in Korea for ages. Women use them daily as a part of their skin care regimen. And though sheet masks are fairly new in the U.S., there’s now an even better option for those in the know: the hydrogel mask. It’s also a sheet mask in that it’s not a cream or gel, but these new incarnations are made of a gel-like material. Dr. Jessica Wu, a renown dermatologist to the stars, raved about Dr. Jart Water-Full Hydrogel Mask recently. “Dr. Jart Water-Full Hydrogel Mask is made of a gel material similar to what I use on surgical wounds or burns. It forms a barrier so the moisture sinks in rather than evaporating.The hydrogel is made of polymers that are very absorbent and hold water against your skin. The mask traps water more effectively than a sheet mask because water evaporates more slowly from a hydrogel mask. It’s also more flexible and conforms to your face better than many cloth or paper sheet masks.”
4. Night Pack
We all know that nighttime is the best time for skin care repair. “Sleep is a time when the metabolic rate increases along with the production of skin cells, while the breakdown of proteins needed for cell growth and repair decreases,” says Diane Nakauchi of Koh Gen Do. “You can’t replace nighttime sleep with daytime hours as the energy required for tissue repair cannot be fully utilized due to other body organs’ energy needs in life support during the day.”
A night pack, or overnight mask as it’s usually called in the U.S., is the last thing you put on your face before sleeping. It has a higher concentration of “sealing” ingredients (which often are not suitable to wear under foundation as it may affect the wear of the foundation), says Nakauchi, which helps to seal in moisture, preventing moisture loss during the night as your nighttime skin care ingredients work overtime to repair skin.
Koh Gen Do’s Night Moisture Mask has a gel formulation, which sinks in fast. Despite its light feel, its skin-identical ceramide formulation gently wraps the skin to prevent moisture evaporation during the night. Encapsulated vitamins, A, C & E are released when applied to penetrate deeply into the skin cuticles. Three types of antioxidant-rich red and brown algae not only help to detoxify, condition, soften and aid collagen production, but the red algae is known for its anti-microbial effect that helps to fight blemishes.
Korean premium skincare brand, Sulwhasoo, is a frontrunner in Korean skincare. And their latest innovation is the Luminature Essential Finisher, brand new in the U.S. There’s a saying in Korean skincare — that your skin “eats” your makeup well. Basically, when your skin is at its best, foundation goes on smoothly and looks flawless. When your skin is less than perfect, foundation looks clumpy, settles into pores and just looks obvious. The Finisher, which contains the equivalent of five ginseng roots and 110 cups of green tea, is made to seal in the benefits of all your skincare treatments and provide a smooth base for your makeup. Get it here or at Neiman Marcus.