There’s a reason that so many of our favorite skin-care trends (on TikTok and otherwise) hail from Korea, where they know a thing or two about how to create the juiciest skin. But what’s trending now? Vogue spoke to aesthetic doctor and K-beauty expert, Dr. Christine Hall, to learn about the latest ingredients, routines, and rituals coming from the place where it all begins—and how to work them into your skincare regimen with products we can shop stateside.
We know how good fermented foods are for our guts, but our Korean counterparts know how good they are for their skin. “They ferment most of their ingredients—for example, red rice, lactic and glycolic acid, are all fermented byproducts,” she says. “Fermenting an ingredient makes it something like four times more potent than it would be in its normal state.”
Even the Koreans are now shunning the 12-step skincare routine they made so popular. “There’s been a shift away from the very old school multi-step routine,” says Hall. “Skip-care is basically a fancy way of saying that you skip some of the steps. They do that by using products that house a combination of ingredients.” Step hybrid formulas, like Tatcha’s Vitamin C formula, combine different active ingredients (like vitamin C and fruit acids) in one formula, or their new Silk Serum, which teams silk, upcycled cranberry extract, and sea fennel together to firm and smooth skin as a retinol alternative. They work harder for the skin and save money and time—what’s not to love?
“In Korea, there’s a real focus on products that don’t have much water in them, which is where the term ‘waterless beauty’ comes from. The idea is that you get way more than what you pay for because they last longer due to the minimal water in the product,” says Hall. Look at many ingredients lists, and you’ll notice “aqua” is often at the top, but the idea with waterless formulas is that, instead of being filled by water, they are packed with more efficacious ingredients and less filler. You’ll often find them in powder format or oils. For the latter reason alone, they’re not for every skin type, but Hall says this move has come from a more earth-friendly approach to beauty in South Korea.
You may have heard about “skin flooding” on TikTok—the term has a cool 2.1 billion views on the platform. The idea really originated with that aforementioned multi-step Korean skincare regime, where layer upon layer of hydration (using different formulas in different textures) was applied to the skin to quench its thirst. To “skin flood” is a similar affair; it involves applying a number of different hydrating products, from serums to lightweight lotions to thicker moisturizers, to deeply moisturize and lock it all in. “Double moisturizing is also a big trend for those who are time-poor,” adds Hall.
And if doubling up on your moisturizer isn’t enough, have you also tried applying your SPF twice? “There’s a real interest in blue light, so the Koreans are finding SPFs that concentrate on blue light, then using another SPF—one that has light-reflecting filters and so on—on top,” says Hall. “This second SPF often comes in the form of makeup, and they’ll wear that as their base instead of applying foundation.” All in the name of excellent sun protection.
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