Korean beauty products — commonly called K-beauty — are enjoying a worldwide moment and it’s easy to see why.
The South Koreans have a different perspective on how to care for their skin, as I discovered when I spoke to Dr. Craig Kraffert, a board-certified dermatologist, president of the Amarte skincare line and founder of DermStore — featuring a variety of brands, including some for acne and hair loss.
What makes K-beauty different? According to Kraffert, all Koreans — men, too, but especially women — “view the care of skin as something to savor and enjoy….When it comes to daily skincare regimens, the ‘sense of urgency’ and compulsion to hurry and finish are typically absent.” In other words, the Koreans love to s-t-r-e-t-c-h out the skincare process, and they view it as a privileged activity of indulgence, enjoyment and respect. Quite a difference from us rushed Americans, who typically eat breakfast on the go and apply lipstick in the passenger seats of their cars.
Amarte is famous for a few of its cult products. The first is the Amarte Natural Finish BB Cream, which moisturizes with argan oil, brightens with elemental sulfur, protects with broad spectrum SPF 36 and tints with fine mineral pigments. (The Koreans love to layer.) Another trending Amarte beauty product is Overnight Express Therapy, which uses a sponge-like silk protein to deliver retinol and peptides to your skin while you sleep. Sweet dreams. The Amarte Ultra Veil is also a showstopper — probably the most elegant sunscreen you will ever wear.
Laura Chen, Sulwhasoo’s marketing manager, gave me the scoop on this brand, which has a rich heritage of more than 50 years of ginseng research. The brand originated in 1966 with the launch of the first ginseng-based cosmetics product — ABC Ginseng Cream — and evolved into a portfolio of more than 60 products available in the U.S., delivering innovative ingredients, technologies and formulations.
This year Sulwhasoo celebrates the 20th anniversary of First Care Activating Serum, which is Korea’s best-selling serum product. First Care Activating Serum made its debut in 1997 as the first boosting essence based on traditional Korean medicinal herbs, opening up a whole new category within the beauty space and changing beauty routines in Korea and abroad. Indeed, this is a great product, although I’m especially partial to the utterly gorgeous Essential Rejuvenating Eye Cream EX that is lightweight and luscious (made with gingko leaf and honey) and also the Perfecting Cushion (I use No. 17 beige) with SPF 50. They’re the perfect marriage of medicinal herbs and modern science.
The ombre/gradient makeup category is growing fast in Korea. Laneige has brought this innovation to the U.S. with the recent launch of Two Tone Lipstick products that were introduced at Sephora in June. The lipstick’s fashionable high gloss and semi-matte formula combines two curated shades in one sleek tube.
One of my favorites from Laneige is its Water Bank Moisture Cream, which is enriched with mineral water, biogen technology and minerals to impart nutrients to your skin. This product has won more than seven Global Beauty Awards. I’m also in love with the Laneige Water Sleeping Mask, which delivers intense doses of moisture to your dermis while you cozy up under your comforter and snooze. It’s also infused with apricot and evening primrose. (One is sold every 12 seconds worldwide.) Last but not least, Laneige has a complementary Lip Sleeping Mask that is like putting fresh strawberries on your smackers but also contains hyaluronic acid and minerals. You’ll wake up to wonderful, kiss-worthy lips — and who doesn’t love that?
For baby-soft skin, consider Tatcha’s Balancing Ritual for normal to oily skin. There are four steps — purifying with camellia oil; polishing with rice enzyme power; softening with anti-aging superfoods (I’m all-in for that); and moisturizing with the water cream. It’s dermatologist-tested and formulated without mineral oil, synthetic fragrances, sulfate detergents, urea — and the other so-called “dirty 30” you don’t want to use on your skin.
And just when you thought you could only turbocharge your car, now comes Vitabrid C12, from Hyundai IBT Co. in Seoul. Its star product, Vitabrid C12 FACE Brightening Powder, is a transdermal Vitamin C that you mix with water or your favorite skin cream to revitalize, brighten and rev up your facial skin cells. It’s also a Cosmoprof “Trendsetting Award Winner,” whose Vitamin C is used to stimulate collagen production.
Now go out there and show off your glowing complexion.