Korean Skincare...it is such an exciting, different and somewhat foreign area for me in terms of skincare. Coming from an Asian background, I have always been exposed to Korean beauty products but never have really looked into it properly. I have also been a little curious to see what the fuss has been about and whether or not it actually is THAT good for your skin. Moving to China has forced me to look into other brands, as the things I would normally buy back home, are just not available here and no matter where I look, Korean beauty seems to be everywhere.
There is no doubt that the Korean cosmetic industry is booming and according to a report from the BBC, South Korean Customs Service estimated a total USD$2.64 billion in Korean cosmetics and skincare exports for 2015. This is a huge amount of exports coming from Korea, given that the year previously, exports for cosmetics and skincare was at USD$1.9 billion. The industry continues to boom in Korea, and according to Mintel's Jane Henderson, 'South Korea is one of the world’s most exciting and fastest-changing beauty markets, which is globally influential and trend-setting'. Due to the fact that the Korean personal goods industry is so fast paced and exciting in terms of research and development, it is so easy to get completely overwhelmed and lost as there are a plethora of different brands, products and extremely strange ingredients to look into. It also doesn't help that many Koreans or Korean Skincare devotees, adopt a 10 step skincare routine and for the average person it can be too much and also quite confusing.
As I am preparing myself for a long weekend trip with the Mr in Seoul come September, I have recently started looking into the vast number of Korean products that I could potentially pick up in South Korea. So far, I have found the whole experience rather overwhelming...I mean where DO you start? There is SO much out there and not everything has a translated ingredient list to look at either. I have started looking at different blogs, curated websites and stalking people's Instagram for some much needed guidance and inspiration on understanding Korean Skincare and what products to haul back when I am in Seoul! I have combined a little list below of some websites, books and products that I have found extremely helpful in terms of making the huge worlds of Korean Skincare a lot less daunting.
Little Book of Skincare by Charlotte Cho
This is a great introduction to Korean skincare by sokoglam.com founder, Charlotte Cho. I have slowly been reading through this and I have found that it gives some insightful knowledge into the Korean skincare industry, the ingredients they use (snails!) and also the infamous Korean 10 Step Skincare routine. The book goes through some important details such as the language that Korean skincare will use such as emulsions, essences, lotions etc and what these all mean but also how to incorporate these products into your own skincare routine. I also love the fact that Charlotte's point of view is extremely relatable - she breaks things down easily for a Western consumer but in a lighthearted and funny way.
I have found that even though the focus of this book is Korean skincare, any skincare or beauty junkie would appreciate this as it goes through some universal topics as well such as sunscreen, the importance of cleansing and it also helps to decipher some skincare ingredients (not into too much detail) such as alcohol and parabens. It is a great reference tool for anyone - from a skincare beginner or an absolute skincare nut like myself and the perfect companion for someone who is just starting to become interested in the world of Korean Skincare.
Purchase here from Sokoglam for USD$24.95
Snow White and the Asian Pear
There are a few renowned K beauty blogs out there but this blog is by far one of my favourites. Korean Skincare Blogger, Cat of Snow White and the Asian Pear writes some really in depth posts on everything from the art of cleansing (which is divided into two parts by the way...yes she is extremely meticulous), how to layer products and my recent favourite - understanding the pH of your skincare products (this is a highly recommended read). Whilst sometimes the science of things can be a bit much, Cat does explain everything into layman terms and adds a bit of witty humour to it as well. This makes it much more easier to digest.
Cat also posts some great reviews on many different skincare products and isn't afraid to get into the nitty gritty science part of things (which I love). There's a great guide to Korean skincare for beginners on her blog which is also broken down into product recommendations for different skin types which is easy enough to follow for any K-Beauty beginner, what's more is that she explains WHY.
Another fantastic K-Beauty blog that features in depth and extremely (almost brutal) honest reviews on different Korean products is Fan-Serviced B. The focus of Fan Serviced B is quite different to that of Snow White and the Asian Pear, as Fan-Serviced focuses more on product reviews, how to shop for Korean products online (ie. directly from the source...thanks to Google translate, language shouldn't be a barrier), Korean beauty trends and all her other hilarious musings. There is absolutely no BS on this blog either, as blogger Tracy will lay it all out for you - what she likes, what she doesn't like and what you should seriously just throw in the bin or never touch with a ten foot pole. My favourite post from Fan-Serviced B however has to be the one about where Tracy explains the differences between ingredient listings in the US and Korea...its a must read!
Glow Recipe is possibly one of my favourite curated Korean online stores as the products that have been carefully selected and curated by Sarah Lee and Christine Chang tend to follow similar rules that I have when it comes to selecting what I want to purchase in my skincare stash. The philosophy between these two women is to find the best Korean skincare products that use the right actives and also to avoid harsh ingredients. Each product goes through a vigorous panel of testing whereby people of a wide range of ethnicities trial products for 3 months and give the appropriate feedback. It has been a great starting point for me in terms of what sort of products I might like.
Glow Recipe stocks some fantastic skincare brands that tend to have a more 'natural' grounding such as Whamisa, Blossom Jeju and Blithe. I love the fact that every product on the website has a detailed ingredients listing as well, which makes it so much easier to shop and understand what is in each of the products. It's one of those great starting points for those who are quite particular with their ingredients.
Peach and Lily
Peach and Lily's, Alicia Yoon is one of the pioneers of bringing Korean Beauty to the Western world. Before launching Peach and Lily in 2012, Alicia noticed that a lot of Western manufacturers were sourcing their formulations from South Korea as they were considered to be one of the most advanced in the world. Taking note of this, Alicia saw an opportunity to bring Korean products to the US and Peach and Lily was born. Like Glow Recipe, Peach and Lily also go through a strenuous curating process, most products that are tested don't make the cut. In fact, only 5% of products that Peach and Lily look at make the cut to be sold on the online store. Alicia makes it a point not to stock too many different products on her online store as she understands that for many the Korean 10 steps is quite a lot for the Western consumer and in the US market, it is all about selecting a few products and incorporating them into an existing routine.
Brands that are sold at Peach and Lily include cult favourites such as Cremorlab, The Lotus, Tosowoog and May Coop. After much online success, Peach and Lily now even have their own physical stores in New York and Santa Monica. This is a great website for those who are looking for Korean brands that are that little bit different and have a slightly more luxe aesthetic to it.
Australian ladies rejoice, the US isn't the only country that gets to have all the Korean skincare fun. Hard to find brands are now also readily available at Aniqa Australia, an online store based in my hometown of Perth, Western Australia. The founders at Aniqa have a passion for Korean skincare after noticing some fantastic results for their skin. They also found that the products available in Korea were much more affordable in comparison to their Western counterparts. They soon realised the difficulties of acquiring Korean skincare products in Australia and found that they had to often rely on family and friends travelling overseas to get their Korean skincare fix. Combining their passion for the latest in Korean skincare and the frustration of not being able to satisfy their skincare needs, Aniqa Australia was born.
Still relatively new, this online store has an amazing selection of unique Korean skincare brands such as Caolion, Cremorlab, Mizon and most recently RE:P and Neogen. This is a great starting point for Australians who are after slightly different and more boutique Korean brands.
The Snailcast (Podcast)
I have been listening to this podcast for the past few weeks now to keep myself entertained whilst travelling the Shanghai Metro. It is a great and entertaining podcast that does talk about Korean Beauty but it is also completely relatable for anyone who loves skincare. The 'hosts' are popular Korean bloggers from: Fifty Shades of Snail, Fan-Serviced B, Holy Snails and Snow White and the Asian Pear. The format of the podcast is basically a main topic each episode in which the girls will explore in further detail. For example, a few weeks back the girls spoke about Skincare Regrets (fess up we all have them) and their own personal experiences in their regrets and also managing their routines. The most recent episode probably has been my favourite so far though, as it is all about exfoliating and goes through chemical exfoliation in quite some detail.
I have found that listening to The Snail Cast is a great way for me to zone out, relax, have an absolute laugh but also to learn about Korean skincare products, the industry and general tip and tricks. The girls are extremely funny and I am sure you can relate to many of their own personal stories whilst learning a thing or two about the differences between Western Skincare brands and their Korean counterparts.
The Korean skincare industry is huge at the moment and they are most certainly leading the way in terms of trends, science and innovation. There is almost always something new coming from Korea whether it be a new 'plant' extract, species of snail or even another new brand. There is no doubt that there is something for everyone when it comes to Korean skincare. My list above is just a small sample of the multitudes of websites, blogs and other sources of information in which you can find more about Korean products. I have found that the above have been the most helpful for me. Remember that I am a beginner too and I'm just starting to learn what Korean skincare has to offer I am currently exploring how I can start to incorporate elements of it into my routine.
Have you used Korean skincare before? What are your favourite blogs or websites? What are your favourite brands or products? Please feel free to share in the comments section below, as I would love to hear more (and start to compile a list of things to buy when I am in Seoul). Thanks in advance for enabling!