We take a look at Korean care rituals and cosmetics that we do not know. The effort that Korean women put into their appearance is immense – yet we can also learn a few tricks from our colleagues in the West.
Everywhere there are reports about the Olympic Games in South Korea. But almost as sporty as the athletes in Pyeongchang, young South Koreans have a completely different approach – daily beauty care. We German pragmatists can still copy something from there.
And we can be glad that in our society not only performance and professional success, but also the appearance are not as strictly evaluated as it is the case in Korea. In Korea, the concern for appearance is not only fun, but almost a duty. But there are a few fascinating techniques that can also be interesting for us.
The 10-step facial care
What’s your morning like? Wash gel in the face and ready? On a good day, maybe a face lotion and a cream? Koreans make a lot more effort – for good reason. While here we try to force our skin into “normality” with aggressive means (which rarely works, doesn’t it?), people in Korea prefer to try it with good arguments.
The first two steps consist of cleansing: First with an oily balm that removes make-up residues, then with a classic washing gel. This is followed by the (optional) third step: a gentle peeling, preferably a chemical one without rubbing particles. This is followed by what we still consider cleansing, but in Korea it is already considered care: toner or facial toner.
Step five also has a moisturising effect: Essence is a gelatinous liquid that stimulates hyaluronic acid production in the skin. Essence is followed by serum. It is thicker than Essence and contains highly concentrated active ingredients that address personal beauty problems. Wrinkles, pimples, dry spots.
Step seven is voluntary again and definitely depends on how much time you have left: sheet masks, cloth masks. Some Korean cloth masks are now even available in well-known German drugstore chains.
After the mask follows an eye cream (some also prefer an extra eye serum) and then the moisturizer. After that there is an important step, which we ignore here: Sun protection!
That sounds complicated, it is. However, the many different products build up so optimally on each other in consistency and effectiveness that the skin can absorb everything perfectly.
Toner, toner, toner
As mentioned earlier, Korean toner is not used to clean the skin, but to care for it. It therefore almost never contains alcohol or other drying substances. In order to give their cheeks the right glow and to make their skin look well-groomed and plump, women are once again pushing their limits. They don’t just use toner once, they apply it in seven layers. Yes. Seven.
So: Apply a little toner to the face, massage in gently, wait a short time until it is absorbed. Then the whole thing again. And again. And four more times. Beauty experts swear by this ritual, which is supposed to provide the skin with optimum moisture.
If you have uncomplicated skin, you can skip the moisturizing cream after this care routine. Since toner, or face lotion, is sometimes also called skin in Korea, this procedure is called the 7-skin method. If you want to know more, you will find about twelve trillion YouTube videos.
Grappling at the root
I guess we’ve all understood that Koreans like to have a lot of products in the bathroom. This applies not only to the skin, but also to the hair. Here they think that shampoo, conditioners and the like are nice and good, but healthy hair needs a healthy scalp.
For this purpose there are special scalp cleaners that are used once a week before the shampoo – so-called scalp scalp scalp scalp cleaners. They thoroughly remove dandruff and shampoo residue. The following shampoo is not just foamed up, but combined with a detailed scalp massage.
After the conditioner, Koreans then regularly treat themselves to a hair mask – or a scalp mask. An extra scalp tonic is also popular – it calms the skin after washing. At the end of the care there is also hair essence or serum, which usually remain in the hair as leave-in products.
As in many Asian countries, light skin is considered chic in Korea. In order to look as pale as possible, there are lots of products that are labeled with the words “whitening” or “brightening”. Often this is primarily an advertising promise – the whitening then only takes place through light peeling, milk or papaya enzymes. The effect is therefore correspondingly homeopathic.
However, some creams (then usually much more expensive) actually contain effective substances such as arbutin, koji acid, gluthation, liquorice root or hydroquinone. Don’t worry: dangerous substances such as mercury are guaranteed not to be used anywhere else, cosmetic products are at least as well controlled as they are here.
Anyone in this country who lolls around in the sun with enthusiasm and instead switches to self-tanning and solarium in winter to just stay crisply tanned should of course keep their hands off such products. But if you’re a pale nose anyway, you won’t be harmed by such active ingredients. They can even help to make the skin look clearer and more radiant and also help against pigmentation and age spots.
But before family celebrations, ceremonies or big performances of any kind, Koreans also have the opportunity to get injected with the Beauty Doc Gluthation. This can be called “Beyoncé-” or “Cinderella Injection”. But that’s too creepy for us …
Keep noble pallor
Sunscreen! Sun protection! Sun protection! What we usually don’t care about, because we believe that the sun hardly shines anyway, is a top priority for Korean women. Besides applying sun cream to the face several times a day, hats and parasols are also normal accessories. One fears the sunny UV rays as the ladies in Victorian England once did.
But this makes the rigorous application of sunscreen more comprehensible: In Korea, sunscreens for the face are not the greasy, never penetrating thing like with us. There are sunscreens for every skin type, including matte and nourishing ones. So the application is more fun.
In general, sun protection, however unnecessary it may seem to us, is never a bad idea. Nothing accelerates skin ageing more than UV rays! Every dermatologist will confirm this.
Night cream? How boring! In addition, the heavy creams, which you can get here in the drugstores, can cause pimples and blocked pores on moody skin. From Korea comes the rescue: Sleeping Packs. Sleeping masks.
They are used in the evening as the last step of the (10-step, you remember) care routine instead of sun protection. So you cream yourself in, but you can use a lighter moisturizer. Nothing heavy, oily. After the cream has been absorbed, apply the Sleeping Pack over it and lie down in bed.
There are different consistencies and areas of application – some packs are creamy, others gelig. Some penetrate the skin overnight, others leave a film that has to be removed in the morning. But no Sleeping Pack will fill your pillow to the brim.
For the next morning, the products promise a plump, moisturized skin.
We mentioned them at the beginning: Sheet Masks. Anyone who buys masks in German drugstores is known to get aluminium bags with a mass of their choice in them. If you buy Korean masks, you almost always get a Sheet Mask.
You’ve probably seen it before: They are serum soaked cloth cloths in face shape, with openings for eyes, nose and mouth. You take them out of the pack, unfold them, place them on the cleansed face and let them work for 15 to 30 minutes. Very relaxing and luxurious for the skin.
There is about one fantasy lily of different varieties of different brands. Almost all are cuddly packaged and contain great active ingredients. It has to be said that the average German is more likely to shy away from masks with snail slime (extremely popular!), pig collagen or horse fat. For reassurance: More and more Korean cosmetics are now vegan and organic.
Like most Korean cosmetics you can get Sheet Masks quite well via portals like Ebay. Here you can also find large tasting sets with many different varieties at a small price.
And if the skin was cleansed, cared for and pampered in such an exemplary way, what then? Korean women also put on make-up. After BB creams were the big trend for a long time, it’s now more like Cushion Foundation. So it’s a sponge-like pillow soaked with liquid make-up. The whole thing is in cute little boxes that you dab into with a sponge. The first Cushion Foundations have also sporadically brought European companies into our drugstores.
There are two things Koreans do differently to us when it comes to make-up: Rouge is not applied diagonally to the side of the cheeks to accentuate the cheekbones, but rather spotted centrally on top of the cheeks to create a cute, girlish look.
And instead of mysterious cat eyes with daring eyeliner strokes and smoky eyeshadows, the girls in Korea put make-up on Puppy Eyes. Puppy eyes. The outer angle of the eyeliner points downwards instead of diagonally upwards, and the area under the eye is not painstakingly covered with concealer, but with a bright eye shadow even extra emphasized. And yes, this contradicts pretty much everything we have ever learned about make-up.
And why the whole thing?
Why is Korean cosmetics so fascinating? In our globalized world, everything has become very similar. If you buy beauty utensils in the USA, Spain or Great Britain, some brand names may be different, but the principle is always the same. In Asia, on the other hand, many things are very different, but in Korea hygiene and production standards are so high that you can shop without worries.
And, you have to say that with a big exclamation mark, Korean products are simply great fun. They are often packed absurdly cute, the containers are colorful, have animal faces and rabbit ears. In Europe, it seems that something useful should not look cute. This boring view is not shared in Korea.
Today it is no longer difficult to get original Korean beauty products. Even without spending the next holiday in Seoul. There are specialized online shops like Love My Cosmetic or Miss & Missy. But Amazon also has the most popular products. You just have to know what you are looking for – YouTube or corresponding beauty blogs will help.
Probably the simplest variant, although somewhat unsexy, is actually Ebay. Here some trustworthy sellers (here or here for example) offer large assortments of Korean cosmetics, and that without shipping costs. Shipping can take a month, though.